3 Parenting Lessons For a Career in HR

John Whitaker HR, HR (& Life!) Advice, John Whitaker, Leadership, Performance, Seat at the Table, The HR Profession, Training and Development

Here at FOT, we’re all about the children… you might even say that we believe that children are our future, so teach them well and let them lead the way.

And as parents like you, we are constantly seeking ways to make sure our little apples are prepared for the day they fall from the tree. But how often do you roll out a specific lesson to prepare your kids for life in Human Resources?

Never? Of course not, who the hell would do such a thing?

this guy....

this guy….

Yep… that guy—and me. The purpose? Give my boys (ages 13 and 9, respectively) some idea of what life is like should they stumble into an HR career like the OH (that’s Original Hardballer, yo.)

At least one of them wants my head on a pike for this brilliant initiative, but I think I’m on to something.

Here are 3 quick lessons you can provide for your kids to prepare them for a career in Human Resources:

1. SEND FOOD BACK AT A RESTAURANT. I know plenty of adults who would eat shoe leather before sending food back in a restaurant. Even in a scenario where we are rightfully entitled to demand a correction, our natural instinct is to avoid potential conflict. For a teenager, it’s even more unthinkable—it’s embarrassing. But… sometimes you have to speak up; it can be uncomfortable, it might be mortifying, and you may be in a situation that requires you to stand your ground. Be tactful, be direct, be polite, and be respectful, but don’t accept hamburger when you paid for steak. Any HR professional “sitting at the table” knows the value of balancing this line.

Bonus: For the advanced lesson, send the order back even if it’s correct. 

2. TAKE A NEIGHBORHOOD POLL. What’s a burning topic for your kids? Best new Minecraft mod? Best pet to own? The Israel/Gaza conflict? What kind of support can they gather in the neighborhood? They can make a simple T-chart, put on their Crocs and start knocking on doors. Have them continue until they have 10 “votes” on one side of the ledger.

Bonus: Some people will have zero opinion on the subject. Can your child sway the vote one way or another? The ability to influence without any formal authority is a skill that becomes especially important in staffing or as an HRBP.

3. COMMUNICATESound the “old timer” alarm because this sounds like something Grandpas bitch about when they talk about “this generation” and their confounded interweb dee-vices. More specifically, I’m referring to the importance of picking up the phone and speaking with relatives, friends, classmates, coaches, teachers, etc. After your kid’s next birthday party, have him/her call each of their friends to thank them for their respective gift. Sounds easy in theory, but it’s a butt-clincher in practice.

Disclaimer #1: This particular drill may not translate to little girls, but I can vouch for the aversion to conversation most boys have.

Disclaimer #2: Yes, I know all about the practice of mailing “Thank You” cards, but who are we kidding? That’s practicing the art of having a secretary send a form letter with your signature.

As you’ve certainly noticed, these are hardly HR-specific skills, and that’s the point. Human Resources is a career in Business, so the same rules apply when laying the foundation for a career in Staffing, Sales, Management, whatevs.

And best of all, it’s entertaining for you, the parent, so there’s that.

John Whitaker

John Whitaker (“Whit”) is Vice President of Talent Acquisition for DentalOne Partners and the founder of HRHardball.com (2008). He specializes in building and developing strong recruiting teams who are unafraid of “kicking the ant pile.” Like most Texans, he loves to tell a story (especially those that include an armadillo or a poker game) and cutting through the chaff…don’t take it personal.