True story. My friend IM’s me an HR question. Usually, when friends have HR queries it’s one of three things: 1) How do I ask for a raise? 2) Can you help me find a new job? 3) My HR person stinks. Can you help me with my benefits?
This question was different though. It turns out, another friend of his is also in HR. She needed some advice and wondered: A) Would it be wrong of her to engage in an office romance, and out of curiosity, do most companies have policies against dating in the workplace, and B) Is HR the wrong line of work if she’s curt in her mannerisms (and not willing to change)?
I just about died. I couldn’t type fast enough and communicate over the interwebs that whoever this friend of his is, she needs to get out of HR. Now. Quickly. But before I could lash out any further, my friend fed me some more details- turns out she is still a bit new to the world of HR, she’s 23, and she wants to grow her career yet she’s not sure if she’s cut out for HR. At that point, my sympathy grew, just ever so slightly. New to the field, and younger, she’s bound to make some mistakes. Because we all have, haven’t we?
It got me thinking about my first mistake. In my first HR role, I become chummy with someone outside of the HR team. Turns out she wasn’t happy with her job and the growth she wanted wasn’t being offered. She didn’t see herself going anywhere and wanted out… and I thought she deserved better too, so we set out on a quest to find her a new gig – together, and somewhere else. I didn’t consider retention. I didn’t consider development. I only considered that she wanted out and never stopped to realize that in my role, I probably should have looked for ways to help her grow and stay with the organization.
As it would happen, word got out about me trying to help the friend find a new gig. Issue one – it’s tricky developing close friendships with people outside of HR. Issue two – my actions went completely against my primary role – to recruit and retain talent. Folks weren’t happy with me. Why on earth would I help someone great leave the company? Things finally clicked when it was pointed out to me that my actions were completely counter to what my role in HR was… I had forgotten my place.
So, we all make mistakes… maybe mine wasn’t falling for someone in the office, and maybe yours isn’t that you haven’t figured out that curt is fine, in the right time and place. The trick is to not destroy your career with the first big mistake, and to "survive and advance" – hopefully as a stronger professional.
Your biggest mistake as a rookie? Give me your story. I’m sure we’ve all been there at one time or another.
Jessica Lee is a VP of TA at Marriott International where she leads a team that enables the company to think big, broad and boldly about all things talent acquisition and in effect, keeps them relevant and ahead of the curve in how they attract and acquire top talent. Don’t be fooled by that fancy pants title and description though, she’s still an everyday HR gal in the trenches at the core. SPHR certified, a decade and a half into trench HR life… she can whip up a corrective action plan or source for your purple squirrel in a heartbeat.