I Own My Career

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I’ve been thinking a lot lately about the decision I made a little over a year ago, to “go out on my own.” I owe my success first to a supportive husband and family, all of whom have made it possible for me to take this risk. But beyond that, my SHRM and local HR networks have been instrumental to my success, by providing guidance, pep talks, commiseration and tools to help me get on my feet and fashion the career I’ve always wanted.

The decision to leave the flock as an HR Professional isn’t an easy one. Working as a department of one, or in an established HR team at a company that pays you every other week and provides employee benefits and a 401K provides a feeling of security, camaraderie, and a clear future path.  You get feedback on how you’re doing, and sometimes a pat on the back or some kudos when you hit it out of the park. The job can be easier, too. You know the minefield of personalities, politics and closet skeletons, and the goals are laid out before you like a yellow brick road leading to the Emerald City. The problem is, there’s also often a “man behind the curtain” and all of that isn’t what it seems.

I’ve been on the receiving end of a very fair salary that I appreciated going in, only to end up having to work two full-time jobs to avoid leaving real humans I care about without receiving the support, operational consistency and services they need from HR. So, the salary, benefits and 401K take on a different value when divided in half. Now, when I get paid, it’s because I worked my ass off and delivered exactly what I sold to my client, and more. And when I perform work, it’s because it’s meaningful to me and I’m interested in doing it. Are there lean times? Yes. And when those come, I am rich with time to do things I want to do. Time has immense value to me.

I’ve participated in goalsetting that doesn’t align with any semblance of business success-or that is supported in any way by internal customers. Sometimes those goals have been a moving target, or backed into after the fact based on pet projects of new leaders. There’s no yellow brick road, or if it’s there, it leads nowhere. Today, I set my own goals, and achieve my own milestones. And they are exceedingly meaningful to me. I celebrate, and appreciate, and love when my blood, sweat and tears (along with the support of my partners and resources) have brought me to success. The flip side? I fail. A lot. And I learn. A lot. The freedom to fail and learn is one of the things I cherish about the freedom my new career affords me.

In the past, I’ve been embedded in organizations where dysfunction reigns and the No Asshole Rule is never enforced. I’ve let myself be stuck in a vortex of self-pity and inaction when my efforts to call it out have failed. The upside of being my own boss is not that I’ve escaped that. To the contrary, that experience has helped me recognize where that’s happening, and consulting has gifted me with the freedom (and readiness on the part of clients to receive the message) to illuminate it where it exists and help repair it. Where teams revel in dysfunction and by default create their own survival code for members to suffer through each day, there is almost always a kernel of human pain and need, and lack of understanding and empathy at the core. I’m not always successful in triumphing over dysfunction, but I always get to try. The elephant in the room never goes unnamed, and I value that greatly.

Gratitude is the first word that comes to mind when I think about my career today. Appreciation for the many colleagues who have been there before me and have shared their advice on how to make this work-it’s helped me hang on and not give up. Fulfillment: it’s what I get from this work, and in turn, helps me have the energy to give all I have to my clients.

I own my career. And it feels like success to me.

Photo credit: mtchlra via Foter.com / CC BY

Onboarding Yourself

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Many articles are out there that tell us in HR how to onboard a new employee. But there are things you can do as a new addition to the team that will ensure your success, and as much as we wish every onboarding would be 100% complete and effective, you can’t rest on your laurels and expect everything you need to come to you. It will increase your success if you make sure that these critical things happen:

  1. Find out who your resources are for the critical things you need on day one.
  2. Ensure you have access to technology you need.
  3. Ask questions-don’t pretend you know everything and risk making mistakes because you were too proud to ask.
  4. Take responsibility for the job on day one-don’t make excuses about the challenges that predated your arrival.
  5. Be friendly, open and understanding while you learn the lay of the land socially-don’t make assumptions about people based on a single interaction, or what others tell you.

These are just a few tips-I am living them right now as I start my third week in a new role, at a new company. Please share your thoughts in the comments about what you think I should be doing as I onboard myself!

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Photo credit: alborzshawn via Foter.com / CC BY

Change. It’s What’s Up!

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I am starting a new job today. Having already met my team and the extended departments I’ll be working most closely with, I have to say I’m more excited than nervous.

These days, positive change is always invigorating to me. But I think it’s long been that way. I remember being disappointed when the rhythm of changing semesters gave way to the long, long stretch of work that ran far into the future, past the horizon that I could see. It took me a while to figure out that work actually has its own rhythm of change, whether you’re changing jobs, projects, goals, teams, or just changing your focus. Growing and learning is continuous.

Today I will be joining a crew I respect in a role I know how to do well, at a company I will be proud to work for. I really couldn’t ask for anything more in following my new path.

Solve will continue, but will cease to be my primary focus for the time being. I will keep posting as I’m able, with a fresh perspective that comes with jumping out of the frying pan into the fire. Put the coffee on-here I go!

Photo credit: Infomastern via Foter.com / CC BY-SA

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.

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Photo credit: mkhmarketing via Foter.com / CC BY

I Believe in a Big Candy Jar

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Those who know me understand that I’m kind of a health nut. But I love candy. Jelly beans, Skittles, salt water taffy, Airheads, Mentos (the fruit kind-not the mint ones) and any other chewy, sweet stuff you can find. I also love chocolate, the darker and more bitter the better.

My candy jar is almost always full on my desk. It’s not a weenie candy dish that will show a big gap when you take a piece. It’s an overflowing jar with a lid and you are always welcome to come by and see me to take a piece or two. While you’re here I’ll expect to hear a little about your day, what you’re proud of, what’s bugging you, and what you think about what’s going on at work and in your life.

People often remark on the candy jar, whether it’s full, what’s in it, and when there will be more chocolate. They give me a hard time and pretend to steal a piece as they hurry by and give me a sly smile. They interrupt my work to talk about things that are important to them when they are just “stopping by for candy.” And I love it.

Sometimes people will fill the candy jar. It’s never required for anyone to contribute candy, and I don’t complain when it empties. The dish makes happiness for everyone, even those who don’t eat the candy. It spreads goodwill among everyone who sees it. When they give to the candy jar, they’re part of that warm feeling too.

Every HR pro should have the equivalent of a candy jar-something colorful, irresistible and fun in your workspace that welcomes people in. Maybe yours is a bunch of funny office toys for people to squeeze, throw or shake, or tons of funny magnets, stickers and posters for them to read and have a laugh with you.

Inviting people to be present in the moment with you is a great way to enjoy work, do great HR, and make life more fun. My candy jar does that.

What’s your candy jar? Share your ideas in the comments.

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Photo credit: Steve Snodgrass via Foter.com / CC BY

What Work Can Be

Work

I’ve been having a lot of conversations about work with people I respect and admire lately. I just returned from the Colorado Capital Conference in Washington, D.C. last week, where I learned about and discussed the work of the U.S. Congress. I also talked with fellow Coloradans about their work, their lives, and the things they care about. It was an opportunity of a lifetime, not just because I was able to visit the floor of the senate and hear from our nation’s leaders, but also because I came away with a new faith in our system and trust in our Colorado congressional leaders to work together in a bipartisan manner for the good of our state.

When I returned, I had a great conversation with a neighbor and friend I greatly respect and look up to. She was feeling invigorated by a recent career change, and entering a time of great passion around her career as she approaches age 60. I recently made a big transition in my career this spring, and I found that we fed off each other’s energy in discussing our plans. When I walked away, I felt even more excitement about my work, and gratitude for the opportunities I have now to do work I love in HR, be in my community of Boulder, and interact with intelligent, caring people of integrity that share my commitment to making work better.

Sometimes I forget that not everyone shares my core belief that work brings meaning to life. In the past, our grandparents worked hard for the same company or organization for their entire careers, and were “rewarded” with a pension in retirement. Like many other working people my age, I joke about never retiring, because none of us will ever truly be able to afford it. But the real story is that the people I know who have deep passion for their work don’t ever want to stop working. The new “gig” economy is taking root just in time for us to envision our later working years in a way that fits with what we want and need for our changing lives.

As I examine what I truly want from my work, I realize that I yearn for more than just an exchange of brainpower for money. That, at its basic level, is what work is to most of us, and what it’s been to me at some points in my career. But if I have a choice, I want more. I want to do work that not only just helps people, but furthers an organization I respect and trust. I want to be part of something bigger than just me. At its best, work can feed the spirit and contribute to our feelings of worth, belonging and our place in the world. All work has value, and there is justified pride in a day’s work well done that is appreciated by and performed for an organization that treats its workers with respect, that is deserving of their trust.

Work can be more to all of us: more satisfying, more rewarding, and adding energy to our lives, not exhausting it.

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Photo credit: franklin_hunting via Foter.com / CC BY-ND

 

Should You Use Jazz Hands in Your Next Interview?

banana jazz hands

If you interview with an organization that is not really into innovating, where the culture is strong for employees “knowing their place” and not stepping out of line, then:

Do not use jazz hands.

By that I mean, don’t show your personality, don’t raise your voice, and don’t laugh too much. HR isn’t all that funny to these people. This is serious business, and your demeanor should reflect that.

The only exception is if you want to do a little “Happy Hands” Club action, a la Napoleon Dynamite. That is probably sufficiently choreographed as to refrain from rattling your interviewers in a highly structured setting.

Happy Hands

Image credit Giphy

You may be saying to yourself right now, “Why would you use jazz hands in an interview in the first place? You would look like a total fool.”

With experience, many of us, especially those of us in HR that see the hiring process play out over and over ad nauseum, eventually realize that getting the job can be a booby prize. If you get the wrong job, it’s hard to turn that giant cruise ship of your career around, while you leave another little piece of your heart in a place that doesn’t appreciate who you are and what you have to offer.

So even if your job search takes a little longer, consider heeding this advice:

Use jazz hands if that is who you are. And don’t, if it isn’t.

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Photo credit: frankieleon via Foter.com / CC BY