Hard Conversations — How Byron McCall ’11 Used the Lessons He learned on Campus of SMC About Communication, Adaptability, and Conflict to Connect People in the HR and Real Estate Worlds
By Samantha Wagner
This article appeared originally in the Fall 2020 issue of Frontiers Magazine.
Byron McCall ’11 knew Spartanburg Methodist College was the perfect fit when he attended a prospective student’s day. “Before visiting campus, I had spoken in-depth with an SMC admissions counselor about the environment I wanted my future college to have. When I visited SMC, I knew it was exactly where I wanted to be for the next two years. I could see how relational the environment was and I felt I would thrive there.”
While his father wanted him to consider other colleges, Byron was adamant – Spartanburg Methodist College was where he wanted to start his college career. What followed were two incredibly rewarding years of personal growth where McCall learned everything from conflict resolution and communication to time management and adaptability. “SMC really helped me tap into my potential,” McCall says. “I wasn’t a number at Spartanburg Methodist College and I loved the small, close-knit environment.”
As a student, he felt that the professors and staff cared about his success and wanted him to learn important life lessons along with his academic ones. “Mentors at SMC challenged me to think about the situations I encountered each day from a different perspective. I felt comfortable coming to them with specific interpersonal struggles I was having and asking for their advice about how best to communicate with a professor or a fellow student.”
His mentors helped hone his ability to communicate with peers and professors and taught him the power of having hard, realistic conversations in a respectful way. This education paid off when, as the student body president his final year, McCall realized the value of communication and constructive conflict. “I had to learn how to interact with my Vice President and Cabinet in a way that moved everyone forward,” Byron explains. “We represented a diverse group of students and we represented the College.” His time in student government quickly taught him that conflict and tough conversations were inevitable both at school and in the business world but the ability to speak respectfully and candidly with others was a tool that could create connection even in disagreement.
McCall’s ability to communicate in a clear and helpful way has served him well in his time since SMC. After completing his associate degree, McCall transferred to Winthrop, where he earned a Bachelor of Science in business administration, health/health care administration and management. From there he entered the HR and recruiting fields, where he walked the fine line of representing both his corporate clients and the recruits he sourced. “You have to be mindful of both parties’ interests and goals. As a recruiter, you’re in the middle of the discussion, working to find a healthy medium for both parties. You know desired salary numbers and realistic salary numbers and other key details that factor into job decisions like benefits and vacation time. With that information, you have to find a balance that works for everyone.”
The recruiting work required him to develop the interpersonal skills learned at Spartanburg Methodist College even further. Conversations about money, benefits, and other “sensitive subjects” were commonplace in his field and he enjoyed bringing clarity to complicated situations and establishing relationships that went beyond simply filling job rolls. While his interpersonal skills were a benefit, the flexible schedule of a recruiter also reinforced other skills he had learned at college, mainly the importance of time management and adaptability in a professional portfolio. “I had attended a few business seminars on time management while at school, but I learned even more about project and calendar management while working,” he remarks. “College students today need to know that cultivating good time management skills is critical for a successful college and working career. As a recruiter, I managed my own projects and the responsibility for meeting my goals and deadlines was entirely on me.”
Indeed, it was his ability to manage his time well that allowed him to complete his MBA at Liberty University and begin to consider future career options beyond recruitment and HR.
In the fall of 2019, McCall opted to change careers and establish himself as a real estate agent in the upstate. “I have always had an entrepreneurial spirit,” says McCall. “I knew I wanted to have more autonomy and independence in my work and this was the next step in career development for me.”
He loves the chance to meet new people and educate them on the benefits of homeownership and the real estate market as a whole. He sees himself as a relationship builder, focused not just on finding homes for people but also on preparing them to make wise financial decisions about sentimental places. “When you have a relationship with someone, you can speak about hard subjects with them – like how to sell the house where they raised their kids or how to adjust to a new area. I appreciate the chance to remind people that ‘home’ is actually the memories, love, and affection a family has…not necessarily the house itself!”
McCall sees himself as an educator and a connector and, while his knowledge helps his customers make informed decisions, it is ultimately his candor and kindness that earns him their respect. While McCall is enjoying self-employment right now, his career goals ultimately lead him back into the college world. “I pursued my master’s at Liberty in the hopes of one day teaching business courses on the college level,” McCall explains. “I’m still pursuing certifications in the HR field that will prepare me to teach and I’m open to different opportunities that come my way.”
The next chapter of his life has started and he’s enthusiastic about whatever comes next. It seems that the lessons he learned at SMC – build relationships with those around you, be candid even in the hard things, and always work toward the group’s common goal – continue to shape the life he has built after college.