How to make friends

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So just how do you make friends and influence people?

Well, first off…maybe re-consider getting into HR. At least for the making friends part…unless of course, you only want to be friends with other HR people. Which is totally cool.

Lately the topic of friendship has come up around our dinner table. The kids are both at ages when friendships start to break-apart and float away in different directions. Sure, new ones are forming, but it’s not as easy or immediate as it was in grade school, when all it took was a simple: “will you be my friend?”.

Friends in grade school, high school, and even college are somewhat of a necessity as they provide us with support group. Going it lone wolf is tough at any age, but particularly then.

So why is it so hard to make friends?

This article on Lifehacker points out that we often blame our busy work schedules, family demands, and increasing demands.

But that’s only part if it isn’t it. I’m still in touch with friends that I’ve had for ages, and we don’t see each other regularly, but I get this nagging feeling like I should…so I call, we get together, and then I remember why we don’t see each other regularly. Our lives, our interests, our perspectives have changed so much.

Clearly our expectations change in what we want in a friend, as well as what we are willing to give.

So, I’ve found myself in a place where I have a really, really ridiculously small number of people on my official friend’s list. And this was worrying me, until I realized that I have been adding a lot of names to the “People I have things in common with and share interests with”. People I’m connecting with through Twitter, people I’m interacting with through blogging, people I’m talking to on the phone.

I know that I’m not likely to meet most of these people in person. But that’s okay because my expectation of a friend has changed dramatically over the past few years.

Back in the day, a friend was someone you hung out with all the time, they knew everything about you, you knew everything about them, and they had the potential to make or break your day based on whether they showed up at school or not.

Today, this kind of friendship would not only be unsustainable, but stifling. I want people who I can go to depending on what the situation calls for – support, a laugh, advice, a slap upside the head. And included in this group are the people who I’ve met online – some who have extended invites to meet, should our travel paths ever cross. And honestly, that’s exactly what I need right now.

So the kids have asked about how to make friends when you are older. And this is what I’ve been telling my kids:

You have friends now and they may or may not be there in a few years, but that’s okay, because you will meet new people who will share your new interests.

I have admitted that it will get harder to make friends, but that their definition of what is a friend and what friendship means to them will change as they do.

They need to be open to all kinds of people and all kinds of friendship.

Oh, and avoid HR.

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Managing expectations

There’s been this great little HR hashtag on Twitter (#HRTells) that @Mjcarty started up calling HR people to complete the thought: ‘You know you work in HR when….

Have you seen it…funny (and sadly true) stuff.

I was going to put in a few additional thoughts, but then I couldn’t manage to reduce my thoughts to less than 140-characters, hence the post.

So here goes…You know you work in HR when…you tell your mother: “I wasn’t trying to deter you from coming over, I was trying to manage expectations”.

I seriously said that yesterday.

In all fairness, the back story on this situation is beyond even blog length. We are talking a novel. Maybe even a series of novels. Maybe even a series of novels which will be madee into movies, and even break the final novel into two movies. Yeah, we are talking Twilight calibre here.

We are who we are who we are. There isn’t too much difference between me at home and me at work. This is something that might surprise and worry both my family and my colleagues, but what I mean to say is that I don’t speak much differently and I certainly approach situations in the same way.

I recruit and it’s a big deal to me that candidates and new hires have a relatively realistic idea of what they are getting into. We are a small organization so if I were to do a smarmy sales pitch that got someone into the door, only to have it all be embellished, well…odds are I’m going to be standing next to them at the coffee machine one morning and that could make for awkward small talk.

The recruiting team (the hiring managers and I) talk about the organization, the job, the culture, the physical layout, the expectations…but we leave room for the candidate/new hire to make there own opinion about the situation.

This is important. There’s being honest and then there’s being too honest. Too honest involves over-sharing and probably infusing too much of your own experiences and opinions into the pitch. Like, it’s not necessarily a great idea to promote how many people have hooked up at your organization…maybe it’s true, but I’m thinking that for most people…not a selling point.

And so with my family, I do the same thing. I do try to say things without hurting anyone’s feelings, but I don’t own a pair of kid gloves. I just want everyone to be on the same page and not come expecting a fancy sit-down dinner when the reality is that we will likely be eating burgers in front of the television watchin hockey play-offs…

Like I said, “managing expectations” and providing a realistic preview.

And that’s how you know you work in HR.

The week ahead

I am still here, but have been distracted by shiny things: My garden, the hockey play-offs, my son’s soccer season, you know…things outside the virtual world.

I know!

Please be patient as I work through some ideas and blog posts.

Cheers.

The ties that bind

I enjoy talking with students, both at the secondary and post-secondary level, about how to navigate through the next stages in their lives, particularly with respect to trying to get into the workplace.

The way I see it, getting your first part-time or real job is a challenging, confusing, and intimidating process. I mean, they may have to deal with HR people who aren’t as understanding as me.

I try to coach students, but I stress that they need to be involved in any decisions that are being made that affect them and their career. They need to ask questions, be aware, and for the love of pete, do NOT keep looking at your phone.

For the most part students are receptive to any advice or suggestion. They may not actually take it, but at least they have the decency to smile and nod at the appropriate times. Seriously though – they want to learn, but some (many) are being held back by the one thing that should actually be propelling them.

Their parents.

I’m not going to go making the usual Generation-alizations. (I am Gen X after all and completely skeptical of labels. Oh, and I’m a slacker.) No, I’m just going to go broad stroke and say that many of the parents of college/university age kids are doing their children a huge disservice. Huge.

Because there’s being involved and then there’s being “involved”.

Coaching your kid – sitting and talking with them about potential courses to take, how to handle an interview, a new job, take responsibility…that’s being involved. The right kind of involved.

Choosing your kids’ courses, emailing employers on their behalf , asking HR questions for them, and driving, not navigating their future, is also being involved. The not-so-good kind of involved. The kind of involved that leaves your kid frozen in time and unable to take charge of their own life.

I have seen this in both my professional and personal life. Teens and young adults who are unable to talk to other adults, will not make a move or decision without checking in with their parents, and are so unsure of what to do they are almost paralyzed.

I have seen students practically wither with embarrassment as their well-meaning parent planned and organized their part-time job, much in the same way that their parent planned and organized the never-ending play dates, extra-curricular activities, get ahead tutor sessions, and year round sports conditioning.

Which is kind of ironic since wasn’t the purpose of all that extra stuff was so that your kid would be better prepared to handle the competitive world on their own?

Note to the parents: Stop.

Your kid will make mistakes. They are supposed to make mistakes. They may even make the same ones that you did, but they will definitely find a few new ones too. They need to feel the frustration of uncertainty and the challenge of working for it. And they need to feel the sense of pride and accomplishment of knowing they can make it.

Note to the students: Start.

You need to stand up to your parents and take control of your future. You need to listen to them, but then insist that you need to do it on your own. Thank you parents for the support, but then get them to back off. You need to accept that in a year, your boss won’t give a shit that your mom thinks you are working too hard, that you don’t know how to balance your personal budget and are behind in paying your bills. Face it, your parents may not know what’s best for you. There will come a point when you will look around at your life, and you will want to know that what you have…it’s yours.

As a parent, I get it. But I’m resisting the temptation to “strongly suggest” a course of action.

As HR, I also get it. But I am hiring someone and I need to know that they can do more than just “work ndependently”…I need to know that they can actually “function independently”.

Shall we review

My daughter is a good student – she is diligent, connects the dots and genuinely likes many of her subjects. She, like many people, works harder on those subjects and projects that she likes. And when she has to work on those few subjects that aren’t at the top of her list, well, let’s just say we all suffer along with her.

Recently, she received her mid-term report and all was well except for a fairly significant drop in one subject. We weren’t thrilled with this, but what really magnified the situation is that she had not given us a head’s up on this. So, a bit of a double-whammy.

Now before someone suggests that we were being negligent parents by not already knowing the situation…hold off a bit, I’m going to cover the topic of parental responsibility and young adults in an upcoming post. Just park your judgement for a bit.

I tried to explain to my daughter that she needs to keep us updated on what is happening, how her assignments and tests are doing, and whether she feels she might need help. That way, if we know she has been struggling, the mark on the report will reflect what we already know.

Is this not common sense? Is this not a relatively basic concept?

So then, why is it that employees continue to be “blind-sided” in their reviews. The year goes by with smiles and pats on the back, with the occasional suggestion given and then the employee sits down in the performance review only to hear that things are just not where they should be. Worse is when this message in embedded in paragraphs of mixed messages.

Why would you do this to your employee? Why would you do this to yourself?

I can guess. Facing up to a difficult conversation and admitting that something needs to be done can be difficult and take a lot of energy.

But you know what else is difficult and involves a lot of energy? Sitting with HR after the employee complains. Having to do multiple follow-up meetings with the employee, and (please help me) pulling together all the documentation and work plans that should have been done way back when.

So, please – help yourself and step away from the formal structure of performance reviews – follow-up with your employees regularly and deal with issues when they come up. Don’t water down the message to the point that employee doesn’t even realize what you are trying to say. If you tell them that they are “a good solid player and that things are “fine” – then they are not likely going to understand that what you meant was: “I want you to put more effort in and that you are barely meeting expectations. Oh, and while I am at it these are the expectations…”.

Honestly, if it isn’t already, a manager’s ability to conduct good performance reviews throughout the year, as well as at year’s end, should be something that they are evaluated on.

Maybe I’ll suggest we add that in.

Consider this your head’s up.

Passion, maple syrup, and career advice

I believe that “passion” is a seriously over-used word. Like the word “awesome”. But, “awesome” is actually awesome, so maybe it’s not a fair comparison.

There is no shortage of life coaches and career gurus telling you to find your passion, don’t settle for anything less than your passion, and that if you work doing what you are passionate about, well then you aren’t actually working.

I’m sorry, but if you are working then it’s work. You might like your work, you may even love your work, but it’s work. Stop trying to fool yourself otherwise.

Someone out there may challenge that this jaded view is because I haven’t found my passion. That’s BS. My passion is education, it’s reading and it’s cooking with and consuming maple syrup. However, I have yet to find a job that allows me to learn, teach or read about or while eating “liquid gold”…so I’m not likely to be passionate about my work any time soon.

I do like my work. Some days I REALLY like my work. I get excited about new initiatives, I enjoy trading ideas with other HR folk, and I really do like making a difference to the people I work with, but to call this my passion and assume that I will be in a passionate state at all times is unrealistic and unsustainable.

I have been married for almost twenty years, and you can tack another 5 years pre-marriage. I love my husband. Very much. But I’m not sure how well our marriage would have fared if either of us had expected it to be rated at the passionate level every single day.

If you go into a job, a workplace, or even a career because it’s your passion, and with the expectation that you will enjoy what you do every minute of every single work day (which will be every day, since it’s your passion, right?) Then what happens if you have a sucky day? Because you will. We all do.

And what if that sucky days stretches into a week or a month, because something out of your control changed and you are no longer feeling the love from work? Will you bail or stick it out?

I’m seeing people struggle with this. They don’t think they should have to settle and so when they feel that the compromises that they will have to make to maintain the employment are not in-line with the “passionate-employee’s handbook”, well they immediately start looking for an out.

What I believe is that people forget that passion is an emotion, not a state of being. You aren’t meant to be in this place all the time – it’s meant to be a temporary feeling which highlights whatever is going on at that time.

Like maple syrup.

I mean, if I served it with every meal, it would become common and likely cease to be my reason to live. And then where would I be?

I would be a woman without a passion.

“But life is long. And it is the long run that balances the short flare of interest and passion.”
Sylvia Plath