This past week I had one of my many “commute convos” on the way home from work. I have a pretty long commute and I love to fill it with calls with friends. I know it’s a bit archaic to have actual conversations with people these days, but I’m sticking to it. They are often exhilarating because I catch up with people and hear the great stories and experiences they are having.
During this one particular call, my friend (also in HR) was telling me about a recent chat with her husband who was struggling with his job. He wanted to throw in the towel and look for something different. (We’ve ALL had that kind of talk with someone !!) His wife was being awesome and listening to him. As he paused, she pulled out her expertise and started coaching and exploring options for him when he held up his hand and exclaimed – “Don’t HR me !!”
We both howled about this story because she was doing what comes naturally. All people in every profession do this. We tend to keep things at the surface level and talk about our profession. Not true ?? When you meet someone for the first time and learn their name, what’s your first question? I’ll bet you that it’s “So, what do you do for a living?”
We are fiercely defined by our career and occupation. If you want to test how true that is, talk to someone in transition. One of the driving challenges of getting that next new job is getting over the feeling that our job IS who we are. Don’t get me wrong, it is a huge component of our life, but it is only one component.
What’s the harm in getting to know people past their profession? If all we have to talk about is work with each other, the conversations would get pretty predictable don’t you think? It may give you the illusion of some safety bubble, but it keeps people at arm’s length.
I have dear HR friends right now who are celebrating new accomplishments, mourning loss of friends and/or family, looking for their next great gig, seeing life through the eyes of their children, trying on a new city they just moved to, etc.
I love hearing about every aspect of what they’re going through !! They’re very cool in reciprocating as well. You see other than my great HR job, I’m a husband, father, musician, writer, comic book movie nerd, sold out musicophile, Scout leader and social media wonk to name a few things.
In just a few weeks, I’m going to the SHRM Annual Conference in Las Vegas and I’m geeked !! I’ve had a goal the past few years to try to meet every attendee, and last year I made some serious strides. This year, I’m keeping the same target, but I won’t ask one of them what they do. I already know they’re in HR !! I want to be different and get to know them for the phenomenal people they are !!
It may make some folks uncomfortable, but I’m good with that and I have a motive to do this other than being an extrovert. I think that the more HR people are connected as humans, the better HR people we will be in our organizations. You see, you won’t look at your employees other than people you happen to work with unless you’re connected to other humans yourself.
This week reach out and make a call during your commute. Fill your travel time with connections to those friends that you promise yourself you’ll call. Don’t pause anymore. Give them a call and ask them how life is going. I know they’d love to hear from you !!
You never know, I may be calling you as well !!