Lessons from Past Jobs I’ve Had

When I started college, HR wasn’t even on my radar. Was it on yours?

Here’s how it unfolded for me:

I got a degree in elementary education with dreams of shaping young minds. Teaching seemed like a fulfilling path, with the perks of summers off and being one of the few guys among a sea of female teachers. I was sold.

After a bit in education, I transitioned into sales and recruiting. I liked to talk – so these worked well for me. But, luckily, from here I stumbled into HR through a client who mentored me into it.

Here are five skills from those earlier jobs that helped me in HR:

  1. Confidence: Teaching taught me the importance of confidence. Kids are like sharks (kinda) – they can sense fear. Similarly, in HR, confidence is crucial when dealing with constant questioning and crazy situations.
  2. Positive Attitude: Positivity was my mantra in sales, and it serves me well in HR too. No one likes a negative Nancy. HR is often associated with negativity and maintaining a sunny outlook can make all the difference.
  3. Proactivity: Instead of waiting for problems to arise, I learned the value of being proactive. This way of thinking has been really helpful in HR. It’s all about being proactive and getting ahead of problems before they become big issues.
  4. Humility: Balancing confidence with humility is a fine line. In teaching, not keeping promises hurts your credibility. With the kids, with peers, everyone. Similarly, in HR, being humble builds trust and reliability, which are important for good relationships in the organization.
  5. Persuasion: Whether convincing students or candidates, persuasion is a skill I honed in previous roles. In HR, the ability to sell ideas and projects is paramount, whether it’s advocating for a new initiative or garnering support for organizational change.

These skills have not only helped me excel in HR but have also empowered me to effectively advocate for the tools and technology necessary to drive organizational success.

That’s my journey. What about yours? Which skills from your past experiences have proven indispensable in your HR career?

Don’t Just Wait to Be Discovered

As a recruiter, we’re always on the lookout for talent. Whether we’re at work, running errands, or enjoying time off, we are constantly searching for people with the right skills and drive.

But, I’m here to tell you, opportunities won’t just land in your lap. If you’re waiting for someone to find you, you could be waiting forever.

Because recruiters don’t stumble upon talent by accident. They look for people who are actively showing what they can do. Every single day. It’s like trick-or-treating – we only go where there’s a light on.

Too often, I meet people who want a new job but aren’t doing anything about it. They’re afraid to let their current employer know they’re looking. But that’s not the best way to get noticed.

Instead of waiting around, get involved. Connect with others in your industry and community. Let people know what you’re looking for.

Even in today’s job market, there are plenty of opportunities out there. But you have to put yourself out there to find them.

So stop waiting to be discovered – go out and make it happen. Success isn’t luck; it’s hard work.

HR and Recruiting: The Unspoken Rules

Some unsaid rules guide us through HR. They’re not really hard and fast rules, just practical tips that we’ve learned along the way. Let’s break them down:

  1. Stay away from personal questions in interviews.
  2. Keep reference checks simple – just confirm dates of employment.
  3. Guard employee files like they’re top-secret.
  4. If it’s important, put it in a policy.
  5. Take every accusation seriously and look into it.
  6. “Mutual decision to leave” usually means otherwise.
  7. Measurement gets things done.
  8. Be careful about setting precedents.
  9. Expect things to go haywire on day 2 of your vacation.
  10. A candidate hasn’t really accepted the job until they show up to work on Day 1.
  11. If it’s on the ‘roadmap’ of your HR or Recruiting technology vendor, it means it’s not actually built and might never be built.
  12. Employees tattling on others probably have their own issues.
  13. Employee harassment stories are rarely simple.
  14. Open enrollment meetings need cookies.

We love our rules in HR! Ironically, I love the profession so much because I’m a low-rules kind of person. The reality is, in my couple decades of HR and recruiting work there really has only been one Rule of Thumb that has been the same at every organization I’ve worked in. Big and small. Public and private. Across all industries…

– Things change.

This basic principle reminds us that flexibility is crucial in the ever-shifting HR landscape. What’s your go-to rule in HR and recruiting?

Here’s an idea, just do the job you were hired for

Every day, people get worked up over stuff they can’t control. Everyone’s telling you to be this or that, depending on the latest trend or generation.

I’ve stopped listening to people who don’t know my job or haven’t been in the field for ages. Instead, I talk to my employees – the young, the old, and everyone in between. They all matter because they all contribute to moving the organization forward.

I don’t care about what others think; I focus on what my employees are telling me. Their problems are personal, from daycare and student loans to health scares. Forget the big world issues; help them with the close ones first.

Your employees are individuals with their own problems, and millennials aren’t college kids anymore. The newbies might have different labels, but they’re still young people with their own issues.

At the end of the day, employees want to succeed. Helping them be successful is my top priority as a leader. Success is personal, so I figure out how to tie it to the organization’s goals.

We keep letting others tell us how to do our jobs. I’m sticking to doing the job I was hired for because, frankly, no one knows it better than me. Maybe we should all just focus on doing the job we were hired for.

The 10 Rules of Office Romances

So, I’ve dished out some rules before—actually, a lot of rules. You’ve probably seen my guide on Rules for Hugging at the Office, but let’s face it, office romances are trickier than a casual side hug in the hallway. In case you need a refresher, here are my no-nonsense rules for office romances that you can share with your team.

Rule #1 – Avoid falling for someone you supervise. But let’s be real, it happens. If you find yourself in this situation, be prepared to either quit, get fired, change departments, or witness the person you’re involved with facing similar consequences.

Rule #2 – Steer clear of anyone in Payroll. Messing with them may result in a temporary paycheck glitch, and even when it’s fixed, errors might haunt your payslip forever. Just don’t mess with payroll.

Rule #3 – Keep the office and office grounds off-limits for romance. I get it, love is in the air, but security footage is forever. Don’t give us reasons to laugh at your love escapades long after you’ve left.

Rule #4 – Save the explicit emails for after hours. It’s not that I won’t enjoy reading them, it’s that I get embarrassed when I have to read them aloud to the unemployment judge at your hearing. Trust me, it’s awkward.

Rule #5 – Don’t get involved with a married colleague. Even if you’re the work spouse, remember it’s not real. Reality hits hard when the actual spouse shows up, possibly keying your car in the parking lot.

Rule #6 – Choose someone with good performance. Falling for a stellar performer is a win-win. Don’t complicate things by getting entangled with someone who’s about to be shown the exit. It just makes life easier for everyone.

Rule #7 – Inform relevant parties ASAP. Movie dates are no big deal, but waking up in a different bed than your own might be. If there’s any hint of conflict, let someone in HR know. They’re there to help figure things out.

Rule #8 – Trust your instincts. If it feels wrong, it probably is. Don’t rationalize a questionable relationship. Saying things like “If this is wrong, I don’t want to be right” is a clear sign that it’s time to reassess.

Rule #9 – No need to hide your relationship. We’re all adults here. If you’re considering keeping it under wraps, that’s a red flag. Normal relationships don’t need to be hidden.

Rule #10 – We all know. Seriously, office romance isn’t as discreet as you think. We see the frequent stops at their desk and the suspicious stairwell visits. We’re not oblivious. Cut it out.

Hey, Be A Career Guide

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.

5 HR Habits to Drop Now

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:

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. 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.

Career Roulette

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.

Love Love Love

I love to love. I’m not into expecting it back in the same way. Not everyone gets that, though. You hear people saying, “I love that person,” but when they don’t get the same love in return, they act like they never loved them in the first place.

Work relationships are kinda like that.

When you’re working, you want to feel good about your job. You also want your boss to feel good about you. It’s a two-way street.

For me, loving someone doesn’t change just because they might not love me the same way back. My kids loved me like crazy when they were little. I was their world. Now that they’re older, I’m not the center anymore, but that doesn’t change how I feel about them. It’s growth, not a downgrade. I hope I’ve taught them to love their own kids if they have any.

Same goes for employees. If they don’t love me anymore, it hurts, but I’m not going to stop caring about them. I want them to do well, even if it’s not with me. That’s just how I roll.

So, here’s to keeping it real and spreading love!

Happy Valentine’s Day!

Don’t Say That!

Found this oldie but a goodie and I thought it would be a fun one to revisit. Still holds true, right?

7 Things You Should Never Say When Asking for a Raise!

Posted on  by Tim Sackett

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!