Category: Women of HR Series: Random Encounters
I was putting my 7 year old to bed when she turned around and said “you’re the best mum a daughter can ever have, I am so proud of you and want to grow up to become like you.” I hugged her and kissed her, told her how much I love her and how much I am proud of her too. That night I couldn’t sleep and kept thinking to myself that between being a career driven woman, and a mother (and a good one too, at least that’s what I think) whatever I am doing, it must be right.
Just how difficult is it to be a mom and have a full time job at the same time? Ask any working mom and she will say it isn’t easy. Balancing the two roles takes great talent, not to mention effort, to be able to switch between hats. Women are famous for their ability to multi task, and multiply this several times for women applying this skill to both a job and motherhood. We tend to go through guilt pangs every now and then, guilt that maybe we are not dedicating enough time to our children, that perhaps we will be seen as neglecting our jobs if we take those couple of hours to attend that sport event at school, etc…. We often do not stop for a moment, to take a deep breath and admire our resilience, stamina and our genuine efforts to keep both worlds seamlessly on track.
In an article published online in Time Health and Family in 2011, titled “Working Women Who Try to Be ‘Supermom’ May Be More Depressed”, the author makes reference to research that shows working mothers who think they are able to juggle between a career and motherhood effortlessly are in fact more depressed when compared to other women who really don’t overdo it.
Let’s stop here shall we?
Does trying to balance between our careers and our duties as moms mean we are overdoing it? I personally don’t think so. And by the way, which type of mom classifies as a ‘supermom’ anyway? The Merriam Webster dictionary defines the word ‘supermom’ as ‘a woman who performs the traditional duties of housekeeping and child-rearing while also having a full-time job’. According to this definition all working moms classify as one by default. The research goes on that apparently by embracing the fact that it is ok to ‘let things slide,’ working moms can happily combine both roles. On the face of it this makes sense, but there is a caveat, or at least that’s what I think: where do we working moms draw the line when ‘compromising’ on stuff at work before they are perceived as becoming slackers and their career growth suffers? And alternatively can working moms really let things slide when it comes to their children in any aspect related to their well-being, not just physically but equally important, emotionally?
Well I finished reading the article with one conclusion. The ‘supermom’ journey is filled with challenges, no doubt. I’ve been one for 7 years now, and I experience them first-hand every day. It is not easy to juggle between a demanding job, meetings, overseas assignments, projects, play days, doctor appointments, violin rehearsals, school concerts, sport days etc…. yet I still do it. How do I manage? I really don’t know. I’m not perfect, but who said that being a perfectionist is the road to happiness? Has it been a rewarding journey so far? It’s a straight ‘yes’. The personal gratification that comes from watching our children grow to be healthy happy individuals without compromising on career aspirations or vice versa is worth every moment of it. Maybe we are overcomplicating this ‘supermom’ case. Maybe all we have to do is realize we are doing our best and self-appreciate that. Apparently our children do.
Being a supermom is a matter of personal choice. Those of us who walk into it knowing we must spend a great portion of our lives balancing the heavy weight we carry on our shoulders become mentally prepared to face the challenges. There are plenty of days when we feel proud of what we are accomplishing, times when we feel the load is too much, and many more moments when guilt that maybe we are not giving it our best shot overtakes us, but you know what? The truth is that we are super and we have deservedly earned the title.
I read through the posts on random encounters and was reminded of two random encounters I have had in my life – one which I had prepared for and one which I had not – but both of which changed my life for the better.
When I was in my twenties, and broke up with my college boyfriend, I wrote a list of the things I wanted in a man. Tall, funny, family minded and a great kisser were among my top ten. Shortly after writing my list, I met my future husband randomly. In meeting and talking with him, I quickly realized that he had many of the things on my list (tall and funny for two) and looking back, I think I used my HR skills to “interview” him on some of my other “must haves” like being family minded and political views. My preparation helped me realize the potential in a random encounter and we recently celebrated thirty years of marriage.
The second random encounter I did not prepare for but it was a situation that I took full advantage of. I had been working in HR for a Fortune 500 company in Kentucky and my husband was transferred to New Jersey. I decided to take some time off and do some volunteer work while I tried to figure out what I would do next. I found a nonprofit organization that I wanted to learn more about, sent them a letter along with my resume, and offered to do volunteer work in whatever capacity they needed.
I received a call from the Founder who asked me to come in and talk with her. I went to the meeting and after many questions about my background, skills, and how I would handle certain situations at the organization, she asked me about salary. Only then, did I realize that this was a job interview.
I explained that I had sent a letter offering to volunteer, she pulled out my letter and reread it in amazement, and then handed me a job description for an Interim Director. Long story short, I quickly changed gears and got the job. This was a life-changing experience at which I become good friends with three incredible women and which was the exact right stopping place for me to be in before starting my own business.
Random encounter or fate? Opportunity meets preparation or luck? What do you think?
About the author: Judy Lindenberger is the President of The Lindenberger Group, an award-winning human resources consulting firm, located near Princeton, NJ. They are experts in career coaching, customized training workshops, online training programs, mentoring, 360-degree assessment and feedback, HR audits, employee handbooks, and more. Learn more about them at www.lindenbergergroup.com.
Photo credit iStockphoto.com
I have always been the type of person that wants to get the most out of every experience in my life. A large part of personal fulfillment comes through interactions with others. If you are open to it, there are always “random encounters” that can make your life more fulfilling and enriched. By opening myself up to random encounters, I discovered a fulfilling career in human resources with a progressive, inspiring company.
One of my early random encounters as a young professional was with a recruiter who piqued my interest in the profession. He allowed me to see how my passion of helping others could be fulfilled through recruiting. I obtained a position at a small staffing agency when I first relocated to Atlanta. Working at that staffing agency left me wanting more. I simply did not feel fulfilled through the brief interactions and placement of talent, where many placements were the goal. There was a misalignment of goals between me and the company. My goal was to truly get to know each and every person’s passions and goals both professionally and personally and help them fulfill these even after placement.
Luckily, I was working at a staffing agency in an office building that also housed Response Mine Interactive (RMI), a company that truly valued its talent and wanted to see them grow. I discovered a unique opportunity with this forward-thinking company through another “random encounter” that I had in the building with two of RMI’s passionate employees. RMI was in dire need of a corporate recruiter and who better to fill this role than me?
The appreciation for this role that had not previously existed was felt immediately and expressed from the intern to executive level. After all, being in a services industry, talent is what we sell. Without talented people who had a passion for contribution, RMI could not prosper. Growing the business became a side effect of finding talent that wanted to grow with us and had goals that aligned with Response Mine Interactive’s mission.
After working just a few years at RMI, I began to realize that one of the most fulfilling aspects of my role was participating in panels at local colleges and acting as an ongoing mentor for students. I wanted to expand this fulfillment into my daily life at RMI. Thus, I began to take a more prominent role in developing these hires once they became a part of our agency. Although, RMI was an environment that encouraged growth, initiative, and an entrepreneurial spirit, simply bringing them into our environment wasn’t enough. I wanted to lead them down the path of professional and personal growth.
I slowly began taking more time with each of the hires; spending time answering their questions and concerns, educating them, and providing insight. Sure it was great to receive flowers and “Thank You” notes; however, the most rewarding aspect was being able to leave every night feeling as if I made a difference in someone’s life. In turn, they had made a difference in mine. They fulfilled my desire to interact on a more intimate level with each and every person in my company as they all had something to give that led to my personal growth. I could then pay this growth forward to others.
I couldn’t get enough of this fulfilling feeling and began to work with Ken Robbins, President, to construct a role that enabled me to focus on making a difference in our employees’ lives every day. I joined the Society of Human Resources and attended their annual conference. At this point, I knew there was no turning back for me. I met and interacted with so many amazing people. Random encounters, we’ll call them. They had a passion for making an impact on their employees’ lives and introduced me to many ways of ensuring that this impact permeated not only the work place but people’s personal lives as well.
Every day I am so thankful for my interactions with people and my ability to see what each person has and wants to give. This in depth understanding of what makes them tick allows me to form a deeper bond with them and have a greater impact on their growth. It wasn’t through self-reflection that I was able to find fulfillment, but through valuing the unique random encounters with people that taught me more about myself, and how to make a lasting positive impact on all those I work with.
About the author: Amanda Papini, Recruiting Director at Response Mine Interactive started her career in recruiting at Medical Staffing Network in 2005, and moved over to a corporate recruiting role at BKV and Response Mine Interactive in 2007, where she built an internal recruiting practice for both companies. Amanda has since staffed over 250 full-time employees within both companies; an average of 50 hires per year. After assisting with RMI and BKV’s growth over the last 5 years, Amanda decided to move over to focus solely on RMI’s talent acquisition and take on a role more dedicated to employee development.
Photo credit: iStockPhoto
I used to be a lot of things: politically conservative, impatient, intolerant, and demanding. I also used to be a shopaholic. To me, going to the mall or a shopping center was as necessary and important as breathing or eating. My husband hated doing errands with me because I would enter a man-centric store with him – like a hardware store – and never leave.
So going to a mall on a Saturday afternoon was not random at all. But on one particular Saturday in the fall of 1999, a trip to the mall changed my life.
I stopped in the pet store, which was near my usual entrance, just to look. I had a dog at home who had been adopted from the humane society and I certainly wasn’t in the market for another. But I loved to look. Did I say I was just looking?
Inside of one of those cages was a Border Collie puppy.
Maybe it was because my daughters and I had really enjoyed the recent movie Babe (which features BCs, as they are called), but the sight of that puppy excited me like no other dog ever had.
I called my youngest daughter and said, “Guess what? There’s a Border Collie puppy at the pet store!”
She asked if I was going to buy it, and I said, “Of course not.” And then I left the store and went about my shopping.
But for one entire week I thought about that dog. Constantly.
By the following Saturday I couldn’t stand it any longer, and returned to the pet store with my two teenage daughters. I bought the dog (my husband was out of town, thank goodness) and took him home.
And he changed my life.
You have to understand a little about the BC to understand why. BCs are considered the smartest dogs in the world. Consequently, they need special attention. Th
ey need to be trained, encouraged, and engaged if they are going to be successful pets. (Yes, just like employees.) So I set out finding a job for my highly intelligent, driven boy.
What I found is flyball. And within flyball, I found a totally new world. It’s a dog-centric world, where the care and compassion for animals is overwhelming. It is a world where people cooperate and encourage each other – at least most of the time – in order to give their pets, and themselves, something special and rewarding.
Author Jon Katz writes about the “lifetime dog.” By his definition, a lifetime dog is a dog that touches your heart in a way no other animal can or does, often at a critical time or juncture.
Ike, as he was named, became a lifetime dog to me. I got him as my children were becoming adults and entering their own world. I was also at a professional crossroads, having left the practice of law and wondering what else I was suited for. Ike then took me into the world of flyball, where I learned so much about dogs and animals – their need for care, compassion, tolerance, and their love of play, affection, and attention.
And that laundry list of me that started this post? Ike, and his ultimate love of flyball, changed all of those things for the better. The professional crossroads? That’s when I went into HR.
Thanks to a random encounter of the most wonderful kind.
Encounters with your boss aren’t really random, I guess, but I had an unexpected encounter with a boss when I was a young leader moving up in the organization.
I was one of a very few women in the middle management of the firm and was being promoted to the next level. After accepting the new job and agreeing to deliver the outcomes as described, I praised my boss for being one of two executives in the company who had a track record of developing and promoting women into management positions.
He looked at me like I was a little nuts and said, “Are you kidding? Any time I have a women who is even marginally qualified for a management job I’ll give it to her. She’ll work twice as hard and produce three times the results – for half the money!”
Heart stopping, right?
Now, he was a good guy. He had hired me and promoted me twice already. I knew he was pretty chauvinistic – what male boss wasn’t in the early 1990’s? But here’s the thing: he thought he was being complimentary. He thought that telling me that he noticed that I worked harder than anyone else and produced results better than everyone else was a good message. But you know, all I heard was the “half the money” part.
A few months later I got my bonus. It was fantastic. The biggest check I’d ever seen. But you know what I wondered? I wondered if this bonus was a “half the money” bonus. I didn’t know what anyone else got and I didn’t know the bonus formula. So even though I thought the check was huge, I didn’t know what it meant. And I always suspected that, although it was big, perhaps i
t was less than I would have received if I had been a man.
I came to peace with that pretty quickly. He really was a good boss. In the best way he knew, he was trying to acknowledge my performance and contributions. But I’ve always remembered that experience and have used it to be sure I’m clear in my communication with my team – communication about performance, money – and what it means, career opportunity and more. Making sure that highly valued – and other – employees know I value them for what they do, how they do it, the results they produce and how those dynamics impact their career progress is critical in building manager/employee relationships.
I think back to that time and am glad he promoted me – even if his motive was a little suspect. We all got what we wanted: the organization got a highly effective leader, he got a region that blew out its numbers, and I got higher into management with a larger compensation package. Win-win-win.
Funny how those random conversations can change your perspective forever. I chose to learn an important management communication lesson that I never forgot. I think it was Benjamin Franklin who said, “I can learn something from any man – even if it’s what not to do.”
About the author: China Gorman is CEO of the CMG Group, connecting HR to business and business to HR, and author of the Data Point Tuesday feature at www.chinagorman.com. Connect with her on Twitter as @ChinaGorman.
Photo credit: iStockphoto
One of my favorite things to do to pass time when I travel is observe people and strike up conversations with total strangers. And it has often worked for me in several ways, be it on my flight when I travel, while at the bus stop or when I am at places that I have never been before.
Strike up a conversation
I know some of us may not be comfortable talking to strangers and it is just the way we are. But I understand that I am making myself approachable and likable to the other person by making a small friendly gesture, an eye to eye contact, a smile, talking about the weather or probably sharing a story or experience about me which somehow relates to them. This can help them open up their mind, start a conversation and share something that is of common interest.
Life is quite often like this. Every day we meet someone who wants to know about somebody or who knows somebody that we want to know about. And as an HR professional who loves to network, I always keep this in mind. Not just to connect with others with an ulterior motive but to learn something new, some experience that I never dealt with before or probably help each other out by sharing experiences that help us grow as a person.
Stories help you build connection!
I know of an incident that happened not to me but to one of my close friends while she was on her journey from Dallas, Texas to Tampa, Florida. As it turned out, the two hour journey helped land her a job when she got talking to a lady sitting next to her. Fortunately for her
that random person on that flight was a recruiter. She sparked up a conversation seeing the PHR Prep book in the hands of that recruiter. This helped her understand that the lady was an HR professional and they started talking about job searches and interview processes in different companies. She indicated that she is looking for a position in health care industry. Unfortunately, the recruiter was a headhunter in the financial industry.
But to her surprise when my friend got back home, she received an interview call from another recruiter who happened to be friends with the lady she met on the flight. And my friend got that job. How cool is that?
I am sure they might have felt much more comfortable talking to each other in a casual manner rather than sitting in an interview room across each other or at a crowded networking event.
So start striking up conversations and build connections, you may never know who knows who!
Have you had any experience like this? Would love to hear from you!
About the author: Nisha Raghavan is the author of Your HR Buddy blog and a co-host of DriveThru HR. A former HR Generalist with extensive experience in Talent Management and Development, she specializes and writes about Employee Relations, Organization Development and how companies can keep their employees more engaged through Employee Engagement Initiatives. Her experience in the corporate world was as an HR Deputy Manager at Reliance Communications Limited, India.