Remember what Steve Jobs said – people don’t know what they want until you show them. This applies to careers too. You might think you want a specific job title or hit certain goals, but the reality hits differently.
I once told my wife I wanted to be a vice president by 35 when I was 25. Got there, and it didn’t feel any different. It turns out, what I really wanted was control. Titles didn’t matter; I wanted to be the one calling the shots.
As a leader, I’ve noticed maybe 10% of the people you guide know exactly what they want in their careers. The other 90% are like me back then – they think they know but are just winging it until they hit some goal.
Most employees don’t really know what they want in their careers. That’s where leaders come in. It’s our job to help them figure it out.
Your job as a leader is to show your team what they want. Don’t assume they already know – most don’t. They won’t admit it, but that shouldn’t stop you from pointing out the possibilities.
From my own experience, the best leaders I had showed me the way. Four mentors in my life called me out on my title obsession and guided me in the right direction. They didn’t give up on me, and I’m grateful for that.
So, leaders, your role is like a career guide. Help your people see the path, and you’ll see them step up and do more than they thought possible.
Shoutout to Aerotek for being the pioneers in figuring out how long it takes for someone to realize they’re not cut out for recruiting – usually around 9-14 months in the game. Whether you’ve barely dipped your toes in Talent Acquisition for 13 minutes or have been in the field for a while, you’ve likely come across tons of resumes that tell a familiar story.
Just having some recruiting experience, especially in IT or Technical stuff, can keep you in the game for a good ten years or more, even if you’re not the best at it. As the President of a recruiting firm, and someone who has run corporate TA shops for years, I’ve seen these candidates pop up regularly:
They kick off their recruiting journey fresh out of college, working at a big agency sweatshop for 9-12 months. They leave, citing issues with the management style, but truth is, they couldn’t meet their goals. Cut them some slack – those sweatshops are tough.
Next, they usually move to another agency or a small corporate gig, lasting less than 9 months. Same old story – couldn’t hack it the first time, and it’s not likely to change now!
If they’re playing smart, they jump ship from the second gig to a big corporate role with tons of recruiters, buying them about 24 months before being exposed as a recruiting flop. In these big places, it’s more about posting and praying than actual recruiting, so they can survive a bit longer.
Eventually, the big organizations catch on that they’re not bringing much to the table. But armed with the big corporate name on their resume, they snag a senior recruiter role with another big firm. The big secret is, they have no secrets, and neither did the last big org they worked for. Once the fake secrets run out, it’s time to start scouting for a recruiting manager gig in about 18 months.
They grab the first recruiting manager job they can find at a mid-sized firm, with high expectations because of their big company experience. Spoiler alert – they’re out the door in 9 months.
Back to the agency world they go! Bouncing around, bragging about their ‘contacts’ at big companies, they’ve hit the 8-10 year mark in their recruiting career, and they’re just not cutting it.
If they’re lucky as a mediocre recruiter, they might land a gig with a college or university, or something. These places are like havens for subpar recruiters. No pressure to do anything valuable – just show up, get a paycheck, and follow the process. It’s never their fault, and moving too fast isn’t on the agenda!
The best recruiters don’t move around because they’re so valuable the organizations they work for won’t let them leave! If you’re crappy, people are hoping you leave! Please take your crappy recruiting skills to our competition!
Are you doing everything you can to be a top-notch HR pro? Sometimes, it’s essential to take a step back and see if certain habits might be holding you back.
Here’s my list of what habits are holding us back as a profession:
Keep It Personal: In HR, relationships matter. Instead of relying on emails or texts, try talking face-to-face or picking up the phone. Building real connections helps create a positive workplace and makes you a more effective HR professional.
Be Open-Minded in Hiring: Don’t let small things affect your hiring choices. Whether it’s where someone went to school (God forbid they went to your rival) or how they shake hands, focus on what really matters – their skills and qualifications.
Deal with Salary Realities: It’s easy to get frustrated about pay differences between departments. But instead of dwelling on it, concentrate on excelling in your HR role. Understand that each department has its challenges, and your HR skills are crucial in their own way. No one wants to hear about it.
Skip the Power Trip: Avoid using power just for the sake of it. True influence comes from collaboration, not strict rules. Approach your role as someone who facilitates, helping people succeed without unnecessary control.
See the Bigger Picture: While HR is important, it’s not the only show in town. Shift your focus from thinking HR is superior to understanding how you can contribute to the whole organization. Use your HR skills to make everyone’s life easier.
If you want to be a better HR pro, start with these simple steps:
Regularly talk to colleagues in different departments. Find out what challenges they’re facing, not just HR issues, and offer real help. This “Business Partner” approach goes beyond typical HR duties and makes you a valuable asset.
Learn on the Job: Don’t worry if you don’t know everything about every department. Talk to your peers, learn from them, and use your problem-solving skills to contribute to their issues. Being willing to understand different parts of the business will make you a better HR professional.
Improving as an HR pro is about letting go of limiting habits and being more collaborative and supportive. This way, you’ll become a more effective and valued member of your organization.
It’s my birthday! Let’s make this one for the books – literally! The only thing I want is for you to go pre-order my new book The Talent Fix, Vol. 2. Head over to the pre-order page, secure your copy, and let the countdown to the book release begin!
I’m beyond grateful for your ongoing support and am lucky to continue sharing this incredible journey with you. Cheers to another year of growth, learning, and a leader’s guide to recruiting great talent.
BookofOdds.com has a piece titled Hey Kids, Choose Your Career that breaks down the chances of your kid (or any kid, really) landing in a particular job. on consideration for both of them. As you can imagine the article gives some of the fun careers first, like the odds my kid will be a:
Surgeon: 1 in 2,872
Pro Athlete: 1 in 9,684
Fashion Model: 1 in 81,440
Firefighter: 1 in 452
Elementary Teacher: 1 in 87
Because you know, we all thought we were going to be one of those when we grew up!
When I did a career test in high school, it didn’t tell me I’d end up in HR. It gave me my top 3 choices, which were kind of weird: 1. Teacher; 2. Floral Designer; 3. Sales. No idea how “Floral Designer” got in there, but I still love gardening. HR wasn’t even on the list.
Thinking about my sons, realistically, they’re most likely to end up in:
Administrative Role: 1 in 5
Sales: 1 in 9
Food Service: 1 in 11
Healthcare: 1 in 19
Education: 1 in 16
But what about HR?
Human Resources: 1 in 656.9
The odds for Human Resources (HR) at 1 in 656.9 shows how jobs can be all over the place, and your career journey can be a bit of a rollercoaster. Even if we’ve got certain ideas about what we want for our kids, the job market can throw some curveballs. Landing an HR job isn’t something you’d bet on every day, but it’s a cool reminder that surprises can pop up in unexpected places when it comes to careers. So, while we might have some thoughts about where our kids will end up, the job scene has a way of keeping us on our toes with its own surprises.
Did you know parking lots are their own big industry, just like Healthcare or Banking?
For city folks, dealing with parking lots is a daily thing. Like other industries, parking is using tech to get more profitable and efficient. Supposedly, people waste about 20 minutes per trip looking for parking. Yet, booking parking in advance is still kind of new. Ideally, folks should know where spots are, compare prices, and pick the best one.
Here are three things HR can pick up from parking lots:
Smart Talent Use: Drawing from the parking lot playbook, HR should take a closer look at whether having a full crew around the clock is really necessary. In Europe, they’ve figured this out by using more contractors and adapting to the demands of the moment. However, the US is a bit slow to jump on the bandwagon, possibly due to sticking to traditional hiring practices that may not be as efficient.
Pay for Good Work: Similar to forking out more for a prime parking spot, companies should be willing to invest more in top-notch talent. HR needs to break free from the shackles of outdated pay systems and embrace a new approach that rewards the best talent available in the entire job market. It’s not just about acknowledging the best within the company; it’s about recognizing and compensating those who stand out in the broader talent pool.
Teamwork: Taking a cue from the cooperative spirit of parking lots, HR could explore the idea of sharing employees with neighboring companies. Imagine two adjacent companies both in need of similar skills, like developers. Why not collaborate and share the talent pool? Sure, there are hurdles like legal considerations, sorting out the pay scale, and managing benefits, but with some effort, it’s a feasible strategy worth exploring. This kind of teamwork could lead to mutual benefits, just like parking lots sharing information on open spaces.
Any others I’m missing? How about don’t be an ass? Keep it between the lines?
If you’re a fan of baseball, you know there’s this cool thing in the game where a pitcher throws a ‘burn’ pitch to set up another one. It’s not about scoring a point but getting ready for a better play down the line.
Ever thought about doing that in HR? Ever burned a hire?
In big companies, sometimes you have to burn hires to make a point or get your hiring managers on board. I remember when we brought in this fancy pre-employment test, and the managers hated it. They didn’t trust the science behind it. Good assessments only work if everyone believes they’re worth it in the end.
I let the managers hire people they liked, even when the test said they might not work out. It was a gamble, but I wanted to show the value of the tools we were using. I wouldn’t keep doing it, but sometimes you need to prove your point for the greater good.
I’ve also burned hires with executive referrals. Top-level folks sometimes want to get jobs for their family, and most of the time, these hires don’t work out. But fighting against it isn’t smart, so you burn a hire.
Not many HR people openly admit to burning hires, but behind closed doors, we know it happens. Sometimes, the small battles aren’t as crucial as the bigger internal war, so you let certain hires go through even when you’d normally stop them.
This doesn’t make you bad at HR; it’s just being strategic. Like the pitcher, you’re setting yourself up for success by burning a hire here and there.
Throughout my career, I’ve had conversations with coworkers who think they’re more crucial to the business than they really are. You know the type – they drop comments like “This place would be lost without me” or “Let’s see how things go if I’m not around.” Usually, it’s the sales or tech folks who, despite their contributions, sometimes overestimate their importance. Over time, I’ve come up with a simple two-step test to figure out if someone is truly essential to your business:
Ask yourself if this person is required to show up at the office during a severe snowstorm, lasting multiple days.
Example: In a large Health System where I worked, doctors and nurses were essential, with plans in place for emergencies. Meanwhile, in HR, I wasn’t on the list for a 4-wheel drive SUV pickup.
Consider if the person spends a lot of time trying to convince you of their importance to your operation.
Examples: Statements like “Our biggest client wouldn’t be here without me” or “Our department saved the organization $500K last year on a $3.7M budget.”
Looking at how organizations evolve, it’s interesting to note that in the beginning, only essential employees are truly needed – those involved in getting materials, making products, selling them, and handling finances. Support functions like HR and Marketing often come later, usually after the company grows beyond 100 employees.
Regularly reassessing who holds essential roles within your organization is important. As a “client” to these vital contributors, focus on tasks that support their efforts. This means having direct conversations, asking, “How can I help you do your job better?” It’s simple but often overlooked.
Think of organizations like picking teams on a playground. If your most essential employee were choosing a team, where would you stand – first, tenth, or last? It’s worth thinking about where you fit in.
There are certain conversations in our work lives that cause people the most anxiety and having to go in and ask for money is, on my list, the next most anxious work conversation most people will face. I can think of many times that I wanted more money, thought I deserved to get more money, and heck even our good old Comp people said the market should be paying me more money, and still, it is a difficult conversation to have with my superior (at least for me).
Like many people, I think I do a good job, give my best effort, produce great results, and after all that, should I really need to ask? Shouldn’t my boss ‘get it’ and just want to write me a blank check?!
With all this in mind, most people will screw this conversation up by saying things they really want to say, but shouldn’t, if they’re trying to get a raise. Here are the top things you probably shouldn’t say when asking for a raise:
1. “If you pay 10% more, I will really put in some extra effort!” – So what you’re saying is you’re not putting in extra effort now…
2. “I looked in our HRIS system and I know Sheila on the 5th floor is making $5000 more than I am – and she’s an idiot!” – Not the best strategy to look at others’ private comp information, even if you have access, then call them an idiot – at least in my experience…
3. “If you don’t pay me more money, I’ll be forced to find another job that will pay me what I worth” – Be careful, I’ve tried this one, and they might call your bluff!
4. “I’ve done the math and if you fire Mike, I can do his job and mine, you save $50K, after giving me $25K of his $75K salary” – This actually might be a really good idea, But Mike might be the last one standing with the $25K raise, not you!
5. “I really don’t understand how you can be worth $50K more than me, I do all your work – and deserve more money” – Bosses just love to hear they are overpaid, don’t do anything, and you can do their job – NOT!
6. “I saved the company $1 million in reducing recruiting fees, by implementing a social media strategy successfully, I should at least get a fraction of those savings” – Why, yes you should – if you were in sales, but you’re in HR, and this was part of your job description. Sorry for the wake-up call – all employees aren’t treated equally – put on a helmet.
7. “I know times are tough, so I was thinking instead of more money you could give me an extra week’s vacation or pay for my health insurance or something else like that.” – Okay, Einstein, stop thinking – it’s all money. Vacation, health insurance, paid parking, lunch money – it all hits the bottom line on the income statement. You just showed how expendable you really are.
I’ve learned over the years, through trial and error (okay, mostly error) that many, if not all, of the above statements just don’t seem to have the impact that I was hoping for with my supervisor. I have seen peers, who performed well, were loyal, dedicated to doing their best for themselves, their co-workers, and the company, and got the raise they wanted by just being patient.
Supervisors are as uncomfortable as you are to have the compensation conversation. If you are as good as you profess to be, then they do want to give you more, but probably can’t due to budget, market, others performing even better than you, etc. It may be the hardest thing to do, but being patient usually works out the best of all!
When it comes to advancing in your career, it’s not just about chasing promotions. Let’s say you have been at X company for 5 years and you’re hungry for more. We’ve all been there, right? Here’s what I would say:
Step 1: Put together a self-improvement plan with goals and a timeline. Show you’re working on your weak spots (let’s call them “opportunity” areas for the GenXers).
Step 2: Let your boss know about your plan, and here’s the kicker – ask for their help in pulling it off. Be specific about what they can do to help you reach your goals.
We discussed some ideas based on his “opportunity” areas.
Bosses love promoting folks they’ve mentored. It strokes their ego and scores them points in the organization for developing talent. Hiring doesn’t get them as much credit as promoting does – it’s basic Organizational Behavior 101.
It doesn’t have to be fancy. Bosses like promoting those who show they’re into their job and the company. Taking charge of your development plan and asking for help doubles your shot at getting promoted.
There are a lot of moving factors in this, but if you are working for someone who is respected in the organization, and you have an above-average performance compared to others in your work group, this will almost always play out well for you.
Trying to climb that career ladder? Just follow these two simple steps.