When I grow up

I am feeling inspired for this post, which is another way of saying I’m lacking an original idea and planning to piggyback off other bloggers’ posts.

Sarah at Whipper Snapper HR just blogged a great post on that life-long question “what do I want to be”.  Although it’s usually a question reserved for kids and teens as they make their way to the starting line of adulthood, I don’t believe it ever goes away.

Actually, it shouldn’t.  You should always be asking yourself that question and checking whether you are still headed in the right direction, but with less of a focus on fitting into a label.

The thing is, as Sarah points out, there is a big difference between “what do you want to be?” and “what do you want to work as?”. And yet, as kids/teens, we see it as the same thing.  Well truthfully, so do many adults…but that’s another story.

Growing up my mom had one of those School Years Memory books that you wrote about your life, your interests, your friends, and yes, what you wanted to be when you grew up for each year.

Here is what I had put over the years:

  • Ballerina
  • Cashier
  • Teacher (this showed up multiple years)
  • Chef/Cook
  • Artist
  • Police officer
  • Doctor
  • A vet

I have often wondered where I might be today if I had followed my passion for working the cash register.  To make me feel better though, my younger brother wanted to be a garbage collector.  Yes, even at a young age we were showing signs of being high potential over-achievers.

Interestingly enough, you may notice that HR wasn’t on the list.  And do you know why?

Because NO ONE grows up wanting to be in HR.

No one.

Don’t believe me, then watch this.

And yet, here I am – in HR.   As are many of us.

The reason for this is because HR is not what I want to be, but it is what I want to work as.  I’ve posted about this already.

And now that I’ve got the what I’m working at part covered – I can really focus on who I want to be and go back to The Beginning to figure out what the heck I’m doing here, which if you read ChristopherinHR and his blog recommendations (and you really should read his blog) he will tell you it’s to make you smile.

And I’m very okay with wanting to be someone who makes other people smile.




The Candidate Experience & Lion King: An analogy that pushes the limits of credulity

Remember the Lion King?

I do.  Probably because as a parent of children born unto Disney, I have seen it no less than one thousand times.

Aside from coming up with the most annoying song ever to get stuck in your head  (“Hakuna Matata”…I know. You’re welcome), it did provide some interesting takes on succession planning, mentorship, health & safety, workplace harassment, nepotism, non-compete agreements, learning & development, and employee engagement.

Say!  This movie is basically a clever animated cover for the world of HR.  I mean, circle of life…the HR cycle…I rest my case.

This whole (ridiculous) analogy becomes really apparent when I meet with new managers to go over recruiting strategy when it comes time for them to make their first hire with us.  I find it interesting to watch them try to relate to this process from the other side of the desk.  After all, just a few short months ago, it was them that I was calling and selling the benefits of coming to work for our organization.

I like to sit with the hiring manager and run through my recommended approach.  And by recommended approach, I actually mean “this is how it’s going to happen.” None of what I tell them should be a surprise, since they just experienced it first hand.  And the feedback I have been receiving from candidates and new hires has been extremely positive – I’m quick, I’m thorough, I respond when I say I will, I follow-up when they don’t expect it, and I genuinely seem like I care.

However, when you suggest applying these same tactics to a hiring manager – you sometimes get push back.  Do we have to do phone screens?  Do we have to get back to them so quickly?  Do we have to give them feedback?  Can we just put a hold on the process?

Speed, clarity, and efficiency is appreciated by candidates.  There’s nothing worse than wondering what the hell is happening with your candidacy.

Speed, clarity, and efficiency is unnerving for some managers.  Having me ask you “So?” on a regular basis means that you have to make a decision.  It means that you have to commit,  It sometimes means that you will have to disappoint people.

It’s not a responsibility that you can shirk. 

You know what it’s like – you ‘ve been there.  So, in a matter of months – the aspects of a process that you respected, as a candidate, have come back to haunt you as a hiring manager.  As the hiring manager, assuming responsbility is not always easy, but it’s always necessary.

So, put on your big boy/girl pants, confer with your crazy-ass Rafiki if you need to, and step up and assume your rightful place as hiring manager and give those candidates the great experience that you had.

Circle of life, baby. Cirle of life.

Chew on this

Do you ever feel like your life at work is becoming a low-fat/ low carb/ sodium-reduced version of what it could be?

I was feeling this way.

It started with food.  Honestly, I think everything starts with food.

I made a change in the way I approached eating and I did it for no other reason that it made me feel better.  I am a convert of becoming mainly grain-free eating  (I say “mainly” because I would be lying if I said I was 100%).  I didn’t do it for trendy or promotional reasons – I did it because it was what I needed to do to improve how I felt about my health and life.

So, now that I’m no longer a bloated HR lady, I’ve realized there are other areas that are bugging me.

Like the fact that I’m always biting my tongue.  Not with everyone, but in many meetings, discussions, and arenas where I have something to say…I’m holding back.  The worst thing is that I was being encouraged to do so.

And it was starting to eat away at me and leaving me with a different kind of pain in my guts.

And so, I decided that in addition to passing on the grains (most of the time), I was going to stop eating my words.

Organizational culture is a strong force and a tough one to evolve, particularly if you have employees that have been there “forever”.  They will argue against changes and recommend staying the course because that has been the most successful for them.  And by successful they mean that they have managed to hold on to their jobs and remain off the radar.

The problems with this course are numerous.  Number one for me is that it seems like a big pain in the ass to have to constantly be filtering your words, and tip-toeing through a minefield of “oh don’t go there’.

I’ve talked about how I can be a bit cavalier about my future.  I know it’s very cocky of me to think, pfff…whatever, I can bounce back.  But recently I’ve posted about a friend that went through this and it’s not all unicorns and rainbows.  So, I don’t want to cross the line, but I certainly want to walk right up to it.

There is a time and a place to have your say.  I recognize this.  Unfortunately not everyone does and we’ve all been in those meetings where we are silently screaming at our colleague to shut the hell up before it all goes breaking bad.  And because of these loose cannons, we can get a bit shifty eyed and squirmy about saying what’s on our mind.  No one wants to be that person.

However, in spite of the warnings, in spite of breaking protocol, in spite of what it might make me look like..I have been speaking up.  And it’s an incredible relief.

HR should not be offering up “reality-lite”.  It needs to be all natural, home-grown, with all the flavour and none of the additives of the processed and over-filtered crap that we have been serving up.

Trust me – you’ll feel better for it.

Never mind who’s driving the bus – who’s watching for speedtraps?

I have a confession to make, so all you law enforcement-types who might be reading my blog (hey, it could happen) take note: sometimes I speed when I drive.  Sometimes I do not come to a full and complete stop at stop signs.  I have even neglected to signal on occasion.

First of all, I’m not  bragging.  I have fortunately never been given a ticket, which is not to say that I haven’t been stopped…no wait, I did get one speeding ticket.  In New York State.  And it was my mom’s fault. And btw, State Troopers are waaaaay more intimidating than police officers.

But I digress.

Where I was going with this is that yes, I have at times exceeded or not fully adhered to the laws of the road, but I do not do this in residential areas, school zones, blind curves, or any other areas that would be incredibly risky for other people.

And so it is with HR.

There is this perception that HR carries around the great book of employment laws and is constantly hammering on the brakes. I know that I sometimes feel that way when managers come to me with their suggestions and ideas of how to proceed or deal with employees.  In fact, I use to feel like HR’s role was to stop the car, pull over to the side of the road and figure things out before moving forward,  But I’ve since realized that it possible to keep moving along, all the while getting people to slow down a bit to make sure we are, in fact, on the right road, and then proceed.

A typically meeting these days  generally starts with, “I understand where you are coming from and why you want to do that; however, have you considered that A,B or C might happen. What about if you tried…”

It’s like driving lessons with my daughter. I don’t want to tell her what to do (not hug the curb), but I do want to point out that there is a cyclist who may or may not appreciate losing their left arm if she doesn’t move over. So I get her to slow down , keep moving, adjust as she goes, but all the while, I have my hand hovering over the emergency brake.

I don’t think that there’s ever a lack of volunteers when it comes to finding someone to drive the bus – in fact, there’s probably too many people who feel they should be in the driver’s seat.  Me, I want to know who knows where the dangerous curves and speedtraps are, is willing to give you advance notice of these, and has their hand hovering over the emergency brake.  Just in case.

HR and the other side of the job posting

Often we meet someone who we can relate to almost immediately. I have been fortunate enough to have a former colleague like this…despite differences in our ages, family situations, first languages, and even work styles…we bonded in key ways.

We have enough in common that when we recently went out for dinner – we ordered the same meal, same wine, and even made the same lame jokes to the waitress. I’m pretty sure that that server thought we were a couple. Which makes me laugh, because I like red-heads, not brunettes…oh, and I also prefer men…

There is a fairly significant difference between our employment statuses right now. We both had similar jobs at the same company, but then she took a leave, decided not to return work and went back to school full-time to finish her degree. I totally supported her on this decision. We both were losing our minds. In fact, while she was doing this – I was looking for and found my current job.

Neither of us looked back.

Except since she finished school, she has been unable to find HR work. She will be the first to admit (now) that she drew some pretty defined lines on what she was willing to accept in terms of pay, type of company, type of boss, type of work…she knew what she wanted and didn’t want and didn’t feel she should have to compromise. That’s “potential” talking.

Now “reality” has spoken up and she has seriously reconsidered what she’s willing to compromise on. Her priorities have shifted from finding the perfect job in HR, to finding a job in HR. That’s a steep drop in expectations and it doesn’t come without some adjustment in altitude and attitude.

In her words, this has been an incredibly humbling experience. She has even begun to re-think about whether she should be looking at getting out of HR.

I want to help out – I want to put her in contact with someone who will see what a catch she is. She is smart, quick, well spoken and a hard worker. I’m doing what I can, but I am similar enough to her to be able to imagine how she is feeling. To imagine how she must be lying awake with a thousand thoughts spinning in her head. To constantly have this issue hanging over every moment of her day, especially when she should be enjoying her time with her kids.

This is the side of HR that we often forget about. The unemployed side. The side where we are in the same shoes as our candidates, but we actually have more insight as to what the processes are, what the interviews mean (or don’t mean), and what someone really means when they say “it was down to you and one other person, but we decided to go with the internal candidate”.

What’s the expression: you can’t bullshit a bullshitter?

We had a great evening, but it was hard listening to her struggles. Especially since I know that I am participating in decisions that ultimately make others feel the way she does. offered to help her practice interviewing (I think HR people struggle with this) and to tap my network.

I wish her all the best. I will continue to listen, to support and to help her, but there is nothing I can do or say that will equal a job offer.

This is crappy side of HR.

Knowing what it takes, but not being able to make it happen.

Girl Power (Update)

I wanted to close the loop on my early Girl Power post and to take this opportunity to thank those that assisted me.

The course I was taking was not a very in-depth, thought-provoking course.  The assignments were not exactly challenging, but I hate the idea of wasting my time, so when I saw that I was to interview women in leadership roles, I thought…I’m going to run with this.

The result is that I received a number of responses via Twitter and this post and connected with a few of them.  They graciously took the time to answer my questions, but to me the biggest take-away was how quickly people stepped up to help me.  People who don’t know me outside my witty Twitter posts and my jazzy avatar.

My results came in and my assignment was a success.  I am very pleased with this.

However, connecting with and learning more about Gemma (@HR_Gem) and Sinead (@SineadCarville) was the real reward.

Thank you ladies.