Why Taking a Break is a Good Thing

Life

It’s been a little while, I know. After years of consistently blogging, guest blogging, Tweeting, social networking, and so on, I took a step back to assess.

In the beginning, I used blogging as a way to build a personal brand in the pursuit of landing a good job. Once I got that job, I used it to continue thought leadership and develop my career in the direction I wanted it to go. After creating that portfolio, I was able to prove myself and get the promotions I was looking for.

But, now what?

I know that in order to stay relevant and knowledgeable about current trends, it’s important to keep up with your social and blogging persona as much as your IRL one. But being everything to everyone can be a little overwhelming, at least for me. If I wasn’t glued to my laptop, I was glued to my phone. Before I knew it, years passed by and I felt like I had accomplished very little in my personal life. Not good.

Being successful in my career is important. I had a lot to prove to myself and, sure, I still have a lot to prove. However, I don’t want to look back on my life and realized that I missed out on living it. I have goals to move, travel, write books, pick up a hobby, learn a new language, learn how to get better at baking, enjoy the company of my husband and puppy, visit family more, be a better friend, try something extreme, and more. Unfortunately, I’m not the type of person who has an insane amount of energy and can dominate both being professionally “on” 24/7 while still managing progression in my personal affairs. I envy those people and often wonder how they find time to sleep. And if they are running on no sleep, how do they achieve everything so flawlessly?

Every so often, you need to be honest with yourself. Can you truly do everything you want to in a reasonable time frame or do you need to start chipping away at the excess and focus on what matters? For me, it’s time to pull back a little on being proactive in the social and blogging world for my personal brand. Once work’s daily closing bell rings, I decided to turn off the HR/Recruiting/Employment Branding/Whatever-else mentality and focus more on being a well-rounded person… at least for a little while.

I do believe taking a break is a good thing. It helps people recharge and become reengaged in the things they were passionate about. New perspectives are born after taking a step back. This is what I’m hoping for as I pursue this break and focus on personal goals.

So, thank you so much for supporting this blog over the last few years. I truly hope you all learned as much as I’ve learned from many others in the social media and blogging world. This break isn’t forever and I’m looking forward to coming back with renewed passion.

Stay tuned.

2014 at a Glance

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Wow. We’ve made it through another whole year and it seems like they’re flying by faster and faster. As I take a moment to reflect on my personal and professional highlights of 2014, I’m reminded of how much can change in a year. It’s a nice reminder of what can be accomplished, but also that there is still so much more to do.

From a personal standpoint, I moved from Charleston, SC, to Boston, MA. After over a decade of dreaming about travel, I finally took my first European trip to Paris and Rome. I took the leap and became a puppy parent. And I made plans to finally tie the knot with my long-term fiancé in 2015.

From a professional perspective, I continued to build my strategic skills for the talent acquisition space, specifically in recruitment planning and employment branding. I finally had an opportunity to attend a human capital conference, which I absolutely loved. I was even able to meet professional contacts I connected with via social media over the years. Currently, I’m in the process of switching my employer/career, but that will come in due time.

As for blogging, here are the most viewed blogs posted in 2014:

 

Overall, I was both surprised and happy to see that my top post of all time was one of the first ones I wrote on this blog back in 2012: Basic requirements: A candidate’s search for a qualified employer. Since writing this post, my professional career has changed so much. I’ve learned more than I could imagine, gained so many new skills and really saw my potential. I was challenged often and always found a way to rise to the occasion, no matter how impossible it may have seemed.

As I restart my job search in 2015 and finally have a moment to reflect, I reviewed this specific blog post from 2012 and realized that even years later, the things I want from an employer still ring true today. I’ve had a great opportunity to work for a company that hit most of these points for the last 2+ years, letting me know that these companies really do exist. I’m hopeful and looking forward to seeing what 2015 has in store for me.

Happy New Year!

Rediscovering Your Identity

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Identity is a funny thing. We spend our time trying to distinguish it, both personally and professionally, and then spend our lives trying to build and protect it once we know what it is. Our experiences and surroundings transform it. We go through cycles of trying to fit in, to making sense of who we are. Other times we are trying to stand out and become indispensable. And when we find a place where our identity makes sense, we get comfortable with the easy flow of knowing who we are and where we fit. But what happens when that comfortable place is gone?

It’s been a while since I’ve written last, mainly because I’ve been going through a transition that has tested my feelings towards my identity. In 2012, I developed my personal brand without even realizing it. I started this blog, joined online discussions, participated in Twitter chats, guest blogged, networked and so on. I was sharing my knowledge about HR, talent acquisition and business. And with each conversation, research and experience, my knowledge continued to grow to the point where I was able to provide valuable insight and suggestions. From the people I networked with, to the company I worked for and the clients I supported, I was able to make an impact. I started to work harder, I tied my name and experiences with my professional work and I truly believed I was going to build my career with that one company for at least five years, if not more. I was set… until I wasn’t.

A move to Boston from South Carolina made it difficult to keep up with the cost-of-living increase. I struggled but I tried hard to make it work. After all, I had built a reputation internally and externally. People from all levels, interns to c-level, came to me for brainstorming, mentorship or suggestions. My personal brand had seemed to merge into my company brand.  I excelled because my company was able to give me the things I needed to move forward that I couldn’t get myself. So, naturally, I wanted to be loyal and give back. We were a unit—an equal balance of give and take.

When it came to the point when I had to regretfully move on, I dealt with the loss. I fell silent; on social media, with those I networked with and with blogging. I had become so ingrained in the company and what I was doing there, that I truly believed that without my employment, all the things I’ve done over the last 2+ years was suddenly lost. As if with the end of that employment came the end of my worth and my ability to be impactful and valuable. It had been the first time I had felt so loyal and deeply connected to a company, that I wasn’t sure how to accept that I was now an outsider. I was no longer able to voice suggestions, develop strategies, author something or get recognition for a job well done. I was floating along without a home, without a purpose.

As I stated in my last blog, sometimes you just need time to handle the changes in life. You can be sad, in shock, in disbelief or even happy. Whatever you feel, it’s important you face it head on as soon as possible so you can start to make a plan for your next step. Over the last few weeks, that’s exactly what I did. I dealt with the sense of feeling orphaned and questioned who I was as a professional. Would my opinions matter without the backing of an organization? Or would I just be a random person who’s “faking it until I make it” and in which everyone can see right through?

But then I remembered something.

I built my personal brand before this company found me. My blog, my conversations and my interactions on social media were mine. Even while employed there, my thoughts were still my thoughts. Some of the ideas we implemented came out of my head based on what I knew or researched and my ability to make sense of it. Sure, my work at the company did help me learn more and helped me develop my professional skills because of hands-on experiences. But my capability to absorb that and develop it into something useful was because of what I knew on my own.

My identity is still my identity as long as I’m still breathing and pursuing it. It didn’t come about as some Frankenstein experiment developed by a specific employer. No; it was a compilation of several experiences and the way I processed it. My identity won’t change unless I change it myself, no matter if I’m employed by one employer for the rest of my life, work for myself or become a freelancer. This identity comes with me.

And with that notion, I began to feel better about the change. Maybe I haven’t found my “home” yet, but I no longer feel like I’m a wanderer that doesn’t belong. This is all about growing up and the sooner I get used to it, the better I’ll be at bouncing back without missing a beat.

I know well enough that I’m not the only one who has experienced this situation when going through a transition, voluntary or not. Letting go, moving on and getting used to a new chapter in your life (personally and professionally) is not always easy. An important reminder is to know that no matter what happens; you don’t lose yourself or what you’ve accomplished when something comes to an end. In fact, it’s just another addition to help shape your transformational identity.

 

Why Being Content Terrifies Me

Typically, I write about some sort of HR topic but it’s nice to internally reflect every once in a while. Some readers might relate to me in this post while others might think I need therapy to avoid a future nervous breakdown. Regardless, this is a topic that many people have probably considered several times throughout their lives and could be applied to any part of it. Today, I’m reflecting on what it means to be content and why it terrifies me at this stage of my life.

While growing up, I recall doing just enough to get good grades in school. Once I entered the real world, I did what I was told, followed direction from my superiors, and tried to quietly do my work well enough without causing any need for red flags or to be in the limelight. It was easy. I progressed slowly and steadily. I felt content in what I was doing and then one day it dawned on me that this way of living was not going to cut it.

Contentment for me meant settling. It meant just skirting by in life. It meant being involved in things that let me sleep soundly rather than having maddening (yet amazing) ideas keeping me up at night. It meant that I was blending in, trying to tip toe through life so I played it safe. I often wondered why many days I felt uninspired or like something was missing. Then I realized that I wasn’t doing anything that spoke to me as an individual.

It wasn’t until I lost my job over a year ago that I finally found something worth fighting for. I worked harder than I ever had in my life to figure out what mattered to me and how I could excel at it. I wanted people to see that spark in me, to recognize my hustle, and to see me marching full speed ahead. Did I have to be a pioneer? No, but I had to do something that made me feel like I was making an honest and unique impact. I wanted to have a voice worth hearing and I wanted to be worthy enough to be involved in conversations with people I admired.

After finally discovering what it feels like to have something worth striving for, I don’t want to be simply content any time soon. Sure, some days my head hurts from absorbing a ton of information and I might be exhausted from the extra work I put in, but in the end I’m doing something that I’m proud of. I can look back on it and know that I was the one who made that happen and that any successes I encountered throughout my life were due to my hard work.

Being content might be an option for me far down the road but definitely not now. Some might argue that I push too hard and that I’m not taking the time to feel satisfaction for the goals I have achieved along the way. To me, hitting a goal is just an affirmation that I’m making the most of my energy and effort. They’re not meant to be a resting or stopping point. At this time, I’m perfectly ok with how I’m progressing as long as I’m doing it well and with integrity. This is my time to feel things greater than contentment and I’ll keep moving forward to ensure I continue to feel this sense of stimulation and accomplishment in the things that matter to me.

How I Changed My Failure into a Win

About a year and a half ago, my confidence took a solid beating. I had lost a job that I thought I was going to have a future with. Then, I got sucked into the tiresome cycle of temporary assignments that just generally wore on me. I was tired of starting over. I was tired of being underutilized. I was tired of having to go through the stressful cycle of job hunting each time the assignments ended. My resume was lost in the ATS black hole and being rejected interview after interview was not helping whatever little faith I had left in myself. I let questions like “what did I do wrong?” or “why am I not good enough?” or “why doesn’t anyone want to hire me?” torture me on the many nights that insomnia took over. Staring at the four walls of my apartment with the feelings of fading hope for the future put me in a dark place. I was defeated.

The negativity I felt about myself was the reason why I couldn’t move forward. Whether the failures or shortcomings were true or not, I let them waste valuable time I could have spent building myself up. Eventually, I let my “like-a-phoenix” mentality take over and I rose from those ashes. This time I was going to be the one telling people who I was and what I could do, not the other way around. I would be the one defining myself. I didn’t want to settle for something that didn’t feel right just so I could be employed on a permanent basis. I didn’t want to put myself in a situation that completely buried whatever little spark I had left. I was meant for more.

My newly found motivation caused me to reevaluate myself. I took the time to remember what I loved about working, my industry, and business as a whole. I considered what I wanted to be known for in the industry (at the time, I didn’t realize I was branding myself). Instead of trying so hard to fit neatly in the box that job descriptions put candidates in, I decided to go rogue. I brought my knowledge and experience to life. I gave it a voice and a purpose.

At first I gained momentum by sharing thought-provoking questions in relevant online groups. I was consistent and kept the conversation going. I made myself available to network with people further. Eventually, these conversations sparked my need to share my learnings. From there, my blog was born and I dedicated time to write to it regularly, sometimes even up to five times a week. I realized that the blog was a good portfolio builder but how was I going to get the word out? Social media was the answer and I ended up coming across a whole new world of business and social learning because of it. Discovering this social side of business changed the way I saw business overall. I was entranced.

The right person saw what I was doing and a few weeks later I landed a job. After achieving the ultimate goal I was aiming for (employment), I would have thought all of the effort I was putting in would eventually die down. Little did I know, all of these things became a part of who I am. What I did while I was trying to regain footing after my failure ended up changing my work ethic. It created my personal brand. It gave me something to be accountable for. More importantly, it allowed me to add value to my employer on a consistent basis.

Doing this has afforded me so many opportunities, personally and professionally, that gives me a sense of pride. I stopped waiting for people to tell me whether they thought I was ready or not and consistently made myself a better person on my own. I’m impressed with how much I grew once I broke through the barriers. I’m ecstatic that an employer not only saw this in me, but I’m also glad that they help keep that fire burning within myself. I’m grateful for my failure because it’s the reason why I am who I am today.

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Clearing the Misconceptions about Recruiters

Recently, a friend forwarded me a snarky blog post written by an individual giving technical recruiters “tips” on how not to be hated by technical candidates. I get it- technical candidates are contacted multiple times a day by recruiters and sometimes with job openings that aren’t relevant to their skill-set. I would be annoyed after a while, too. But as I read through the blog post further, I actually started to see that he was off-base on a lot of points he made and seemingly generalized recruiters into one “type.” After thinking about this, I started to wonder if other people who weren’t familiarized with the recruiting and talent acquisition industry had the same thoughts. If so, then I think it would be best to break them out of this one-size-fits-all mentality about recruiters.

I would like to clear the air about the following areas and help people outside of this industry understand our purpose a little bit better:

  • We don’t all work for commission: Yes. There are recruiters out there that work for agencies that only pay based on certain metrics. But that only makes up a small portion of recruiters. I’ve had people angrily say to me, “Well, what do you care? You’re only doing this to make your commission.” No. Wrong. Whether I hire you or not has no effect on my paycheck. Making a bonus has no part in the reason why I’m contacting you. I honestly reached out to you because I’m trying to find quality candidates for my client and I thought you were a potentially high caliber candidate.
  • We’re not sales people: Sure, sometimes recruiting duties have some similarities to sales functions. But that doesn’t make me a sales person. Some metrics are just to ensure that we are not only finding quality people, but that we’re also finding it in a timely manner. As much as I would love to find the best person ever, sometimes companies don’t have that time luxury. But regardless of this, it still does not make me a sales person. What I love about recruiting is the ability to help people find work and help companies find the person that can make their organization better. It’s about discovering the connection that benefits both parties.
  • We’re not all looking to hire temporary or contract employees: Sometimes companies don’t have the bandwidth to handle the tedious and long processes it takes to source and recruit candidates. They sometimes hire outside help to assist with their time sensitive positions. A good portion of those times, the positions are full-time, permanent, direct hires with the companies. So it may be best to clarify this with a recruiter before writing them off.
  • Trust me, we’re doing our homework: Just like you don’t appreciate having your time wasted by people reaching out to you for completely irrelevant job opportunities, we don’t like wasting our time searching for and connecting with candidates that aren’t a fit. In the blog article I mentioned earlier, the individual said something to the effect that “recruiters don’t do their homework.” I know several recruiters, including myself, that spend hours every day trying to educate themselves through various means. We try our hardest to wrap our heads around the lingo, the details, the expectations, and so on but sometimes we fall short. There is only so much we can learn about a job or industry without actually going to school for it or without actually working in it. It would almost be the same case as when a candidate first broke into their new job or first started going to school for a specific subject. Sometimes you can’t fully learn something until you do it for a while.
  • We take your feedback into consideration: On the same note as the “homework” thing, I’ve had plenty of candidates give me some detailed reasons about why a job was or was not a fit for them. Some even explained a few of the industry terms to me. Not only did I appreciate it, but I also shared it with my team so they can learn. Additionally, if the candidate said they weren’t a fit but gave me details of what they’re looking for, I’d happily pass them to someone who is recruiting for something more relevant. Your feedback does not go in one ear and out the other.
  • We’re not always recruiting for ONE job: We may reach out to you for one job because it seems like that’s what you’re most fitting for. However, there are plenty of times that we are recruiting for other positions or know someone who is recruiting for other positions. Instead of ignoring the phone or email, give us an idea of what you’re looking for (even if it’s passively) so we can hopefully help you down the line.
  • We’re extremely connected with each other: I wish I kept track of how many times I passed along a candidate to recruiters inside and outside of my organization. Sometimes I can’t help a candidate but know someone who could. I’ll try and get that resume to the appropriate person. I’ll try to help even if it doesn’t benefit me or my company. This seems to be pretty common in our industry (at least to me it seems so). I’ve worked with recruiters in different companies and different hemispheres to help candidates and vice versa. But just like a recruiter can positively recommend a candidate to someone, they can also be the reason why a candidate is not recommended. Remember to keep your interactions professional to ensure all recruiters have the correct perception and impression of you and can make those positive recommendations.

There are so many more points I can touch upon but I think this will do for now. Yes, there are recruiters out there that fit the negative outlook that the blog writer had indicated in his post. But it’s only hurting him to shut out all recruiters because he thinks this is how they all are. Recruiting is not an easy job. It involves a lot of research, strategy, and learning. We’re not just looking for ANYONE to fill a position, we’re looking for the RIGHT ONE. So before a candidate assumes that they’re just another random contact that has to be made to meet a recruiter’s metrics and goals, please consider the fact that we may be reaching out to you because we honestly think you could be the right person that our hiring manager is looking for.

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Early Career Lesson: The Thing I Wish I Knew

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More often than not, my friends like to joke around saying that I have a tendency to interview everyone I meet (I guess it’s naturally in my blood). I suppose that could be true but it’s mainly because I’m generally intrigued by people. It’s a common occurrence for me to ask probing questions to someone I’ve just met. Where are they from? Why are they here? What do they do for a living? Is it something they love? How did they fall into that? A simple story of someone’s life, no matter how boring it might seem to them, is actually one of the most interesting things I can come across. After one of these conversations over the weekend, I finally had the chance for someone else to turn the tables and ask me some thought-provoking questions. The one that stuck out the most to me was: what do you wish you knew getting into your career?

I met a younger woman this weekend who was just starting out in the full time, professional working world. She was smart, hopeful, ambitious, and driven, which just impressed me. Needless to say, I was ecstatic when she asked me about a life lesson I wish I knew when I was first starting out. I know all those sayings: hindsight is 20-20; the lesson is in the journey; and so on and so forth. Yes, I agree that sometimes you need to stumble and fall in order to learn what you can do better. But if I had a chance to pass on some life lessons to someone that was eager to learn, I definitely wasn’t going to waste that opportunity.

I remember being extremely frustrated early on in my career. Just like the young woman I met, I was hopeful, ambitious, and driven. I wanted to do great things and I wanted to be given the opportunity to contribute something to the company that I worked for. I wanted to leave something behind if I ever felt the need to move on. Those feelings and dreams were soon crushed after a little while of working at my former employers. I waited…and waited…and waited. And finally, I was so disengaged and disheartened by my employers’ lack of opportunity, that I would find myself leaving places to see if I had better luck elsewhere.

After years of this, I quickly realized that I shouldn’t be so dependent on my employer. It wasn’t up to them to offer me projects, education, or promotions. I shouldn’t have believed that they were the only way I could progress in my career or expand my learnings. My lack of growth wasn’t their issue, it was mine. My employer isn’t my only resource for career development and knowledge building. If I truly cared about my progression, it was my job to make that happen.

If the opportunities to partake in conferences, take classes, or network with industry professionals weren’t an option at my company, I needed to make the effort to do that on my own. If there wasn’t a stretch project that I could do that would enhance my career, I needed to pitch it to my employer and make it happen. Sometimes, you need to go outside of your immediate circle (aka organization) to grow and then bring back that value. You need to take initiative to take control of your own future and position yourself within your company. You need to find your worth and not wait for someone to hand it to you. Define yourself.

When I finally realized this, I found that my confidence had skyrocketed. I found a voice, I began to offer opinions, and I felt like they mattered. I’ve learned so much that it makes my head hurt some days. It’s indescribable when my managers now come to me for suggestions or advice. I felt like I did myself a favor.

Some days I wonder what would have happened if I realized I was in control of my development sooner. Would I have progressed further than where I am now? Would I be an industry expert or consultant? I’m not really sure but I am glad that I figured this out early enough to make a decent impact throughout my professional career so far. So, if there was one thing I could teach early careerists (or really anyone), it would be that you need to take initiative to develop your own career. We live in a time where resources are infinite and possibilities to do this are endless. Do yourself a favor and make the effort as soon as possible. You’ll be happy that you did.

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