Career Tips

Tiffany Gaston, Human Resources Consultant From Marathon Petroleum

This week’s featured Spartan was Tiffany Gaston, Human Resources Consultant, Marathon Petroleum. Tiffany offered to respond to questions about her background, occupation, industry, or company, and any other professional topics Spartans were interested in. This conversation was open in the MSUALUMNI Linkedin group from 02/02/2015 until 02/17/15.

Spartan Insights is a regularly scheduled Linkedin discussion thread inside of the MSUALUMNI Linkedin group. Each discussion is meant to give you the opportunity to ask questions regarding one Spartan’s experience within a specific company, industry, or occupation. Answers will be given at the convenience and discretion of the featured Spartan and will be answered from the Spartan’s own personal experiences and opinions which are not meant to be representative of his/her company’s official position.

Colleen – MSU Student and Wedding Designer

Hi Tiffany, I will be graduating in May with a degree in Marketing and am actively job searching. As a Human Resource Consultant, what do you look for when hiring new graduates?

Lisa Parker – Director of Alumni Professional & Personal Enrichment at Michigan State University

Tiffany, what do you think about candidates reaching out to you through social media when they are interested in working for Marathon? What do you feel are comfortable practices?

Tiffany L. Gaston – Human Resources Consultant at Marathon Petroleum

Hi Colleen- Congratulations on your upcoming graduation! I spent two years recruiting interns and graduates for Marathon Petroleum, and from my experience, I can say that we looked for the “total package” when it comes to our new hires! Yes, we like to see strong grade point averages, but we also look for candidates who are active on campus, and/or work part-time jobs (even if it’s not related to your discipline as this will give us some insight on your work ethic and time management skills), possess good written and verbal communication skills, are flexible/mobile, and can apply basic knowledge learned from their coursework. We like to hear about the projects and assignments that you’ve worked on, and the role that you tend to play in a group setting. This is key, especially in a discipline such as Marketing, as most companies are generally team-oriented. I’ll also add that having some basic technical knowledge is also a plus! You don’t need to be an software expert, but really knowing how to navigate your way around the Microsoft Office suite is plus (this may sound simple, but you would be surprised as to how many people struggle in this area). When it comes to specific programs/processes that you will need for your the job, know that you are not expected to have this knowledge first starting out, but what you will need is a desire and ability to learn! Long story short, we like to see balanced candidates. Here’s an example: If a candidate has a 4.0 gpa with no extra-curriculars, that’s awesome, they must be a really good student, and in my personal opinion, they should be if their only focus is studying! But let’s take a candidate with a 3.4 gpa, who works on campus, is involved a few student organizations (even better if they’ve had the opportunity to serve as a student leader), and volunteers on weekends. Again, based upon my personal experiences, the second candidate that I described is more a attractive in my eyes- there needs to be a balance! By being active outside of the classroom, you are learning some very valuable skills, such as how to leverage the individual strengths of a team to achieve desired results, how to deal with difficult people, etc., and it’s great to get this exposure in the college setting so that you can be prepared for these interactions in “the real world” as these things can’t really be taught. Regardless of how much knowledge you gain in the classroom, how it’s applied is going to vary based upon the company that you end up- which is why personally, I try not to put too much emphasis on having the highest gpa of the bunch. While the foundational concepts are consistent, every company has their own way of doing things. For example, the MHRLR Graduate Program laid a very nice foundation on compensation systems, and performance rating processes. I have peers who have gone into HR for other oil companies such as Exxon and Valero- and each Company administers compensation and employee performance ratings differently! We all have the same foundation on the concepts, but our respective Companies taught us “their way” of doing things. I know that this is a ton of information, but I wanted to really drive home the fact that we are not expecting our interns and recent graduates to know it all- if you are a good fit for the company culture, we can help you with everything else, and I’m sure other recruiters who would agree! I also get excited when talking to students because I remember being in your shoes, and I love being able to testify that everything works out, and you’ll be fine! You mentioned that you are still seeking opportunities- I don’t know if you’ve ever thought about Marathon or Speedway (we’re their parent Company), but I’d love to share some information with you about our careers in Marketing (we are actually a Refining, Marketing, and Transportation Company)! Just send me a message, and I would be happy to help in any way that I can! Go Green! –Tiffany

Tiffany L. Gaston – Human Resources Consultant at Marathon Petroleum

Hi Lisa, so nice to hear from you! This is a great question, and one that will probably produce five different answers, if you ask five different people, as this is truly a personal preference. I have no problem with candidates reaching out to me on LinkedIn, as I feel that this is an appropriate forum to do so, and I welcome the opportunity to connect and help in any way that I can. As a result of messages from candidates, I’ve offered advice, done a few resume critiques, and even conducted mock interviews on the phone! Any interaction that a candidate has with a Company employee helps shape their perception of that Company, and I always want to leave a positive impression on candidates when it comes to their views on Marathon Petroleum Company! I do like to keep my personal and professional social media presence separate, so I would prefer that candidates not contact me on Facebook for example, but honestly, no one ever has! This is probably because I really have strong privacy settings on my personal social media platforms. But again, I’m all about positive interactions, so if someone did contact me on a different platform, I would probably invite them to continue our conversation via email. Again, personal preference plays a huge role here, but I think that others would agree that LinkedIn is always a safe option! Thank you so much for asking about this!

Dave Isbell – Assistant Director of Alumni Professional Enrichment at MSU

Tiffany, can you share a little bit about the concept of leadership development at your company? How do you know when you have an employee who is ready to be pipelined upwards? Is there a process by which you hire a new employee with the idea that you will be able to promote him/her eventually? Is there some form of mentorship available to employees to help develop them, and if so, what does that look like? What other questions did I not ask about this that I should have?

Tiffany L. Gaston – Human Resources Consultant at Marathon Petroleum

Thank you for your question, Dave. Marathon Petroleum has a Leadership Success Profile that identifies all of the behaviors, attributes, values, acumens, displayed competencies, etc. that we expect all of our formal leaders to possess. This Profile is also used to in the Performance Development Process (performance ratings), and has recently been incorporated into the PD Process for all employees at the Company (with a slight variation). We are always looking to develop employees who display an aptitude to be hold a formal leadership role. For example, this can include being a role model for other employees, going above and beyond what is expected, fostering teamwork and collaboration, combined with an ability to carry out their responsibilities and share their knowledge (this is not a comprehensive list). Individuals who fit this mold are often given temporary assignments that allow them to back-fill and serve in a leadership capacity from a few weeks to a few months. After this experience is complete, both the employee and supervisor are able to share feedback and thoughts to determine if this person is truly ready to be promoted, or if there are areas that they could use some additional development in. When we hire entry-level employees, or any employee for that matter, we hire them with the intention of helping them achieve any of their career aspirations- and we help them get there! Not all employees aspire to be formal leaders, and that’s okay! But that doesn’t stop us from helping develop them in areas that will help them be a successful MPC employee! We have an extensive catalog of course offerings that range from computer-based trainings or workshops that employees can sign themselves up for, to formal programs that employees need to be nominated by their leadership team to attend. In addition, we are able to invite high potential employees to various leadership workshops even if they don’t not have a formal supervisory role—yet another way that we develop our aspiring leaders. We also have a series of programs that leaders attend based upon where they are in their career. We do have a formal mentorship program! The MPC Mentoring Program serves to support employee development, engagement and Diversity & Inclusion while stimulating creativity and strengthening the overall knowledge base of the organization. It is believed that through the exchange of intellectual capital, our employees will learn and develop additional thought processes and strategies that impact and increase technological and business expertise. This Program assists with career and professional development, builds a pipeline of talent, and fosters cross-functional knowledge sharing. Through the Program, an experienced employee (the Mentor) is formally paired with another employee (the Protégé) to allow the Protégé to benefit from the professional experience and knowledge of the Mentor. We encourage all employees to consider being a Protégé or a Mentor through the MPC Mentoring Program. Additionally, we also have a New Hire Mentoring Program for all salaried employees within the first year of employment or for a person transferring into a new function or location. Again, thank you for your question! We are very proud of our Leadership Development Program!

Dave Isbell – Assistant Director of Alumni Professional Enrichment at MSU

Thank you for your insights Tiffany! And thank you to those who have participated in this discussion. If you have further questions for Tiffany, feel free to reach out to her via her Linkedin profile. For future Spartan Insights discussion, just go to the MSU Alumni Linkedin group and search for Spartan Insights.



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