Author Archives: jennifer

I’m a Corporate Social Worker!

As Social Work Month comes to an end, I’d like to share my journey as a Corporate Social Worker. Often I’m asked how I transitioned from traditional social work jobs to a more non-traditional path. I’ve always been interested in the macro approach to social work – working with organizations, groups, and policy. My concentration in grad school was macro social work with a specialization in nonprofit leadership.

After working at a few nonprofits, I realized I wanted something different for my career. Then,  over a decade ago, I had the opportunity to transition to the corporate world and work at IBM. I didn’t know exactly what I was getting myself into, but it is one of the best decisions I’ve made in my career. I learned A LOT! People are people and we all bring our issues to work with us! I spent the bulk of my tenure in Human Resources and Employee Engagement positions and have found a wonderful alignment with what I learned as a social worker. Corporations need social workers too.

Even in the corporate world, from day one, I considered myself a social worker. Social workers are experts in people, systems, relationships, collaboration, human behavior, facilitation, communication… and I could go on. Now I market myself as a Corporate Social Worker and tell companies why they need to hire us!

Frequently Asked Questions

Q. What kind of jobs should I look for in the corporate world?

A. Many HR jobs are an easy transition for social workers. I recommend looking at roles in Employee Experience, Employee Engagement, Leadership Development, Change Management, Internal Communications, and Diversity & Inclusion.

Q. How to do I update my resume to highlight skills that matter to corporate recruiters?

A. Let your resume reflect how your experience provided opportunities to deal with difficult people situations. Those counseling skills might be well suited for HR Business Partner and Employee Relations types of jobs. Highlight how you are an expert in “soft skills” and how you have coached people in developing those skills.

Q. What resources do you recommend to help me prepare for the corporate world?

A. I tell everyone who will listen about Brené Brown. She is a social work rockstar bringing social work to corporations. And the perfect ice breaker in interviews! Read her latest book, Dare to Lead, for inspiration and understanding about how social workers can make a difference in the corporate world.

P.S. I was interviewed for this article last year and have recently been contacted by a couple of social workers wondering how they may transition to a nontraditional path.

Thoughts on Employee Engagement

I’ve been thinking about employee engagement quite a bit recently. It’s something I’m very passionate about because, to me, it’s the backbone of our workplace. Without our employees, we have nothing. My mission is to help companies help their people grow and love their jobs! 


A few of my favorite types of employee engagement that I’ve built

Champion groups: for career development support and social business advocacy. The Career Advisor Network was a global team of 300 people in the company brought together to help with the deployment/change management of a new career framework. I loved working with this group to facilitate training, communication, and collaboration. Secondly, the GTSgetSocial team helped with the transition to social business — the new way to work. As a group of social advocates, we held training and engagement programs with executives and employees to encourage them to be more collaborative and open in their work.

Mentoring programs: including language mentoring for those going on international assignment. Experience-based learning programs are low-cost and very engaging. When we have friends at work, we are happier and more engaged!

An elevated town hall experience: making it more fun and relatable. Maya Angelou tells us that people will forget what you tell them, but they will remember how you made them feel. I use that principle as the basis for the town hall experience. Continue reading

Mentoring Across Borders — Cultural Diversity in Mentoring

Originally posted on the IBM Jobs blog.

 By Jennifer Pelham

In my previous article, I wrote about how mentors should take it upon themselves to create a trusting environment by being authentic. One way to do this is to be sensitive to cultural diversity. Regardless if you are mentoring someone from another country or someone from your own hometown, we all have differences and similarities. We can learn a lot if we open ourselves up and really get to know each other. Vulnerability is where the true magic of mentoring happens.


I once heard a US-based IBM executive talk about his mentoring relationship with an IBMer in Brazil. He spoke about how he learned just as much from his mentee as his mentee hopefully learned from him. Fully aware of the opportunity to learn about another culture, he shared how he expected his mentee to come prepared for their meetings with something to teach about life and work in Brazil. Continue reading

Doing what I love – facilitating collaboration and communication

I recently had the awesome opportunity to facilitate a collaboration / communications strategy workshop with the paid staff at my church, Mosaic Bay, in Albany, CA. A small team of three, members took turns sharing what their top strengths (from Gallup StrengthsFinder) mean to them, then gave feedback about how they see each others’ strengths show up in the workplace.

After defining what success looks like, they focused on using their strengths to evolve the work they are doing to increase community outreach through communications and marketing strategy and tactics. Each member highlighted how they use their strengths to support the success of the team and their goals. The team discussed how their strengths work together in relation to their roles and discovered how to best collaborate as a cohesive team. Continue reading

Top Tips for Mentors — How to Make Mentoring a Success!

By Jennifer Pelham

Originally posted on the IBM Jobs blog.

mentorsA while back, a new colleague of mine who knew about my background in mentoring, asked for some guidance on best practices as she prepares to be a great mentor for her new mentees. While speaking with her, I thought about how awesome it is for her, as a mentor, to be taking mentoring so seriously by preparing and seeking information.  Many times we talk about how the mentoring burden falls on the mentee – but clearly – the mentors have a huge responsibility as well.

Mentors need to be just as prepared and focused as mentees. It’s really a mutual relationship – so both parties should be giving and receiving as learners and teachers. I hope that all my mentors can say they learned something from me!

So, mentors, take heart. You have the power to make mentoring a success!

Continue reading

My top strengths and talent profile

Several years ago I completed the Gallup StrengthsFinder assessment, then worked with Maureen Monte, a Success Architect and author of Destination Unstoppable, who is a certified strengths coach and friend, to better understand the results and realize a plan to grow my strengths, personally and professionally.

She also led me through a challenging exercise to develop a strengths and talent profile. The process forced me to think more deeply than I had before about what motivates me, things that I love to do, things that frustrate me, how I measure myself and how I want my colleagues to see me.

I am glad I participated in this practice as it helps me better define myself and articulate and remember my strengths in a tangible way so I’m more engaged and productive. Additionally, it comes in handy with new managers — I give them my profile so they can immediately see a clear picture of my strengths and talents. Continue reading