I’ve been away from Women of HR for a while. It was never my intention to let this platform go into hiatus, but as we all know life happens and best intentions are sometimes eclipsed by the realities of life. But nevertheless, I’m back with the intention of being a bit more consistent now.
Part of why I’ve been away is that I’ve found myself in a period of career transition. After 20+ years with the same company, in December 2019 I left to pursue new opportunities. Yes, I know that’s the cliche “HR speak” that we typically use to describe someone’s departure when we’re trying to hide the real reason. However, in this case it really was a mutually beneficially arrangement. It was time for me to pivot and move on, and it helped the company with some moves they needed to make. No hard feelings on either side… they wished me well and I wish them future success.
As confident, and even excited, as I was (and still am) about my future possibilities, career transition is still scary. It’s slower and some days even more painful than I expected. What has kept me going on the days it’s been particularly difficult has been the incredible support network around me. Family, close friends, and my awesome network of professional connections (many of whom I do put into the “friends” category) have kept me positive on the days it’s been hardest. The outpouring of people who simply say “how can I help?” has been heartwarming. I’m going to share some of my learnings throughout this transition another time, but today I wanted to talk about the most important learning… the importance of taking control of your own career and preparing for times like this before you ever even need to.
Recently one of my LinkedIn connections shared an article from Harvard Business Review titled “6 Ways to Take Control of Your Career Development If Your Company Doesn’t Care About It,” and considering my own situation it immediately piqued my interest. The article effectively delved into ways you can develop within your career even if your company isn’t offering you specific opportunities; ways you can take charge and ensure you’re getting the development you need. However, it primarily focused on things you can do in the context of your current position an organization; all great suggestions and important areas of focus. However, what it didn’t touch on, and something that I’ve found to have been of the utmost importance in my own journey, is what you should be doing in a larger context; what you’re not getting in the context of your current role and company and what you may need as your career progresses into the future.
You see, if you’ve been in your current role or at your current company for any length of time, unless you are being very diligent about keeping yourself up to date on what’s happening outside your small segment of reality, there’s a chance you’re falling behind. It’s only natural that we tend to focus on what’s immediately in front of us, the problems we need to solve on a daily basis in the day to day operations of our current situation. But we do ourselves a disservice if we don’t carve out some time to ensure we are keeping ourselves educated on the things outside our immediate span of control. The things we may not need to immediately focus on, but that are important to our chosen profession in the big picture. The ideas, concepts, and technologies we may not need now, but may need in the future.
It’s not enough to just be successful in your current role. Make sure you’re connecting outside of that role. Attend seminars, conferences, webinars and webcasts, and listen to podcasts. You may not have the ability to attend large national conferences, but there are plenty of things you can do, even for free, right from your desk. Read publications, whitepapers, and analyst reports. Understand what the trends are and be able to talk about them, even if you aren’t leveraging them currently. Connect with people and build your networks, not just locally, but nationally and even globally. Social media has given us the gift of being able to connect with those outside our immediate sphere of influence, those we previously would never have met. Don’t miss out on that opportunity. Listen to what they are talking about; take note of the concepts you may not yet be familiar with then research them, read about them, find out how others are leveraging them. Understand the big picture, not just your current reality.
No matter how secure you might feel right now, don’t rest on your laurels. Keep yourself connected and educated. Do it now before you need it, because you never know when you may need to call on it. It can happen in the blink of an eye.
I know I’d be in a much worse place right now if I hadn’t been diligent right along.