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 your career and what did you learn from it?” I have even asked it myself when interviewing others.
A nauseating response
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, are probably my biggest ones. What I’ve learned is that all those high school kids in band and on the debate team really were smarter than me, and my ability to be a 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 the most mistakes you do something stupid – something so stupid, you would rather not share it with anyone. So, we come up with answers like, “My biggest mistake was working too 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.”
That kind of answer makes me vomit. And somehow, as HR pros, we accept that answer and move on to the next question, almost like that question was just a test – a test to see if you were stupid enough to actually tell us the truth and brighten up our day!
But I’ve got a good one. I do have a favorite HR mistake, and two friends of mine recently made me think about it.
Yes, this is my favorite HR mistake
Here’s my all-time 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, it seems obviously stupid now. It took me 16 years, and only after I realized it no longer mattered did I finally reach that level.
Two friends both recently had opportunities to leave organizations and positions they really liked, and 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 the answer is “yes,” stay put. It’s that simple, and that was my learning.
I finally learned my lesson
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. That is a tough mistake to make twice
I used to give out this advice to people — go ahead and leave because you’re going to have ten-plus jobs in your life, and you might as well move up as fast as you can. I don’t do that any longer; in fact, I now spend time 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 that we learn over time from our mistakes. Once in a while, I actually do!