Sharon Ciechon, VP & HR Director, Union Leader

“I like helping people, especially when it involves straightening out issues that they might have that they can’t take to their direct boss. I have to remain confidential and passionate, as well as have an open mind.” says Sharon.

Sharon Ciechon works in a different aspect of the media than our other inspirational women: she is the Vice President in charge of Human Resources for the Union Leader.

She began working with the Union Leader 30 years ago as a clerk in the advertising department. Sharon has worked in various other departments, moving up to layout, then classified advertising sales, then in a management position in the advertising sales department, and finally working in HR. “I love everyone at the Union Leader, it’s a great place to work. We’re a family here.”

In her position, Sharon must act as a resource for employees, but she must also remain objective. “When the Challenger explosion happened in 1986, one of our reporters was down there. Talking to her afterwards and seeing how emotional she became tugged at my heart. This kind of thing happens a lot, like when reporters work on stories that deal with difficult crimes. You want to reach out to them and give extra support; it’s challenging seeing people you care about in such positions.”

Although heading the HR department was not in her original plan, Sharon admits that she does love her job. “I like helping people, especially when it involves straightening out issues that they might have that they can’t take to their direct boss. I have to remain confidential and passionate, as well as have an open mind. I need to know the laws, and I rely on other HR organizations or labor attorneys when I need someone else to turn to for accurate information. The biggest challenge is keeping up with the legal aspects of employment, because they are always changing, and keeping the bosses informed of the new or revised laws.”

One of the most difficult but challenging aspects of Sharon’s job is working with labor unions. The biggest rewards come when everyone is able to come to an agreement. “Currently, I’m working with one of the unions to freeze salaries because of the down-turned economy. They didn’t have to do this for our employees, they could have said no – but they understand that it’s a difficult economy, and they really came to the table. It’s satisfying to know that other people care about our employees just as much as we do.”

When Sharon started working for the Union Leader 30 years ago she never imagined that she would become a Vice President. “I always thought that I would make it to management someday, but I never thought that I’d make it to Vice President. In this day and age, however, I don’t think it’s possible to do what I did, to start at the bottom and come all the way up. Now you have to go to college if you want a high salary or leadership position.”

Sharon shares some of her insider knowledge for job applicants seeking work in this difficult economy. “Try getting an internship if you can. Networking is very important, and you always should sell yourself as best as you can. When you are at an interview, keep a positive attitude, dress professionally, research the company and come with questions in hand. Don’t just expect to be answering questions, you need to ask your own as well. You have to prove to the company that you want to work there, and that you will suit their needs. Last but not least, don’t be afraid to let your personality shine through – approachable people are usually the best hires.”