Not another HR Conference

cii.v4Last week, I headed to my third HR conference/conclave of the year. As I set yet another out of office message, I got a text from a colleague asking me what I expected to learn from the conference that I did not already know. The one word answer – ‘Nothing’. However, conferences are not always about learning something new. They often serve as good reminders to ask yourself hard questions and check if you are running on the right track. This post is a long drawn answer to that text from my colleague. And maybe, you’ll take away something too.

Here are my top four lessons from the conclave:

  1. Your career is a marathon not a sprint:

I’ve heard it a million times and I have begun to use it myself when I discuss career opportunities with peers and new entrants into the field. It is easy to get lost in comparison with those who began their career at the same time and feel as though you are slipping behind. It is far easier to confuse short-term gains with long-term benefits. I’m not asking you to stop chasing a fancy title and more pay. The request is to map out clearly what you want in the next 5 to 10 years and figure if your decisions are taking you there. We’re probably going to be working for over 40 years. Why not plan for the long haul?

  1. Chase new experiences:

I am guilty of not doing this enough. A long time ago, I’d done a series of posts on career mistakes I’d made. One of them was shying away from a new experience that was offered to me on a silver platter and sticking to what made me comfortable. I will always regret that decision. Constantly challenge yourself and chase experiences that push you out of your zone of comfort. If you can, take a stint in a field that has nothing to do with HR. Who knows – you may never return to HR. If you do, you’ll be a better HR professional than many around you. If you can’t do that, try learning and doing work that your clients (business teams) do. I know of three HR professionals who came with absolutely no coding experience but decided to learn to code. They created an app and never again did the business they support tell them that coding is something they’ll never understand. This is an area I am challenging myself to embrace in 2019, even if it’s only brushing up my CSS knowledge.

  1. Do not turn into a machine:

We’ve been tinkering with machines trying to make them more human while all the while, we are beginning to look a lot like machines. Emotional intelligence, creativity and empathy are aspects that are beginning to chip away as we push the workforce to achieve higher productivity and efficiency. Take time to add a little eccentricity to your life. A strict schedule helps only as long as it carves out time for you to think more. Don’t become a machine. Don’t follow rules, procedures and policies just because they exist. A machine can do that. Question why and think a little. That brain of yours can do wonders. Don’t under leverage it.

  1. Companies cannot thrive in societies that are failing:

This was without doubt the single most powerful session of the day. Companies view social responsibility as a legal mandate vs something they should consciously strive towards. Let us look at India. We hold 17% of the world’s population and 18% of livestock population yet just 2.4% of the global land area and a much smaller % of all other natural resources. Only `4% of the country’s water is used by industries while `90% goes towards agriculture, yet it times of water crisis, industries are the first to be penalized. It is necessary for organizations to actively think about and implement solutions that positively impact the societies they are present in. As Mukul Rastogi, Vice President ITC rightly said – ‘organizations cannot be successful in societies that are failing’. As HR professionals, we can do much to influence our organization to make a positive impact.

Apart from the many takeaways that the talks offered, I had the opportunity to connect with people I’d never spoken to and reconnect with known connections. Even if I had taken away nothing else from the conclave, this alone would have made the journey worth it.

I encourage you to sniff out the next gathering of professionals in your field and make an appearance. Do this as often as you can. You will not regret it. And of course, do come back and tell me all about it.

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