What does your group of connections look like? Are there people you are more tightly connected to than others? Does it matter?
HR is a challenging profession and it’s even more difficult if you try to gut it out and work in a sphere that only contains yourself. You won’t find many people internally who understand what HR is all about unless they are in the trenches with you. This isn’t to bemoan what we do, but it does point out the fact that we have few internal connections that we can go to and talk.
This doesn’t have to be your reality. You’re able to change and expand your sphere, but it takes effort and intentionality. This is more than having a professional network. You should have that, but genuine connections are deeper than people you may interact with on an occasional basis.
I just returned from the SHRM Volunteer Leader Summit which is made up of volunteers from all 50 states. They are HR professionals who are connected through local SHRM chapters and/or State Councils. When this group gets together, you feel a heightened level of energy. This is true because they share common experiences. It’s my favorite SHRM gathering because I “grew up” in the same structure at the local, State, regional and national level. I love seeing friends who have volunteered along with me and I really get geeked meeting those who are new to this environment.
Interestingly enough, even though these folks have a bigger commonality which brings them together, people still tend to stick with those they know from their State. I’m not being critical, it’s just an observation and a potential opportunity that could be missed. That opportunity is that they could reach out and meet folks from other parts of the country who may work in different industries, but they’re hesitant.
Now, I know that I’m comfortable meeting new people. I also know that’s not the norm. When I was first involved with SHRM as a volunteer, I was the person who stayed with those from my State. I was following the lead, and the expectation, of those who had gone before me. I didn’t know that you could break out of that model because my context was that we gathered to learn about the organization and our role, and nothing else.
Over time, that didn’t feel right. I come from the perspective that it’s more meaningful and critical to meet the people who do what I do. So, I decided to cross the invisible boundary and meet people from around the country. What I found out was that there were others who wanted to meet as well. It took some time, and it still does several years later. It’s hard to break into the spheres of others.
Here are some suggestions that could make this easier . . .
It pains me to type this, but we are skeptical of others when they want to meet us. We think there’s some ulterior motive. Since that’s the environment you’re going to press up against, be up front and tell people who you are first and why you want to connect. Being genuine will allow you to connect naturally.
Meet people in other spheres whenever you get the chance and make connections for the people you meet. This isn’t about collecting folks just for yourself. That’s creepy. Connecting others allows them to meet new people they may haven’t had the chance to do before. It’s also a great way to make connecting more accessible for people regardless of being introverted or extroverted.
These two things may seem like small steps, but they aren’t done nearly enough. The next time you have the chance to make more HR connections, do it. Expand your sphere. You’ll be surprised to see how fulfilling it is personally and professionally.