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.

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My New LinkedIn Summary

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Okay, my HR pals. Please be ruthless in your feedback. I need to know your concerns as I try to become more clear about what I have to offer. Here is my new summary:

Aligning HR with business strategy and creating success for organizations through compliant processes that work, focusing on hiring, retaining and growing the right people, and simplifying the way we deliver the services needed to nurture the workforce. 

Please either Tweet me @KellyinBoulder or feel free to enter your comments below.

Thanks to all of you who take the time to let me know your thoughts!

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The HR Martyr

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Why is it that everywhere I go, HR professionals work ungodly hours, are expected to drop everything at any time, and don’t feel they deserve work-life balance? It’s like we believe the hype the business sells when they tell the story of us as a cost center and a transactional, commodity-type service. The cheaper the better, the business says-watch out, because if you cost too much and don’t make it worth our while, we’ll just outsource you, replace you with technology, or not build you in at all, like many startups do today.

What is our typical response? It should be to show the value we bring in bringing success to the business, and in increasing the bottom line. It should be to prove our strategic worth, and stop being simply the department of “no.” It should be that we resist being seen as the party planner, the cleaner-upper, and the administrative assistant, and instead provide something more that the business can point to that brings them less turnover, a happier, more productive and successful workforce, more efficiently structured teams, better hires, and in turn, increased profits.

What do we do instead? Often it’s more of the same transactional, tactical, check the box, frenzied activity. So much of it that we trick ourselves into thinking we are indispensible. We work 70+ hours per week, making our already relatively lower pay (compared with other critical business functions) lower still by spreading it over two full-time jobs. We tell ourselves we’re lucky to be working for such a great organization, and that some people probably appreciate what we do. We talk about how much we’re working, how crazy busy it is at work, and how it’s impossible to get everything done, but that we have to keep trying, because the people are important to us. You know HR, right? It’s always like that. And we don’t deserve any better. No one thinks we’re important. They just think we cost money, and they are always looking for ways to cheapen the outflow of cash in our direction, because they don’t understand or appreciate what we bring to the table.

Poor us. But one thing is certain: they will never know if we sit back and hope they’ll notice. Telling isn’t enough, either. And just working long hours isn’t going to do it. We have to bring the goods and push our way to the table, and show them.

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Work it Like it’s 1998

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Okay, so I’m outing myself. I’m not doing some super-strategic, high value HR at my new gig. I’m screwing up things like data entry and making badges for people to get into our building. Oh, yes-I’m also generating ad hoc reporting that allows my clients to look backward…but not to really plan for the future. It takes about 60-70 hours per week to complete the transactional, tactical duties my clients expect of me at my site. And that’s before I even undertake the project work that my inspirational HR leader needs me to commit to performing in order to take us to the next level.

So…I am definitely going to need to disappoint my clients in service of making some needed adjustments. Status quo will not build the changes they need to grow. Some leaders will recognize what I’m doing, but some won’t-and they will be very disappointed and feel like I’m failing them. They will wonder why they can’t have their old HR manager back, the one who would take care of every administrative need, and check every transactional box for them.

But there are others who will come along with me. They will see that when we find shared solutions for the transactional, we can free up energy for the transformational. I really care about these people, and like a parent or a good friend, I care enough to tell them what they don’t want to hear.

The next year will bring some tough challenges, and some high-value changes. Come along with me and see what it’s like to practice HR that brings strategic value to the business. Stay tuned!

Visit Solve HR, Inc.

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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!

Visit Solve HR, Inc.

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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!

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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.

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