2013 was NOT a good year for me. In my head, that is. Mentally, I felt burned out, disconnected, wondering if I needed to make a professional change, and at times, I felt frustrated in my HR role. Twelve years (now starting year 13) is a “record” for me in any position.
In prior careers, I got bored, frustrated, fed up, or felt thwarted with career growth, and moved on. Sometimes graciously, sometimes, not so much. Hopefully I’ve learned from each of those other roles, and grown wiser as well as older. Now having been in HR for more than 17 years has given me so much ability to look back over my own career and learn life lessons. I spent a LOT of time ‘inside’ my own head in 2013, struggling with potentially life-changing and career-changing decisions last year.
I feel like I’m back in the groove in 2014, and I feel more connected to the organization and more engaged in my job. I cannot put my finger on exactly why or when that happened, but here are a few thoughts, perhaps ‘tips’ for others, on my challenges from last year.
- Don’t let your (bad, poor) attitude bleed over to your direct reports. This is possibly the hardest thing of all for me. I am pretty transparent in what I share with my team, and in my body language. I’m not sure I fooled them, but they were gracious enough, gave me space, time, and the ability to work through my own head. Which leads me to,
- Put a great work team in place. Select the smartest, most talented people you can, teach them what you want and need them to know, then set them free to chart their professional course. Sometimes that will mean you need to let go, delegate more, or trust in their decisions. Do this. As early as possible after you become a manager. This is critical to success, and most of all, it is my work team that kept moving forward , kept getting things done and getting results in HR, that helped ‘mask’ my bad year. In short, they made me look good. Even when I mentally was not very good.
- Have other activities to keep you going. 2013 was the year I took on physical challenges to get myself out of part of my funk. I began to strength train 2-3 times per week. I also found a ‘safety zone’ in my family at home, where I knew I would go at the end of every day.
- Talk about your challenges with someone. Whether professionally with a life coach, or with a good friend. In my case, as in many HR professionals’ worlds, I cannot share specifics of work challenges, but I do have close friends with whom I could share my general malaise. They listened. Encouraged. Let me know I was indeed human. And though I’m not generally a hugger, they gave me hugs – mentally, physically. Often, when I needed them most.
- Take time off. We have a generous paid time off policy where I work – another perk one has to think of, when considering change. I used my time. Sometimes one day at a time. And I planned for two weeks off at year-end. In a very warm climate. With my family. I had this to look forward to as I plugged through my 2013.
- Before you leap, step back and look around. I was likely pretty transparent to many around me. I had many colleagues stop by to check on me last year. Just to “see how I was doing.” Obviously, I must have been transparent with how I was feeling. Looking back and reflecting, I have it pretty good where I am. I have great colleagues, the very best team I could ask for, a great job with great benefits and perks, and even a really good boss.
- Share, in a professional way, your career desires or work frustrations, with your boss. Sometimes, it’s just having a secure outlet to share work frustrations that helps. Sometimes, getting another’s perspective from their seat allows for attitude adjustment to happen. I had a good discussion with my boss during performance review time. I let him know that I sometimes need him to spend just a little of his valuable time with me. That time alone, is very engaging for me. I appreciate the confidence he has placed in me, his trust of me, and the value he places on HR in the organization.
I’m engaged in my work right now, and aiming for a great 2014. What turned it around? I’m not sure. Perhaps it was the two weeks off I took near year end, and the full week I spent lounging in Key West with my family. Perhaps it was inward reflection on what a great place I indeed work – and all the perks and benefits I have here. Perhaps it was my friends. Perhaps it was the great HR team who figuratively carried me through 2013, when I couldn’t walk myself. Maybe it was all of those things. I think I have my groove back. Let’s go!!
About the Author: Dorothy Douglass is Vice President of Human Resources & Training at MutualBank, an Indiana-based financial institution. She began her career with Mutual in 2001 as Human Resources Manager, and is a graduate of Ball State University. She is proud to have been in Human Resources now for more than 17 years and is continuing to “lean in” and working to influence the “people management” side of her organization. She is passionate about managing and developing people; and I have yet to be bored in 13+ years in her current job. She considers herself fairly tech-UN-savvy, though has immersed herself in Facebook and LinkedIn. She’s still working on the Twitter-sphere & has goals to blog more in 2014.
It doesn’t take many years in the work force to begin acquiring meaningful experience that will serve you well in the future. In fact, you may be in the position you currently hold more for what experience has taught you than for what a classroom has taught you.
The positive outcomes you’ve achieved thanks to your lessons at Hard Knocks U reinforce your belief that success in a field doesn’t require formal education in it.
You’ve probably noticed a gap or two. There have likely been moments when you thought, “I’ve not dealt with this before.”
And that is the greatest value in formal education, especially at the graduate level.
There’s no doubt that you have extensive knowledge in the areas in which you’ve worked. But it’s unlikely that you’ve had the breadth of experience it would take to substitute fully for a formal degree. As a result, a degree won’t just remind you of what you already know. It will help fill in some gaps where life’s road hasn’t taken you yet. And while many opportunities exist to enhance your leadership skills, a degree provides greater promise for your future.
That sounds good, you may think, but I don’t have time to go back to school.
Well, consider this: the time investment needed to complete a master’s degree isn’t what it used to be. Many accelerated online degree programs allow you to continue a full workload while you knock out the classes necessary to improve your performance and your future.
Here are two other reasons why a degree can benefit you, even if you don’t think you can learn that much.
A few months on the job with you will tell a new supervisor that you know your stuff. But when you arrive at an interview, even a very powerful resume won’t carry the weight that a degree does. It’s not that anyone undervalues your experience, since they likely reached their own positions the same way.
But a degree provides a credible endorsement of what you’ve learned, and it’s one that others can quickly identify.
You might have ten years of experience at your company before applying at one of their competitors. During that time, you’ve racked up valuable experience. But maybe your potential new employer doesn’t subscribe to the business philosophies of your old employer. Maybe they’re concerned that you may be tainted goods.
By achieving a degree, you hold proof that you’ve been exposed to a broad base of knowledge, regardless of what you’ve previously been required to do.
And let’s step away from business-to-business relations for a moment.
Do your clients know what it means that you led a project management team that oversaw a robust renovation of IT systems? Probably not. Do they know what an MBA is? More than likely.
And again, a degree distills all your valuable learning down to a simple sentence: I hold an MBA degree. The result is credibility for your firm and the ability to draw in clients.
And isn’t that what it’s all about?
About the Author: Sam Peters is an avid blogger and career whiz. Originally from the mid-west, she now resides in sunny San Diego. When not writing you can usually find her with a good book and her puppy, Kona.
There are lots of ways to do it. You can book yourself into a training course, work longer hours, strive for top sales figures, or even use your network of contacts. Whichever way you decide to do it, managing your career advancement is an essential part of career progression. However, whilst your colleagues are working into the night, you can be more creative, and seize the opportunity of your next 360 as the key to unlocking your future.
As part of performance management, 360 degree feedback continues to increase in popularity, and there are five key reasons women should embrace it.
A comprehensive approach
In traditional appraisals, a boss would comment on an employee’s performance. However, with 360s, comments are considered from other colleagues, customers, and even suppliers. It is a more complete approach, and, as such, gives a comprehensive picture of you and your skills. As a result, you can easily identify any areas for development and act on them to improve your chances of career advancement.
Being comprehensive is good for everyone, but it’s particularly good news for women as it shows clear progression from the male-designed linear process that went before.
The 360 approach gives a more accurate portrait of you. Previously, the boss-versus-employee appraisal system was far too narrow. By involving those around you, 360 feedback gives a truer picture. Importantly, as it provides the participant with a wide-ranging set of views, it is unbiased.
360s provide real evidence. Participants receive hard and fast scores, which can be compared to other participants, so not only is it readily accepted as a valid input into your career development, but it also provides you with data to prove your track record of achievement.
The fact that 360s are accurate and trusted removes the potential for any favouritism based on gender. The 360-degree approach doesn’t entertain any notion of ‘jobs for the boys’.
It’s about how, not what
360s emphasise the importance of how you achieve your objectives. It’s an opportunity for your methods to be recognised, not just your results. Real leaders are identified and promoted not just because they can achieve, but also because they can marry this achievement with the kind of behavior that’s constructive and desirable.
If there is still a perception that men are more concerned with the ends and not the means, then the 360 system is a much fairer one.
What’s mine is yours
When a 360 degree feedback programme is implemented well, it should directly link with a company’s competency framework. There can be no easier way, therefore, of ensuring that your own personal targets directly tie in with a company’s requirements for its people. Career progression can more quickly be brought about when you can prove that your achievements are aligned with how a company wants its employees to behave.
Ensuring individual targets are in line with a company’s competency framework, through the 360, helps women to come to the fore, and is a further way in which balance in the workplace is being redressed.
360s are only the start of the process. If you are to achieve real career progression, the targets drawn up from such a process must be acted on. After all, in the words of Abraham Lincoln, “the best way to predict the future is to create it” and a 360 can help you do just that.
About the author: Samantha Arnold is a senior business psychologist at ETS, an HR consultancy. Sam works predominantly in the field of employee engagement for private sector clients and offers consultancy to support clients in utilizing the research to take engagement to the next level within their business. She is currently working towards Chartered status as an Occupational Psychologist, with a particular interest in organisational development.
Moving on to new opportunities can be an exciting time, especially if you have a fabulous new job to go to. But when it comes to telling your current employer that you’re moving on, there are a few things that you should bear in mind. Here are a few things to bear in mind:
You’ll probably have to work a notice period
Check your employment contract to find out the details of your terms and conditions. In some cases, you’ll have to provide up to a month’s notice before you leave. It’s important that you consider this before making arrangements with a new employer. This period often applies to trainee jobs as well as higher-level positions.
You may still be entitled to some holidays
Your current company may be required to give you any holidays that you’ve accumulated during your time working for the business. Sometimes, they may offer you extra payment in lieu of this. Know what you’re entitled to and be prepared to negotiate the terms depending on what’s right for you. If you can make a case that demonstrates that you’ve considered what’s best for the business, you’re much more likely to be heard.
You should organise your finances
Even if you’re leaving your job to go to another, there can be a crossover period where you’ll have to wait longer than usual before you receive your first pay check. When you have bills to pay and rent to cover, this can be problematic. Sit down with a pen and paper and carefully map out what you’ll have to pay for and how switching jobs could temporarily impact upon your finances. There may be some solutions such as taking out a short loan, but this should be done with caution and only as the very last resort.
Once you’ve accepted a new job, your new employer may ask for a reference
Some employers will wait until you’ve accepted the job before they ask your current place of work for a reference. Of course, it could make things awkward if your boss receives the request before you’ve announced that you’re leaving! Try to time things sensitively to avoid any unnecessary problems.
Handing in your resignation is final
In most organisations, there’s no going back once you hand in your resignation! As soon as it’s accepted by your employer, there’s no requirement for them to reconsider if you suddenly change your mind. Make sure that you’re absolutely certain that you want to leave before you give your notice. A bad decision at the end of a long day could be something that you’ll live to regret! Always sleep on the idea and talk to your support network or loved ones before making any commitments.
Leaving your job can be a weight off your shoulders and the opportunity to move onto bigger and brighter things, but by considering these areas before you rush into anything, you’ll be in a much better position.
What are your experiences in resigning from a job?
Photo credit iStockphoto
This article was brought to you by Jane Smith on behalf of All The Top Bananas. ATTB allows you to search for and browse through UK jobs in one place, from engineer jobs to IT jobs. You can also upload your CV to increase your chances of being headhunted.
Being a stay at home mom has its perks – you don’t have to get dressed up, you can work out on your own schedule, and you don’t need to have the children’s lunch ready at 7 a.m. However, the most amazing and obvious benefit of being a stay at home mom is the opportunity to intimately know your children and to share all of the milestones of their young lives. No one can truly understand and love a child like their parent. Choosing to stay at home had its financial and career limiting consequences, but it’s a choice that I will never regret.
Being a stay at home mom however does not mean that you must put your brain or skills on hold. Especially in today’s modern world where there are countless ways for you to expand your horizons. And that’s exactly what I did. After driving many, many miles to practices, games, lessons and recitals, making sure that the homework was done and dinner was prepared, I spent countless late nights looking on the computer for ideas to sharpen my skills, and technology is what I came to love.
I am a problem solver. I love when I am given a challenge; know how to fix it, and how to fix it better. It started with setting up my own home wifi network. To most of my friends and co-workers, it’s probably no big deal, but in the stay at home mom arena – I was “big stuff”. Everyone wanted to know, “ how did I know how to do that?” Before I knew it, I was helping my neighbor, her friend, and then their elderly parents. And so began my journey, I became even more motivated to challenge myself. From school sports teams to the theatre department, the needs, as well as the expertise grew. I taught myself HTML, CSS, and how to create a Joomla site.
With each growing project a new skill such as Photoshop and Gimp emerged. I began to get noticed and was offered a position by my local principal in the Career Tech Department. The launching pad was perfect, it allowed me to further develop my skills and opened my eyes to the world of other opportunities out there. With my newly minted resume, an opportunity presented itself. The Global HR consulting firm, Exaserv, was looking for a Product Manager and the job description fit me perfectly. Some of the main requirements were organizational skills and the ability to prioritize, and all those years of being a stay at home mom had definitely helped to hone those skills. Not to mention my developed computer expertise!
It’s been over a year now since I’ve been back in the workforce and I have loved every day of employment. I am constantly learning and growing in my new role and enjoy all the “doors” that are opening for me. Staying at home to raise my children was the best decision I ever made, but taking that time to also sharpen my skills has given me the opportunity to go back to work and grow my career. It’s an experience for which I will forever be grateful.
About the author: Sophia Lidback is Product Manager at Exaserv, where her responsibilities include managing product development, writing and editing technical and functional user manuals and managing customer relations with respect to product implementation. Sophia is a wife and mother of 4.
We are unwrapping some posts from the Women of HR archives for you this holiday season. Relax, enjoy and let us know if there is a favorite of yours you'd like to see unwrapped and run again.
How do you grow?
You don’t let fear get in the way of your doing what you need to do.
I have just worked through one of the hardest projects I have ever tackled in my life. I learned so much and the stakes were VERY high. Yes, there were times that the tasks were daunting. Yes, there were times when it was scary, but it is what I needed to do, to succeed and to get through to the other side. There were times when I shut the door, whipped out the iPhone and played a few games of Sudoku just to pull my heart rate down. I was determined to do the very best I could and to make all the right decisions.
I think too often people let the fear of their own unknown capabilities stop them from doing what is needed, or it prevents them from doing quality work on a project or a task. They don’t know if they can accomplish something and they let the fear sit on that negative perspective of the challenge. Another way to look at something that you have never done before, is that now you get to learn something new. Now you get to grow.
It had been awhile since I had done something in business that really had a fear element in it for me. I remember my first trip to Europe was on a business trip that I did all by myself. It scared me. All the firsts I had on that trip drove my adrenalin. I have never been afraid of travel to anywhere or into
any situation since then. I gained confidence. I remember the first international and the first $100,000+ deals I negotiated. They both made me nervous but they have lead me to relish, not fear, every customer conversation, the big deals and meeting anyone with any title from any walk of life.
I don’t really like the expression ‘facing your fears’ because that gives your fear a shape and presence that makes it even bigger. I think we need an expression more along the lines of “climb above your fear.” This keeps the awareness that we need to respect the trepidation, while using the endorphins to lift us up higher.
So the lesson I have now firmly cemented into my heart is that it is OK to have a fear of something if you use that fear to heighten your awareness and improve your performance. When you come out the other side of a project that intimidated you, you will have increased confidence and a new perspective.
It’s called experience and it is earned.
About the author: Lois Melbourne, GPHR, is CEO and co-founder of the global workforce planning and analytics solutions company Aquire, mom to one terrific young son and wife of co-founder Ross Melbourne. She maintains a strong personal commitment to career education and small business development and is a frequent speaker, author of industry articles, and an avid blogger and networker. Connect with her on Twitter as @loismelbourne.
Photo credit iStockphoto
I have a passion for mentoring. I have been helped by so many people to move from a small town student from Missouri to leading an international firm with some of the greatest employees in the world. I have experienced mentors that have moved in and out of my life and I have mentors who have been part of my life since I was 18 and remain touch stones of reality. These gifts from wisdom from mentors have made small and enormous differences in my life and the life of my teams. I spend all of my volunteer efforts towards various types of mentoring.
I started hearing about a group called The Levo League and am very impressed. Launched in March 2012 and based in New York, the Levo League is a social network for young professional women. It offers resources including a job opportunities board, mentorship programs and Q&A video sessions. Here is an interesting quote from a Wired article, The League of Extraordinary Women, from Levo League cofounder and CEO, Caroline Ghosn:
“We are not exclusive to women but we offer solutions for career issues commonly faced by young women,” says Ghosn. “For instance, a man will apply for a job if he has about 50 to 60 percent of the requirements. A woman will only apply if she fulfills 90 to 100 per cent. These are behaviors that we have to unlearn.”
I thought this was interesting and realized that I have seen many women that could benefit from reaching out to mentors and learning how they got where they are. I have seen counterproductive career moves in both genders. Sometimes hindsight is the way to see the woes of our ways. The only way to typically get a hindsight view is by talking to somebody who has “been there, done that.
Almost seven years ago, I needed a new receptionist. I interviewed half a dozen candidates, with many different skills and abilities from right out of school to years of work experience. The person I hired was a recent college graduate.
Yes, there were candidates with more experience. Why did I chose the way I did? When she sat across from me, doing her best to convince me to give her a chance, she didn’t tell me she would be the perfect receptionist. What she told me, with her eyes sparkling, back straight, and with great pride, was that she had drive and determination and would not remain a receptionist.
It would have been easier on me in the long run to choose someone who was seemingly content to be a receptionist long-term. However, I don’t believe that does the company (or the person) any favors. We were pretty small at the time, with about 25 employees. I knew we would double in size pretty quickly and we would need people in the wings to step forward and assume different tasks.
I can’t say it was smooth sailing, because it wasn’t. Our personalities are very different and we did clash often. Fairly or not, her coworkers initially thought of her as an airhead party girl. She was impatient, chomping at the bit to do more, make more, to simply move forward.
She went back to school while working for us full-time. She earned a Master’s Degree. Along the way, she mellowed a bit. She moved into a data-entry role. She paid attention to what was happening in the office, and studied the interactions of her coworkers. When an opportunity in our merchant relations area came available, she was ready.
Today, she is a Sales Executive. She is rocking her new role. She’s making a direct impact on our bottom line, and she’s having fun doing it. I haven’t been her boss in years, and thankfully we don’t clash the way we used to. I took a chance on the young lady with stars in her eyes when I hired her. I was looking to the future, and I’m so glad I did.
Photo credit: iStockphoto
About the author: April Kunzelman, PHR, is a Human Resources executive with a wide range of experience in many aspects of personnel management. Currently, she serves as the Director of HR for fatwallet.com, an online resource community for savvy shoppers. April launched the non-profit organization Chemo Cargo, aimed at assisting first-time chemotherapy patients. Connect with April on Twitter as @akunzel and @chemocargo.
As the year begins to wind down, we are in the midst of making lists, checking them twice and planning for the holiday season. While our immediate sights are set on the weeks ahead, we are also looking into 2012 <and beyond> at life, travels and career.
If someone asked you what the best career advice you ever received was, what would you say? Well, I asked the Women of HR to weigh in and this is what they said.
Trish McFarlane • It may be simple, but early in my career someone told me to always just be myself. Sometimes that means that I don’t filter myself as much as I should, but as long as I’m being honest and not intentionally hurtful to anyone, I try to follow that advice. People seem to gravitate to others who are comfortable in their own skin. I would never recommend that someone conform to a job, supervisor or workplace if it meant going against who they really are.
Vicki Shillington • I have a couple. One, that you should find a place to work where they want you there as much as you want to be there, and two, you are not what you do. Don’t let yourself identify so much with your job that it defines you – that way, if you have a bad day at work, or lose your job, things are still ok. I guess it’s another way of saying ensure work-life balance. You can have it all, just not all at the same time.
Bonita Martin, SPHR • Find a way to say Yes! This was specific to a career in HR. HR and legal tend to be the groups that say “No you can’t do that”. HR professionals need to better problem solvers by understanding the needs of the business and finding a way to help solve the problem. If the solution proposed is not going to work, suggest something else that might work. It can be difficult, but worth the time and effort!
Shandrika Combs (not pictured) • Sometimes people will hate you and sometimes those same people will love you. I pass this piece of advice to every HR person I know. Because it’s our job to try and get organizations straight, that means there will be times the employees aren’t happy and there are times when management/leadership will be unhappy. However, there are just as many times when your answer will make those people happy.
Lois Melbourne, GPHR • My late mother-in-law told us “You have to live like others won’t until you can live like others can’t.” This always struck me as meaning you have to put in hard work to get the reward. Not everyone will put in the hard work. Not everyone will take the big risks. But those that do, are likely to be rewarded.
Margaret Ward, PHR • Very early in my HR career, I wanted to apply for a position that would have been a huge promotion for me but I didn’t have all of the credentials required by the position. My HR Director (at the time) and mentor told me “Never tell yourself no. Let them tell you no. Where you may not have all of the qualifications for a position, you don’t know who you’re going up against. You may have more than anyone else that applies. When a position is posted, the ideal qualifications are listed but that doesn’t mean that they will find somebody who has all of those qualifications”. This has always stuck with me. And by the way, I got that job!
Teresa Rennie • I have two I would like to share. The first was that I tend to be very direct, let people talk and you will get more information by listening. The second was from my son who exclaimed after taking on a paper route that “work is very hard” to which I replied that if you want to progress in life then you really have to “very hard” to achieve your dreams.
Shellie Sturmer, SPHR • A senior executive once told me that I needed to stop trying to be the manager that people above me wanted me to be and to be the leader that I am. While I think the two intertwine in today’s business climate, that encouragement to not lose sight of the big picture and to inspire and instill trust hasn’t left me.
And in 140 characters or less . . .
@DebbieJBrown • be yourself
@theHRmaven (Deirdre Honner) • best career advice? 1) while it might happen periodically, don’t count on shortcuts; 2) sometimes it’s just not about you
There is nothing better than advice from those who have who have walked in your shoes and are willing share what they’ve learned. I have had the benefit of mentors and coaches over the years but the best piece of career advice I received was when I first starting out, frustrated that another colleague <obviously much less qualified than I> received a plum assignment I had my eye on. The advice went like this:
You are responsible for your own career. Stop thinking that if you work hard and do a good job people will notice. They are too busy working on their own careers. Uncomfortable as it may seem, tell people what you’ve accomplished, why it’s important to them and to you – and never forget those who helped you along the way. Give credit where credit is due but don’t minimize your own contributions.
Take a few minutes to share what you’ve learned either here or with us in the Women of HR LinkedIn group. It’s a manager’s choice discussion and there are more comments there. “Like” the comments you like, add your experience, complete a thought, blaze a new trail . . . go crazy.
Hey, we’ve got your back.
Maybe I’ve grown old. I used to pride myself on being good at change – able to roll with the punches, take on new challenges. Recent events have made me aware just how set in my ways I can be, and I‘ve been humbled by how difficult it has been to adapt.
Two months ago, due to her long term unemployment, my mother moved in with me. Shortly after we settled in to the new living arrangements, I started a new job, in an entirely new industry.
While I am still working in Human Resources, I have always said that to do HR right, you must understand the business inside and out, and here I was, back at square one, unsure of the products, the lingo, the people, and whether I’d made the right choices.
Everything seemed different. When I came home, my condo had someone in it – someone very stressed and worried about finding work of her own. Things were rearranged. It felt crowded and foreign. At work, I was scrambling to get established, missing my old coworkers who knew and trusted me, and trying to make a good impression as quickly as possible.
And yet I was surprised by how little time it took to develop new routines to replace the old ones. My mother and I made space for each other, as best we could in a 550-square-foot place. We developed tasks to help each other out, and to create alone time. At work, I found a few new friends, admired my new managers for their skill and grace on the job, and even found a new place nearby to get good udon noodles for lunch.
The older someone gets, the harder it can be to make room in a life built just the way you like it for new people, new places, new ideas. When you are 20 years old, making room in your life is easy – everything is unfixed, and you are just discovering who you are. As years pass, a life is built, brick by brick, as you discover what is important and how to be authentic. Yet sometimes it’s healthy to kick the wall down and make room for something else entirely – even when it isn’t easy.
So, maybe I’ve grown older. But not too old – not yet. Though change isn’t easy, it is possible, and welcome, and ultimately, well worth the effort.
Photo credit iStockphoto