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New Year, New and Improved You: How to be a Better HR Manager

Posted by Elaine Varelas  December 1, 2009 08:56 AM

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By Elaine Varelas

December is here and 2009 is coming to a close (hold your applause, please!). While many of us are eagerly awaiting the end of this tumultuous year, there is no guarantee that a flip of the calendar will miraculously change the state of the economy. In fact, the New Year can stir up some additional anxieties. Many of us are asking, “What will next year hold? Will my company still be here in 2011? Will my job survive the year? While we don’t have influence over the global marketplace and can’t control all the issues that plague our organizations, there are some things we do have power over. We can control our professional development. We can become better at our jobs, stronger in our industries, and even more indispensible to our organizations. For the New Year, resolve to be a better HR manager. Here are six strategies for starting your New Year off right:

Keep your network alive—The biggest regret I hear from people in job transition is that they let their professional relationships slide. Even if your job seems safe, it’s never a good idea to neglect your network. Reconnect with former colleagues and managers. A vital part of networking is nurturing the relationships you have right now. Make those phone calls or set up coffee dates with colleagues, managers, clients, and vendors. You also want to build your network by cultivating new relationships. Make a goal to participate in at least one formal networking event each quarter—both within your profession and your industry. Ask your connections to introduce you to someone you want to meet. You also want to take those phone calls you are getting from those looking for work. You never know when you’ll be in that position yourself. Having a vibrant network is crucial in the job search, but it can also help you gain a well-rounded perspective for doing your job better today.

Be recognized as an industry expert—When your CEO is faced with a human resources dilemma, who is she going to call? Will she bring in a consultant or come straight to you? Build your reputation so that you become your organization’s “go to” person for all people-related business issues. Get at least one person (preferably a manager) from every company you’ve worked for to write a recommendation on LinkedIn. Start following recognized authorities in your industry on Twitter. Read one good business book each quarter. Read your local and national trade publications, and follow the general business media. It is important to be knowledgeable about HR issues, but you can make more of an impact at your company by becoming an industry and business expert. Once you’ve garnered this expertise, share it! Offer to speak at conferences and within your own board room.

Find a mentor—Maybe you think mentors are only for those just beginning their careers—think again. Mentors can serve as valuable resources for managers in any stage in their professions. Think about the goals you would like to accomplish in the short- and long-term. Do you want to hone a skill set or embark on a new challenge? How can a mentor help you reach these goals? Your goal can be lofty (I want to be a VP in five years) or more focused (I want to learn how to “tweet.”) Allow others to share their insights and expertise to help you achieve your aspirations.

Volunteer—Part of what keeps us grounded and focused in our jobs is keeping a larger perspective. One way to gain that perspective is through volunteerism. If your organization offers formal volunteer opportunities, take advantage of them. If not, try to initiate an organizational opportunity, or volunteer on your own time. You may be able to share a valuable skill with those who are in need—and learn something in the process. By helping others, you can help yourself—and your career.

Be kind—Take the time to listen to that “problem” employee or the prickly manager—the one you think doesn’t deserve your time. Sometimes there is a kernel of truth in that tired complaint. What can you learn by just listening? You may discover that you can address an issue affecting many people within the organization. You may also realize that just by listening, you can help turn that manager from prickly to pleasant (at least for a while).

Exercise resilience—The companies that have fared best under these uncertain economic circumstances have shown organizational resiliency. You can show personal resiliency as well. There is no telling what the future holds for this year or any time in the future. Take care of yourself—physically, mentally, spiritually, and professionally—so you will be better able to handle the challenges and opportunities 2010 may bring. Happy New Year!

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Featuring human resources advice and columns from The Boston Globe's On Staffing and Hire Authority writers.