I’ve made more mistakes in my HR career than I care to even remember – I could probably write a book!
It’s funny to think about your mistakes, because I think invariably every person takes those mistakes and tries to turn them into some type of “learning”. It’s a classic interview question – so, Mr. Sackett, tell me about your biggest mistake in career and what did you learn from it? I even have asked it myself when interviewing others. Just once I want someone to answer: “well, besides coming to this lame interview, I’d have to say drinking my way through college, getting average grades, and having to take positions within HR probably is my biggest. What I’ve learned is that all those kids in band, in high school, on the debate team, really were smarter than me, and my ability to be third team all-conference point guard, in hindsight, probably didn’t get me into the career I was hoping for.”
But it never happens – no one is really honest about their mistakes – because in making most mistakes you do something stupid – something so stupid, you’d would rather not share it with anyone. So, we come up with answers like – “my biggest mistake was working to hard on a project with my last employer, and not getting others involved, and I’ve learned while you can get the project done and on time by yourself, you really need to include everyone.” Vomit. And somehow has HR pros we accept this answer and move onto the next question, almost like that question was just a test – a test to see if you were stupid enough to actually tell us, and brighten up our day!
But, I’ve got one – I do have a favorite and two friends of mind recently made me think about it. My favorite HR mistake – Telling someone to go after a promotion and more money, leaving a position they truly enjoyed. When I started my career right out of college, I gave myself 12 years to become a Vice President. Seemed like a logical goal at the time – but in hindsight seems obviously stupid now. It took me 16 years, and only after I realized it no longer mattered did I reach that level. My two friends both recently had opportunities to leave organizations and positions they really liked – I gave them both the same advice – you can’t even come close to measuring the value of truly liking the job you have – you just can’t. So, answer me this one question: Do you love what you are doing, and who you are doing it for? If it’s yes, stay put. It’s that simple, that was my learning. I’ve left two positions in my life where I loved what I was doing, and loved the organizations – both to take promotional opportunities with other companies. Both times I made the wrong decision. Tough mistake to make twice
I use to give out this advice to people – go ahead and leave – you’re going to have 10+ jobs in your life, might as well move up as fast as you can. I don’t do that any longer – in fact I spend time now trying to talk people out of taking new jobs – which I know is ironic since at my core I’m a recruiter! I think we all hope we learn over time from our mistakes. Once in a while I actually do!