All I Really Need to Know I Learned at Work

So I’m leaving one job and starting another.  It’s a great move and very much a career opportunity for the better (I hope). Essentially at my previous position I was in transactional HR and while I’ll still be doing some of that mostly it will be employee relations which is truly where I’m passionate about HR.

Now that I’m leaving one job and going to another, I thought I would take time for reflection of all my past experience.  I’m a firm believer in no right or wrongs but instead – everything is a life lesson.  And boy I’ve had some great life lessons from each of my employers. Here they are:

It’s All About People:
My earliest employment was a non-profit organization.  I started in customer service and over my many years there I learned how to develop relationships   The organization sent me to trainings to learn and how to train others on relationship building.  I was also a part of their scholarship program, which gave me purpose and direction with the mission of the organization.  I truly believe in helping people be the best they can be.

People Won’t Like You:
A small construction company ended up not working out for me, but before I left there I found out that I was being teased and talked about behind my back.  Some of it due to a personality mismatch and some due to my personal beliefs.  I was crushed at the time, but came to realize that at that point in time I was trying to be a “people pleaser.”  A very valuable lesson to remember – people won’t always like you. Get over it.

Don’t Burn Bridges:
A small marketing company with a handful of employees and I was the office manager.  I interviewed and was hired for this job in the same day and that should have been my first warning, but I was young and needed a job so I didn’t care.  The owner was a elderly woman, old school in her methods, and just someone who was generally annoying.  I didn’t like her, (with rare exceptions) I didn’t like who I worked with, and I was bored in the job, plus I finished my undergraduate during this time and wanted to move on to bigger/better.  I found another job and had given my notice, but about a week into my notice my boss found out (I still don’t know how) that I had been bad mouthing her to employees.  So she asked me to leave that day.  I felt awful.  While I really wasn’t interested in maintaining any type of relationship with her or the company, my actions were horrendous.  I shouldn’t have left things that way.  Regardless of my needs, I shouldn’t treat people (her and the employees) in such a terrible manner.

When it’s Bad, Run!
Another small company I worked for I was hired to work directly with the CEO and essentially be a go-to-gal for any administrative needs.  Sounds fun right?  About a week into I found out that the company was deep in debt.  About a million in.  The owner was having to foreclose one of his houses to be able to meet payroll. It wasn’t a good situation.  So, I left there quickly! Now I’ve learned to do my research, ask questions, and don’t be afraid to walk away from a job when it’s not an ideal situation.

Being in Charge is Fun:
Thus far one of my favorite and most successful positions was with a large national radio company and I handled HR and business office. Besides the General Manager and Sales Director, I was right up there with the big dogs, making decisions, planning, implementing, etc. People came to me with issues to solve, I had control over budgets, freedom to come and go, trust from my colleagues and corporate office.  I made a name for myself.  Even though the above job was fun, I didn’t really interact with my employees or colleagues very much because I wanted to keep everything professional.  At that time I was a firm believer in keeping personal and professional lives separate. A bankruptcy, and sale to another radio company happened and then you guessed it – layoff, put me back on the market. Being in charge is very fun and rewarding – but it can also be very demanding and in some cases you can miss out on personal relationships.

Be Yourself:
I quickly found a small online retailer that needed “a person.”  Essentially I was brought on to work with the CEO on some projects that just needed to get done.  Most of it being good HR practices (new employee orientation  training, recruitment, job descriptions, etc.).  Upon entering this culture I quickly came to realize that people here were laid back. Where my previous job was professional (suit and tie, all about work), this job was jeans and lots of water cooler convo.  So I learned to let my guard down and release my inner nerd/geek.  What I found out was, people understand and respect you more when you’re just yourself.

Occasionally You Will Fail & Know Thyself:
This small company that I’m now leaving needed an HR Manager, their first.  Upon entering the company I was full of vigor and ideas to really get them rolling with some great practices.  Through a culmination of events I quickly learned – I wasn’t doing the job they hired me for.  They needed a solid foundation of transactional HR and I was trying to fill the strategic planning/operations void that I felt they needed.  Essentially there was a disconnect. Prior to this position I never really had a “fear of losing my job” and it is a life (and work) experience I think everyone should undertake.  It truly humbles you, makes you introspective, and helps to make you grow as a person. The good news is that I wasn’t ever let go and I continued to work for them but there was still that disconnect.  My goals/needs as an employee just didn’t match their goals/needs as a company.  And that’s okay! It just means that one of us needs to nut up and say goodbye so that we can all move on and get where we need to go.

The next gig is going to have some serious lessons too I’m sure.  And with a little bit of luck and hard work I won’t be writing a post about this one cause I’ll continue to work with them for years to come.  *fingers crossed* But what I know about all this is – my mistakes, their mistakes, and everything in between has brought me to be the career woman I am today.  I don’t regret a single job, a single boss, a single employee cause each one has taught me something important.  Overall, it’s all about the people will deal with every day – they are our greatest teachers.

One thought on “All I Really Need to Know I Learned at Work

  1. Your career path seems to be so similar to my own. I also started at a non-profit organization (actually my first few experiences were non-profit). My experience here and lessons learned have carried through to each subsequent position that I have occupied. My hard lesson learned in non-profit was to leave the work and sometimes the stress and sorrow that came with it at the office. I worked with “at-risk” families who suffered from the vicious cycle of poverty and all its remnants. At the end of the day I can’t solve every problem and I can’t respond to every request. There will always be someone or something that has to wait for the next day. I am new to the HR field but I have had many personal and professional experiences that have prepared me to thrive. As a result of the high stress, deadline and numbers driven (for funding purposes) environment of non-profit organizations, I have learned to be resourceful and look for answers to problems in not so obvious places. I have learned to prioritize my day and to handle a demanding workload with ease and grace. There are many interruptions in HR that are unplanned and require immediate response and lots of research. I have learned that many companies regard the HR function as painfully necessary overhead expense and have such learned that any financial resources needed to get the job done can be few and far between. Creativity is often a requisite to success in this field. In my current position as an HR representative, I find myself wanting to apply many of the strategic functions that I acquired throughout my graduate degree but I know that, being new to the field and being observant, I will benefit from humility. I will also take heed to your advice about knowing when to run and when to assess my fit with the position and the organization. Reflecting on, learning from and applying past experiences to benefit in current situations; all qualities of a successful leader and HR professional. ~Jazz


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