Olivia Sanchez was unsure of her career path when she started her college journey, but she knew she wanted to help people. Naturally, she began on a health sciences track, but when she realized medicine wasn’t for her, she discovered her calling through business courses at Polk State College.
She took to human resources. It’s nothing like Toby Flenderson on The Office, she exclaimed.
“HR is all about having the ability to influence the future of a company on the basis of employment decisions and finding ways to integrate people with different ideas and approaches into the company to innovate and expand it,” Sanchez said with a clear passion for her work.
Sanchez, who achieved her Polk State Bachelor of Applied Science in Supervision and Management in 2018, serves as an HR assistant for the City of Winter Haven. She is also a member of the City’s recently established Diversity and Inclusivity Team.
“When I first started college, I was clueless about what I wanted to do – all I knew is that I wanted a career where I could give back and make a difference in people’s lives, so I initially studied to become a nurse and then a physical therapist,” explained Sanchez, a first-generation American and the first generation in her family to attend college. “When people think about helping others, they think first about the medical field and those on the front lines. They are excellent paths, but after taking several courses and shadowing professionals in the field, I realized it was not for me.”
“I thought ‘there has to be something else out there,’” she recalled. “There has to be something for me.”
It was a business class at Polk State that planted the seed.
“The class had us research a variety of career options and HR stuck out to me,” she said. “I grew to love the field. There are so many career options out there and Polk State is a great place for students to explore the possibilities.”
Through academic advising, program maps that lead to a variety of a careers, as well as internship and experiential learning opportunities, the College provides students with the support and resources to participate in career exploration.
For Sanchez, an application for an internship with Sunland Distribution turned into a job opportunity in which she worked full time ultimately as an HR generalist before completing her bachelor’s degree and joining the City of Winter Haven.
“Both of these employers speak highly of her,” Polk State’s Coordinator of Internships and Experiential Learning Matina Wagner said. “Since she started at Sunland, they have contacted us each time they had a position open in their administration offices and because of her and her peers’ outstanding performance, we now have several students and alums working there.”
This real-world experience paired with the knowledge gained through Polk State’s BAS Program prepared Sanchez for success in her current role.
“Polk State’s business courses prepare students to think critically through different cases and writing scenarios, as well as how to effectively communicate, from writing an email to presenting to a group,” Sanchez explained. “The program gives you real-life experiences and has students review and work out real-world situations, from working with your colleagues to serving customers, internal and external communications.”
Sanchez’s job with the City of Winter Haven brings something new and exciting each day, from processing applications of prospective employees, onboarding new hires, to working with risk management.
She is also a member of the City’s Diversity and Inclusivity Team, which is led by Polk State Distinguished Alumna Christine Samuel, and charged with proactively seeking to connect diverse ideas in different ways to achieve common goals resulting in a healthier and stronger Winter Haven community.
“This is the coolest and most important thing that every company should have,” Sanchez said. “This is an opportunity for us to encourage more people to come together – employees from every City department and partners from all areas of the community – to ensure we are inclusive.”
Sanchez is committed to her career and is making a difference in the community, and she does all of this while pursuing a Master’s in Business Administration in Human Resources from St. Leo University.
“I’m gaining valuable experience and learning so much – I’m currently just taking it all in,” she said. “I am thankful to be part of such a great team that demonstrates why I wanted to pursue this career to begin with.”
“Those who may be uncertain like I was should take advantage of the resources at Polk State, including the faculty and staff who are there to guide students in the right direction, and the opportunities for students to shadow professionals, participate in internships, and gain valuable work experiences,” she added. “If you’re not really sure what you want to do, it’s OK to test the waters to figure it out. Polk State is an amazing place to do just that.”