One thing I’ve always prided myself on regarding my HR career is my passion for continuously putting in the work of learning and “skilling-up” to develop myself. There are several reasons why, the biggest being that in the new workplace, you must stay skilled up to stay employable.
Jobs can come and go at any time and for any reason, and this is the unfortunate reality of living in a country in which the majority of states have right-to-work laws (essentially meaning your employment can end at anytime for any reason so long as it's no discriminatory). But, what does this mean for you? It means completely re-thinking what it means to be an employee; you are not just an employee but a brand and your brand travels with you long after you leave your job.
Another way to think of it is this: employees are self-employed contractors that contract out their skills and experience to employers.
To remain competitive, you must protect your brand (professional, networking, building connections are a part of this) but you must also be diligent in developing and increasing your skills. And this work must be done, every day!
For me, “skilling-up” includes but isn’t limited to:
Job Market: Having a knowledge of local, national, and international hiring trends. I subscribed to local newspapers in areas I am recruiting for to learn about the economy
Human Resources: Changes in employment laws, union rights, and other HR-related information. The world of HR is ever-evolving, and so a good HR professional is always on top of the trends.
LinkedIn: Building relationships and establishing new connections.
Job Fairs: Attending job fairs to research other companies who might be recruiting for similar roles. This helps me analyze my own company’s ability to compete.
Certifications: HR certifications are a must! I have a Professional Human Resources (PHR) certification from the HR Certification Institute (HRCI) in addition to a few others. Having the PHR certification is important because you must renew every three years and you do this by taking classes to earn credits.
As you might imagine, this skill development and upkeep takes time, but it's worth it. So why shouldn’t you rely on your manager (at least solely) to help in your development? The answer is simple, you are responsible for your own career. Why put that power in the hands of someone who might not be invested in your long-term success? Like jobs, managers come and go, so you need to center yourself first in your career, which means being proactive when it comes to your training and development.
Further, most managers can’t, won’t, or don’t know how to do this.
If you are looking for how to get started, here is what I recommend:
Access First Resources: Often companies offer online learning/training classes. Ask about these programs and make it clear you want to be able to carve out time to take these classes. Other good places to access free information: LinkedIn! Leverage LinkedIn!
Research Tuition Reimbursement Programs: Looking to go back to school? Talk with your manager or HR to learn more about ways you can receive funding for continuing education. When I went to get my PHR, thanks to my research and communication with them, my company paid for my training and testing fees. My manager even agreed to pay for the renewal, saving me a lot of $$.
Reading is Fundamental: Subscribe to magazines or newspapers related to your field to stay abreast of changing trends and broaden your knowledge.
Schools: If you are an alumnus, you are sitting on a goldmine! As an alumna of Alverno College, I regularly attend campus events to help grow my network and access to information. Many of these events are either free or low cost, so don’t overlook them!
Of course, last but not least, just ask your manager or mentor (don’t have one then read my article on the importance of one: here). It doesn’t hurt and you never know where a conversation might lead you.