No matter where you are in your career – candidate, employee, or ex-employee – you will always have to interact with someone in HR. This magical person can be your key to success, so make sure to stay on their good side (we like cupcakes and Starbucks). After being in the HR world for over nine years, and speaking to some of my HR coworkers, here are some tips that have nothing to do with making sure your email address is NOT firstname.lastname@example.org – but if it is, please change it before any work-related correspondence.
1. Check your entitlement at the door.
NOTHING is more important than hard work. You may have graduated top of your class, or had a start-up Etsy shop that rocked (fabulous!), but there are others that have shed blood, sweat, and tears to get where they are in the company. You are awesome, which is why we hired you, or are considering doing so, but if you’re cocky, you’ll quickly become a pain in the ass and your coworkers and managers will be talking about you… often time to those with decision making power. Don’t rely on what got you the position to keep you in the position. Get to know your work and become an expert. Work smart and think beyond the task at hand, but don’t think you are too good for the grunt work – remember, from the janitor to the CEO, everyone’s role is critical, so tackle every task with the right focus.
2. Guard your reputation and beware of “work friends.”
It is okay to have a great working relationship with coworkers that translates into a happy hour or a long lunch— this may even be the key to keeping your sanity. But, keep these outings on a professional level, especially if your boss is around. Do not let that second or third martini push you over the line, and make you let your guard down, or you may end up saying (or worse, doing) things that make their way back to the office.
And complaining about work, your boss, or coworkers? Be very, VERY careful. Even if your boss or coworkers complain to you, don’t sink to that level. Express frustrations assuming your boss’s boss will hear them. Don’t gossip; offer solutions. No matter how well you get along with someone at work, it is still a competitive environment and the leaders first priority is running their business.
3. Don’t wait for development.
I’ve been lucky to have bosses that have supported my development. However, that does not mean they proactively looked for classes, conferences, or certifications for me. If I found something that would benefit both the company and me, and I presented a business case, they would listen and were usually supportive. If you are able to develop yourself on your workplace’s dime, don’t take it for granted. And if the company is not willing to pay for development, that’s not an excuse. There are countless articles, blogs, videos, TED Talks, and local or regional events that are free or offered at a minimal cost.
4. Nothing is ever really anonymous/confidential
The goal of HR is to represent the employee and company in a professional, ethical, fair, and confidential way. Unfortunately, we are representatives for each employee AND the company, not your BFF or psychologist. If you expect to come to us with a big issue – i.e. sexual harassment – but don’t want us to say anything, be prepared for disappointment. As HR, I would never “call you out” to your boss directly, but, if an investigation has to take place, it may be easy for those involved to figure out who went to HR. And, while protecting you is our concern, we can’t ignore something that could later negatively impact you, another employee, or the company. Regardless, HR is a place to come for guidance and a voice – we are (or should be) the good guys. A good HR Manager can be trusted to listen and give advice or perspective, but also will intervene to do what is best for you (while making sure the company is not put in a legally liable position).
5. Ask for feedback, filter it, and then take it.
Not everyone is cut out to be a mentor. Sometimes you can get good, quality feedback from a direct supervisor, peer, or a director in another department. Make sure you’ve developed a professional and trusting relationship with the person from whom you are seeking feedback. Understand the position they are in and that their feedback is limited. Often when we ask for feedback, we make the mistake of telling someone our interpretation of the situation, and asking them to give us feedback based solely on our views. This guarantees that feedback will be one-sided or will not consider all the facts. Consider the feedback given and apply it, if it makes sense. Think critically, instead of blindly accepting the information given to you.
6. Being attention hungry won’t get your hired.
As I said before, the best way to get noticed is not by having a cocky attitude or drinking too many martinis at happy hour. If you really want to get noticed, work with a purpose. While you complete your tasks, find innovative ways to align with the strategy. Your job exists for a reason. It is just as important as any other job – a piece of the puzzle. Without it, the big picture cannot be realized. Look at everything you do as a building block for your career. Instead of focusing on your challenges or opportunities (that’s HR speak for “weaknesses”), find ways to make yourself valuable by maximizing your strengths to provide solutions. Always ask how you can do it better.
7. There is NO Drama in the board room
Well, if you’ve ever been in a leadership meeting, it isn’t always kumbaya and drama-free. But, until you are running your own company, there is no room for YOUR drama at work. Giving a standout presentation or hitting the mark with your research are great ways to get noticed. However, showing up late to a meeting because you were fighting with your significant other is a TERRIBLE way to get noticed. If you can’t handle the small things in a mature fashion, how can you be trusted with that next big account or that a-hole client that no one can manage?
As an HR Manager, I have read many articles on do’s and don’ts as a candidate for a job, or an employee. The fact is, there are so many things that an HR manager wants you to know (that aren’t always discussed) that I could have written at least 50 tips, tricks, and secrets I would want you to know. I’m sure you’ve read the obvious – have an appropriate email address, spell and grammar check, be wary of social media, but there are so many other tips that may apply depending on where you are in your career, your company, their culture, your leader, etc. Think critically, and remember to recover strong, and to try to give your best. A workplace isn’t the place to slack off— everyone is replaceable.
Tania is a compensation and HR professional, mother, wife, and cupcake lover. She’s getting the hang of Twitter, and loves traveling and writing.
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