Spotlight – Tonya Horn, FirstEnergy
College Recruiting Program Lead, FirstEnergy
Tonya received a Bachelor’s degree from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln and a Master’s degree from the University of Akron. She has been in her current role and with FirstEnergy for 3 years.
What was your career path to get your current role? My background is Higher Education Administration. I received my Master in this field. I have worked for various universities, in Admissions and Enrollment Management. I also worked 9 years at a non-profit organization, partnering with corporations in meeting their diversity needs. I prepared students from diverse backgrounds for internships in the corporate setting.
In my immediate previous job, I was the Regional Manager for University of Maryland University College (UMUC), in Okinawa, Japan. While there, I received my Human Resources Certificate. The combination of my previous experience and the HR Certificate created the path for me to work in HR in the capacity in which I am responsible.
What was your first job? My first job out of college was as a caseworker. I worked there for only 8 months. I then transitioned into Higher Education as an admissions counselor where I found my niche and passion to work with college students.
Why did you choose this career? My career chose me, I didn’t choose it. Someone shared an opportunity in admissions at a small private school in Nebraska. I didn’t know anything about the field. I took the leap and came to love it. I worked for almost 10 years in College Admissions.
What is the skill that is most important in your current role? The ability to be flexible, organized and personable.
How did you develop this skill and how do you fine-tune it regularly? Flexibility is important because everything doesn’t always go as planned. It is important to have a plan B and a go with the flow attitude.
Because I’m constantly juggling many priorities at the same time, being organized keeps me sane. I’m able to do my job effectively and meet deadlines.
In this role, you come into contact with so many people. Being able to establish a rapport is important in getting things done. Also, everyone has a story. You have to be open to listening and helping to the best of your ability.
Did you have a mentor? I have never had an official mentor but along the way in my career, I have always had someone that I would look up to and seek council from.
What is your biggest career accomplishment? I believe the biggest career accomplishment was working for UMUC in Japan. It was definitely a leap for me, not only relocating to a different country but also, the increased responsibility. Managing a large faculty and staff and being responsible for overseeing the operations for the school in the region was new to me and quite a challenge.
What is your advice to students looking for their first job? I would advise students to get an internship or a co-op. At FirstEnergy, the best way to get a job is to work for us as a student. Experience is key. Students who have some experience while in college will definitely have an advantage over those who don’t while job searching.
What is your advice to young professionals in the field who aspire to your current role? Networking is so important. My career path into HR was somewhat unusual so you don’t have to necessarily have a certain degree. It really was about my past experience and networking with others. That is how I found out about a lot of my jobs, via referrals.
What was the best career advice you have ever received? Building relationships is so important. Establishing rapport with others and networking is vital. As they say, it is not always what you know but who you know.
What would you like colleagues to know about your organization? FirstEnergy’s Co-op/Internship Program is top notch. The work assignments and projects that students are given is real; work that is currently being implemented.
Our hiring conversion rate is well over 50% in recent years. Students are able to hit the ground running and are immediately productive in contributing to the organization.
The Co-op/Intern Program is well respected throughout the company. Because we have a growing population of employees due to retire, it is used as FirstEnergy’s talent pipeline.