Developing Leadership Skills

One would think that working in HR would give HR professionals great insight into the best ways to interview and look for positions. Ironically, this is not always the case. Most of the time HR professionals are swamped with work and don’t have the time (or sometimes the energy) to hone their skills in their own arena. This can lead to gaps in professional development and when that great opportunity comes available, HR professionals can fall short. If you are like me, it is hard to develop some of these areas while at work (just too darn busy!), so I need to find ways to polish my skills through other venues.

About 3 years ago, I started on a development binge, so to speak. I dove headfirst into all extracurricular HR activities I could find locally including memberships, certification and education. I immersed myself in total rewards, employee relations, recruiting and staffing management to get the most knowledge and experience under my belt. Fortunately, I had lots of practical experience through my work in many of the competencies of HR. As my knowledge increased so did my confidence level and I started to be seen as a “go to” person for many things HR. But I was lacking in one main area. In order to make it to my next step in my career goals, I needed to build my leadership skills and opportunities to build this type of experience were limited in my organization. So, I came up with some different ideas.

When I was studying for my SPHR in early 2008, I was a member of my local SHRM chapter’s, Coastal Organization of Human Resources (COHR), study group. The certification chair allowed me to take the helm and help put together and run some of our study sessions. This was an opportunity for me to both learn the material and develop leadership capabilities outside the traditional workplace setting and gave the certification chair the ability to concentrate on their own life and responsibilities. It was a win-win that helped both of us.

Fast forward to when the incoming President of COHR was assembling the 2009 Board of Directors. I was approached to serve as the certification chair, a role I was honored to be offered and happily accepted. This gave me the chance to join a leadership team consisting of my HR peers including many I viewed as mentors. I quickly took on additional duties including community outreach and scholarship coordination that helped me gain additional experience. It was a lot of work but I was happy to be learning and gained a greater understanding of being a proactive leader. Additionally, I used the opportunity to also study for and achieve my GPHR certification in 2009.

During the summer of 2009, the 2009 President Elect approached me to serve in the role of President Elect in 2010. This required a 3 year commitment (2010 President Elect, 2011 President and 2012 Past President) and included chairing COHR’s SHRM Foundation commitments and developing and executing the annual Executive Session event held in October. This was the opportunity I was looking for! I garnered the necessary support from my employer and happily started in the role in January 2010. Serving the members of COHR has given me multiple chances to build my leadership skills and learn how to interact with a Board in a non-HR role. This has lead to other prospects including attending several national and local SHRM Leadership Conferences and serving as Chair of the Compensation Committee for our local United Way chapter. And I love every minute of it!

So, when you see the email from your organization’s leadership asking for volunteers, think about throwing your hat in. Start off small or jump in feet first – whichever works best for you. I have found it to be one of the most valuable expansion opportunities I have ever had.

Don’t forget to CELEBRATE!


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