Careers Are a Series of Small Breakthroughs - #SHRM16



I’m very excited to be speaking a couple of times during this year’s Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) Annual Conference and Expo in Washington D.C. 

First on Saturday, June 18, I will be part of a pre-conference workshop on “Social Solutions for HR: Social Media Strategies to Help Achieve Your HR and Business Goals.” 

I’m thrilled to be working with Jonathan Segal, Craig Fisher and Aliah Wright on this program.

The second session is a breakout on “Manager Onboarding: Setting New Leaders Up for Success”, which happens to also be the topic of my book, which will be released during the conference as well.  

The reason I’m talking about SHRM so early in the year is because I just learned that the theme for the conference is “Breakthrough” and someone asked me what was the breakthrough moment in my human resources career. Frankly, I was surprised that couldn’t think of one big breakthrough. But, I did think of lots of smaller breakthroughs I’ve had along the way.

1.       My first HR job. It’s not always easy breaking to human resources. Luckily, my boss didn’t look down on the fact that I had no HR experience. I did have some transferrable skills and I was willing to work hard.

2.       My first HR manager job. I was a one-person HR department. But my boss told me that once you become a manager, you will always be thought of as a manager. Don’t disappoint.

3.       The first time I terminated someone. You realize the role you play in other people’s livelihoods. That’s why having regular performance conversations is important. Employees need to be responsible for their career.

4.       My first team. As a manager, you need to support your team and their goals. I realized my role as a manager was to give them the tools to be successful. I also learned that I couldn’t go off and do cool stuff if the office fell apart every time I left.

5.       The first time I relocated. It’s kinda a big deal to relocate for your job. You really need to think about how much you like that job. And you need to have a personal and professional support system to help you.

6.       My first strategic planning meeting. Often our day to day work is very granular. With strategic planning, you have to think differently and beyond your own department.

7.       Becoming a vice president. At first, I thought I had reached the pinnacle of my career. Then you realize you’ve only just begun. The learning never stops.

8.       Becoming a consultant. Some people view being a consultant as different from a practitioner. Really, it’s the same responsibilities, just with different stakeholder companies.

That’s when it occurred to me that the small breakthroughs keep coming. Or at least they should. Our careers don’t have to be defined by one single “breakthrough.” Having many small breakthroughs is perfectly acceptable.  In fact, maybe it’s better. Maybe several little breakthroughs help us manage our careers better, set more realistic goals, and work through challenging times.

What’s your career breakthrough?






Brilliant. I had a first-time manager call recently with all sorts of questions. She was trying to balance what she was reading or had read in preparation for the job and real world experience. As we spoke, it was further impressed upon me that what shaped me most in my leadership experiences was just that, experience. The books were insightful and the articles entertaining, but nothing could compare with the lessons of experience.

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