Hey there. Sorry I’ve gone dark on you. My new job started and I’ve been immersing myself in meeting people, collecting feedback, and working on a plan going forward. It’s meant that few humans outside of work have gotten even a wink of my time (my dog has, though), and that I didn’t follow through on my goal of 1-2 posts a week.
However, with starting a new job, I’ve found my mind wandering at night with thoughts about what I’d tell a younger version of me to prepare myself for this role and opportunity. I figured I’d share those thoughts.
- This career is the right fit, but it’s hard. I never would have thought that as an introvert, the path that would drive me the most would involve interacting with so many different people. I care about people I’m close to so intensely, I suppose it makes sense that creating an environment for people to feel engaged and invigorated really excites me. However, it also makes the job challenging because it’s hard not to take every bit of failure or tough news very, very personally. You will need to sit on difficult information that you can’t vent to anyone else. You will hear things nobody else in the organization hears that you can’t un-hear or share. And you will need to deliver really bad news. There will be nights it’s hard to sleep, but in the end, you are (hopefully) impacting things in a really positive way.
- It’s lonely. People who have worked for me can attest to my philosophy on this. I think to be really good at this job, you need to be neutral. Nobody should fear coming to you because you are close friends with so-and-so. That means being lonely at work. Very rarely do you have a peer you can be totally open with and vent to. I am human and I develop soft spots for people. It’s always been hard for me to remain detached enough to maintain objectivity, while balancing the need to build trust with people throughout the organization.
- We need more creativity and passion in the field. There are a lot of amazing people in the profession and we need even more. I think we’re in the era where HR and People Ops go from risk mitigation to strategic partner to the organization. Anytime you see a function make that transition, creative thinkers are needed. Don’t give into the pressure to think inside the box. Dream big and push the envelope. Focus on creating an exceptional experience that you’d want to see.
- Network. You can speed your learning curve up by going to events and learning from others’ successes and, more importantly, failures. Ask the “stupid” questions you are afraid to ask. Introduce yourself to founders and execs and ask them what they like to see from the function (and hate to see). This is all info you’ll need to learn at some point – best get started on it early!
- Learn numbers and presenting. You will be working with a lot of data-driven functions. Learn to speak their language to sell your ideas and get buy in. You need more than “everyone is doing this” and “it’ll be great” at executive meetings – you need to paint the picture of value to the organization. You may thrive in the softer and more ambiguous side of business, but learn how your peers work best and you’ll be far more effective at impacting change in the organization.
- You’ll usually have an uphill battle to earn trust. While there are a lot of good people in the field, there are some bad eggs. Add to that the fact that the job requires us to deliver the worst sort of news to employees and you can understand why it can require a lot of upfront investment and consistency to earn trust. Don’t take skepticism or guardedness personally, just keep working and you’ll get there. Be as open as possible. Be genuine.
Accidentally landing in this career has been the best thing for me. I hope that’s helpful perspective!