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Catherine Zumberge

Human Resources Management, Class of '75

What do you do for a living and what’s it like?

My career has been interesting, and the things I learned as an English major at Michigan have been reflected throughout.  My first "real" job as an alumna was to edit the employee newsletter for a large retail operation (a division of a Fortune 100 company) based in Denver; I was part of the Personnel Administration department.  Being exposed to the world of Human Resources Management, I became fascinated with the idea of using my verbal skills for an HR career.  I went on to earn an MBA, with an HR emphasis, and to work in all facets of the field - I have been an executive, a consultant, a writer, and an educator, always specializing in Human Resources Management.  There are no two days alike in this work.  Dealing with the relationship between employers and employees requires excellent reading, writing, speaking, and analytical skills.  All of those things were part of my training in the English department. After forty years, I have semi-retired.  I now work part-time as an advisor to leaders of various for-profit and non-profit organizations.

Do you have any advice for incooming English majors at Michigan?

My advice to incoming English majors would be to make the most of your opportunities at Michigan.  Our university is a special place that is not really comparable to any other.  Take as many different kinds of English language and literature classes as you can.  Go see your professors in their office hours, even if just to get to know them a little bit.  Read everything you are assigned to read.  Dive into literary analysis. 

I also suggest thinking about your career while you are at Michigan.  The humanities are essential for making us into good and curious citizens.  Other kinds of courses may be essential to finding out how you will earn your living as an adult.  Take a few basic business courses if you can, because everyone ends up needing those skills at work.  Volunteer for organizations you care about.  Work part-time, on and/or off campus.  Build a network of other motivated students.  These people will be important to you in the decades to come.