Network. Learn. Develop.

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Hey HR Pros! If you’re not networking you are not only fighting it out on an HR island (not recommended) but you are also missing all the fun! I used to think “networking” was cheesy and cringe worthy, and only necessary when I was looking for a job. But that couldn’t be further from the truth! Networking and continuous learning are things that make working in HR fun and rewarding. The fact that our work gets better as a result is a great bonus.

Traditionally, we’ve looked to our employers for learning and development opportunities. They either fund opportunities that we identify, or they put together webinar, in-person and online programs that teach us things we want to know and need to know to perform well in our roles.

For the knowledge and skills we need to perform in our current jobs, we are right to look to our employers for support. And wise, forward-thinking organizations will also be offering and encouraging us to utilize resources to develop skills we will need for the next iteration of our roles or promotion into a new opportunity with the company.

If you find yourself in an organization that is small enough not to have the resources, or one that is in a cost-cutting mode, you may find that learning and development is not a top priority. Now, I don’t necessarily believe this is a good decision, but that’s a topic for another post.

Even if you’re one of those lucky enough to have a fabulous talent development program in place and you get a “yes” answer for all of your requests for outside resources like conferences and events, don’t stop reading. Networking and development aren’t boxes we check and then move on. They are continuous, growing and changing needs that we should all attend to on a regular basis. Adding your own activities to your employer’s offerings just results in a richer, more effective mix.

If you don’t have resources available, then you will especially love these tips. Some people will tell you that you shouldn’t offer to fund any of your own development opportunities, because then your employer will not feel responsible for doing so. I disagree. So what if something is really important to you, you see it as critical to your path for your career, and your employer doesn’t agree or won’t part with the funds? If you go forward anyway, they are on notice that you really care about your development and your career, and if they don’t participate, they do so at their peril. Because if you invest in yourself without their help, you will attract other opportunities, and you may not feel as much commitment to your employer and vision for your future with them when those opportunities come.

Here are some fantastic (and affordable) opportunities for development and networking that you can take advantage of right now:

  1. Membership in SHRM: The benefits to your membership in the Society for Human Resource Management are so great that I’m not even going to outline them all here. You need to check out the SHRM website to fully appreciate it. This membership gives you full access to all of the resources you need to do your job with excellence and your employer should fund it, because it will benefit them immensely. But if they don’t, you should still become a member. Not only can you participate in free webinars, receive updates on legal and compliance changes at the national, state and local level, and get access to best practice tips and forms, but you can also participate in influencing legislative policy through the SHRM A-Team. I have met HR practitioners from all over the US and the world through my involvement with SHRM. It’s easily the best value of any development opportunity.
  2. Membership in local SHRM chapters: Your local chapter has some great monthly programming and shared resources, as well as fun events where you get to meet other HR pros in your own community. It also has superb opportunities for leadership that you may not be currently offered at your workplace. Leadership in your chapter gives you opportunities to get to know not only all of the members of your group, but others in your local business community as well. And my local chapter dues are less than $100 per year-definitely an affordable option.
  3. Social Media: There is a fantastic community of HR professionals on Twitter. They are generous, knowledgeable, fun and when you meet them in person you will see that they are authentic leaders. Follow them and interact with them to learn and develop your own skills in HR. There are also great LinkedIn groups for HR professionals as well as specialty areas like talent management, compliance and employee relations. Look to Snapchat for marketers, talent acquisition specialists and HR leaders just having fun. Instagram is a fun place to literally see what your favorite HR pros are up to, and Pinterest is a great place to find infographics that visualize processes and issues-and memes and comics to offer a few laughs about HR.
  4. Twitter Chats: Speaking of social media, there are a lot of great Twitter chats where you can interact with other HR pros and learn from guests that bring knowledge on different topics that may or may not be in your comfort zone. The bonus is that you can connect with more HR people on Twitter through these chats, and sometimes you end up meeting them in person, as I did during this year’s SHRM annual conference. Here are some to try: #nextchat (SHRM’s weekly chat at 3 pm Eastern on Wednesdays); #jobhuntchat, #CultureChat, #TChat, #OMCChat and more.
  5. Volunteer Work: Your skills and talents are in demand. If you work in HR, you know how to do a lot of things that are valuable to others. I have volunteered with women engineering students to help them with their pitch to potential employers and review their resumes. I’ve also taught single moms who are looking to develop their careers how to create a resume and apply for jobs. This is just the tip of the iceberg. Get out and help others, and you will get back what you give 100-fold, meet a lot of great people, and practice your own presentation and mentoring skills in the process.
  6. Webinars Sponsored by Vendors: Many vendors and suppliers that you don’t even have a current relationship with will sponsor webinars that are given by specialist HR professionals and we all can learn and benefit for free, and learn a little bit about the vendor’s services in the process.
  7. Local HR events: I will be attending Disrupt HR in Denver in September. Do you know how much it costs? $15. And they will be serving food (and have a cash bar). There are other events put on by your organization’s lawyers, insurance brokers and consultants that shouldn’t cost you a dime. Develop a presentation and apply to be a presenter at an event and you get double the experience-learning from others and flexing your public speaking muscles at the same time!
  8. Conferences: I funded my own trip to SHRM Annual this year, as well as another conference on Colorado legislative policy in DC. They were both well worth the investment. If you have the funds to contribute to your own development, consider getting in early on your dream conference-you will get the best bang for your buck with the early bird rate, and you can choose a more affordable housing option to keep costs low. Check out SHRM17 here.

These are just some of the great ideas for learning and development as you own your own career. Which ones did I miss? Tell me in the comments below.

Visit Solve HR, Inc.

Photo credit: mkhmarketing via Foter.com / CC BY

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Author: Kelly Marinelli

HR Consultant & employment compliance geek

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