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.
October 16 is National Boss’ Day … a day that is often mocked as a Hallmark holiday.
According to Wikipedia, Boss’s Day was registered in 1958 so you could thank your boss for “being kind and fair throughout the year.”
In this day and age of layoffs, books about bosses who are jerks, and employees getting fired for posting inflammatory remarks about their boss on social media, it seems kind of quaint. But this day does make me pause and reflect on the bosses I’ve had in my career and all that I have learned from them.
I Walk In My Own Shoes
I assumed the best boss for me would be another working mom who would understand my struggles. I was wrong.
The female boss I had who was most like me (in terms of stage of life) was one of those Type A Superwomen. I had 1 kid, she had 3. I had a 6-month-old, she had an infant. She worked until the moment she gave birth, and then stayed completely connected all through her maternity leave. It was her choice, how she liked to do things, and it worked really well for her. But it made me feel inadequate for not being able to handle my own work/life balance issues when I wasn’t grappling with as many kids, or as much responsibility, as she was.
I made the mistake of thinking that someone who had walked in my shoes would automatically understand where I had been, and more importantly, understand where I wanted to go.
Even The Best Bosses Have Bad Days.
My most recent boss was great at acknowledging this; he would often come into my office the day after a bad day and apologize for his mood. The first couple of times I pretended that I hadn’t noticed, but finally I felt comfortable enough to ask what was up, which led to an even greater level of trust between us.
Bosses are not Mind Readers.
I thought my boss was there to tell me what to do. But I learned it was better to tell my boss what to do.
Bosses are not mind readers or long-email readers. I was in the habit of giving lots of information to my boss and assuming that he or she would know which outcome I wanted, since it seemed so obvious to me given my 14-bullet point explanation. Often I got no response, or a “Let’s chat.” Finally, one of my bosses pulled me aside and threatened me with bodily harm if I ever again sent a long, intricately crafted email or memo. “I trust that you’ve done the research and I want your recommendation. All that other stuff can stay in your file.”
I completely reversed my style, started my emails with my recommendation, including a few bullet points of ‘why’ and ended with “I’ll proceed forward with this as I have outlined, unless I hear differently from you.” Guess what? I was able to make a lot more things happen, much more quickly.
Who was your best boss? What did they do that you remember and value?
My mom joined Twitter last week.
So far, she’s following only me. When I called to ask her about it, she seemed confused and said, “I’m reading everything you write, but it doesn’t really make sense to me.” She’s not sure what the point of Twitter is or why people use it. She can’t figure out why people are following her. She hasn’t posted any tweets yet.
To the uninitiated, Twitter may seem strange, perplexing, or even pointless. However, if you give it a chance, you may find that learning and participating on Twitter can add value to your life and career in several ways.
- You can connect with people – a community of experts – from around the world. Once you learn the basics, you will be able to find and follow experts in any field you can imagine. You can learn from HR pros or interact with people who share your love of running, crafting, or skydiving.
- You can join an ongoing conversation or start one of your own. At any time of day, you can join a conversation with others on Twitter by reading what people are saying and joining in. You can ask a question, offer your opinion, agree with someone, disagree strongly, vent, or make a joke. If you spend time on Twitter at a similar time each day, you may find that the conversations you enjoy online can become a vital social support in your life, especially when you take the time to get to know Twitter friends in person or through a phone or Skype conversation.
- You can discover learning resources. I discovered many of the blogs that I regularly read by following links on Twitter. People are constantly sharing great resources with others. You can also join live chats on various topics that are held weekly or monthly.
Are you convinced?
Twitter bird courtesy of Twitter logos and icons.
This past weekend, I was fortunate enough to spend time with my niece who will celebrate her first birthday this month. It has been weeks since I last saw her and I was amazed at how much she changed. Somehow, she transformed from a baby to a little girl. She was taking her first steps, testing the waters, and getting into everything. Her eyes watched everyone and observed our actions. I was fascinated by her growth and the influence we all had on her.
Our early influences help shape us into the adults we become. As we grow older, we encounter people who impact our lives. We meet some people we like and try to emulate their behaviors while there are others we do not.
Many people have influenced me throughout my career – some without my knowledge. One unlikely influencer was a manager I worked for early in my career. Honestly, I did not like this manager and I didn’t think he liked me. I rarely saw him, and when I did, he had nothing positive to say. He was much older than me and had a management style different than mine. He was old school, I was not. He was the turtle, I was the rabbit. I was so put off by his style, that instead of listening to what he had to say, I focused on how he was saying it. I am sure I was a challenge for him to manage.
One day we were very busy. I was running around and felt like I had everything under control. My manager pulled me aside and told me to slow down because I was out of control. I told him I was in total control and everything was fine. He proceeded to tell me that this was not the perception I was giving to the team and my direct reports. The perception was that I was out of control, even if I felt I was in control. He continued to say that, as a manager, I was always on stage. When on stage, those around you watch your every move and how you react to situations. He disarmed me with this comment and I did not respond. After this experience I slowly began to be more accepting of his ideas. While not always agreeing, at least I listened. Soon after this experience, I was promoted to a new role working under another manager.
At the time, I am not sure I fully appreciated what this manager was trying to teach me. I had closed my eyes to a style and way of thinking different than my own. I did not want to learn from this person, so I did not. It was not until I got a little older that I appreciated what he was trying to teach me. Here is what I learned:
- Always be open to new experiences and opinions. Listen and be objective.
- You can learn from the most unlikely sources.
- Not everyone has the same style you do and that is okay.
- Take what you like about other people’s style and apply it in a way that works with your style. Don’t try to be something you are not.
As my niece experiences life through rose-colored glasses, she teaches me to do the same. With every experience comes an opportunity to learn.
Have you had an instance where you learned something from an unexpected source? How did you handle it and what did you learn?