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Hi, everybody.

Today is the big day. I’m addressing the graduates of Regent’s University London. I’m excited about my speech. There are almost 200 graduates and about 700 people will attend the ceremony.

Due to time constraints — and faculty who want to wrap this up quickly — my designated time has been reduced considerably. I’m now tasked with being brief, inspirational, and encouraging. The goal? Get these graduates to sign up for the alumni association!

Quite different than the original plan. But I’m honored and humbled to be asked to speak in any capacity.

I thought I’d provide a copy of my original speech as it was written. It takes about ten minutes to say aloud, and I know this because I’ve practiced this speech 17,000 times.

The shorter version will hit the highlights and be just as fun — but brief. And you can follow me on Twitter (or Jennifer McClure) if you’d like to see photos and highlights of the trip.

Wish me luck.

Love,
Laurie

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hr mothersMy cat, Roxy, is mesmerized by the M.I.L.F. $ video.

If you don’t know anything about it — and why would you because you have taste? — here’s the description from Wikipedia:

Set in a candy-colored town called “Milfville,” it features Fergie with a group of famous mothers, including Kim Kardashian West, Chrissy Teigen, Alessandra Ambrosio, Ciara, Gemma Ward, Tara Lynn, Devon Aoki, Angela Lindvall, Isabeli Fontana, Amber Valletta, and Natasha Poly as lingerie-clad 1950s housewives.

Later in the video, Fergie is shown waitressing at a soda shop, teaching a classroom full of rowdy, letterman jacket-wearing teens, and taking a bath in a tub filled with milk. The video ends with several mothers each shooting their own “Got Milf?” ads. Male models Jon Kortajarena and Jordan Barrett appear as a milkman and a bartender, respectively. Ambrosio’s daughter Anja and Teigen’s daughter Luna make appearances.

In the video, the milkman’s truck says “Milfman – Moms I’d Like To Follow.” Fergie said: “Changing the acronym [“MILF: Moms I’d Like to F**k”] to Moms I’d Like To Follow is about empowering women who do it all. They have a career, a family, and find the time to take care of themselves and feel sexy. With a wink of course.

Yeah, uh, barf.

I read enough mommy blogs to know that commentary about motherhood from mothers in the midst of being a mom is tricky. It’s like asking Donald Rumsfeld what he thought about the Iraq war while it was still happening.

“Death has a tendency to encourage a depressing view of war.”
“Don’t blame the boss. He has enough problems.”
“There are known knowns. These are things we know that we know. There are known unknowns. That is to say, there are things that we know we don’t know. But there are also unknown unknowns. There are things we don’t know we don’t know.”

Jesus, that guy was a moron.

However, without the benefit of time or emotional distance, all insights are tough. Moms generally don’t have the benefit of time or emotional distance because you’re never not a mom and there’s zero emotional distance.

Fergie’s attempt to talk about motherhood wasn’t great, but she made me think of all the fabulous mothers in HR that I follow who are role models for both parenthood and HR. There are some good ones out there who are authentic, honest, and share their incredible experiences with the world.

If you want some mothers to follow in HR, here’s my list. (Note that some of these accounts might be private. Don’t be jerks, but ask to follow if you’re interested in following business professionals who are immersed in both motherhood and HR.)

susanlamotte
tiffanykuehl
jennarosehenley
jeanneachille
jensmack
czarinaofHR
MarySlayter
BethWolfe
thebuzzonHR
onthe10brink
franny0
LisaRosend
gethiredbycat
chavrilla
jennydevaughn
stacyzapar

I could do this for hours.

You won’t see HR ladies pouring milk all over themselves and pretending like it’s a feminist statement, but you may find some working mothers you’d like to follow.

Enjoy!

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The one area where I’ve consistently failed during my entire career is office politics.

I’m so bad at it.

When I first started working, I could barely navigate the landscape of my HR department. I walked into a minefield of hormones, broken promises, and horizontal envy. I thought the way to make a name for myself was to stand out like an alpha. Unfortunately, I was five feet tall and not very impressive. I mostly just acted like a brat.

Once I understood the hierarchy of HR — and how I would always be at the bottom — I looked out at other departments. No matter the organization, my boss always had a political “thing” going on with other bosses. Not only did I have to manage up, but I also had to manage out.

Then I noticed how the executive leadership team and board members had their own gripes and grievances about next-level stuff that I didn’t understand. My HR bosses managed up, managed out, and then watched the competition unfold at a whole new level.

The best HR leaders tried to shield us from company gossip. Or they shared the gossip as a symbol of trust. The worst bosses gossiped about it to us, and we gossiped about it among ourselves. Gossip makes the day go faster.

Maybe there’s an HR department that isn’t mired in politics. Maybe there’s an HR department that doesn’t keep score and doesn’t know who is sleeping with whom. And maybe there are HR professionals who genuinely don’t care about office politics.

But I don’t know those people or those companies.

At some level, politics and drama are human. If you breathe air and drink water, you’re probably pissing someone off.

But in the worst companies with the crappiest morale, I suspect that politics and drama are the forces that keep us coming back to our dumb jobs. If we have a relationship with people, even on a basic level where we complain about them, we’re invested in coming to work every day.

So even when I was fumbling my way through the political scene at work, I was still coming to work and paying attention. Maybe, in that way, HR office politics weren’t such a bad thing.

Maybe.

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sarah white brennanToday is Sarah Brennan’s birthday.

You’re like — who the hell is Sarah Brennan?

I’m like — she’s Sarah White, but she’s got a new last name in late 2014 because she married a dude named Jake.

You’re like — I still don’t know her. Is she new?

No, Sarah Brennan is not new. We met at an HR technology conference before anybody knew anything about social media, and we became fast friends.

I like Sarah because she has a ton of empathy — for HR professionals, for executives, and for anybody who’s ever had to use really bad work-related technology.

Sarah is very practical. In her world, stuff doesn’t have to be so hard. The world of work is full of enough drama and hassle. Let’s try to make work less difficult, okay?

I’ve seen Sarah speak at a few events, and she’s totally relatable. She lives near Milwaukee and talks about the pressure (and joy) of being a working mom. She knows how to prioritize issues in her life, and she wants to make sure that HR professionals and recruiters are sensitive to the needs of applicants, candidates, and employees.

I also love being friends with Sarah because she keeps it simple and very real. She’s not telling me what I want to hear unless I tell her, “Please tell me what I want to hear.”

I seek her advice on all sorts of important issues. Should I cut my hair? No, because you’ll just complain about it. Do I want to speak at another HR conference this year? No, you are burned out and you want to stay home with your husband and cats. Should I believe in unicorns? No, unicorns aren’t real.

I’m a piece of work, and I appreciate how Sarah is like — You’re being a piece of work and maybe you should step away from the internet and go to Target for awhile.

It’s a pretty good friendship peppered with discussions about HR technology and celebrity gossip. You should be so lucky in your lives to find someone like Sarah!

So let’s all wish Sarah (White) Brennan a happy birthday. She’s no longer on Facebook and doesn’t do very much social media, anymore, but we can make her feel loved by sending out a tweet.

And let’s never forget her sage advice: don’t cut your bangs!

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no excusesI spent the first thirty years of my life making a lot of excuses about my job, my wellness, my mental health, and the overall state of my life.

Some of those excuses were true. Many were lies I told myself.

Those days aren’t entirely over. I’m full of shit and lazy on countless occasions. But I’m also fully aware that I’m wholly accountable for all experiences in my life. From missed workouts to missed opportunities to be kind, it’s all on me.

So here I am, in the dog days of summer, unapologetically making excuses about why I don’t want to wake up and run.

The list is long. It’s hot out. I’m sore. It’s also rainy. I’m really effing tired. My hormones are off. I’m either having my period, just had my period, or about to get my period.

Nothing but excuses, some of which are valid.

But here’s the thing: I make excuses, but I don’t quit. I actually enjoy complaining, which is an awful character flaw, but it’s mine. Then I get my ass out of bed and do whatever needs to be done.

So I’m sticking to my program, dodging summer thunderstorms, managing my period, and waking up at 4:45 AM to work out 4x/week. And I’m whining about it.

With thirteen weeks left until the Chicago Marathon, this is my strategy. I will hate every moment of this until it’s over, and then I’ll look back on it fondly. And I’ll probably have my period for the entire length of my marathon training. Let’s all just get used to it, okay?

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Here are my top 5 issues for HR professionals that will impact your job for the rest of 2016.

  1. The election. I’ve been telling you for years that HR sits at the intersection of work, power, politics and money. This election is an HR election. Watch accordingly.
  2. HDHPs. High-deductible health plans are all the rage. Too bad most Americans can’t manage their money or health. If you’re not up-to-speed on what’s happening in healthcare, you might be too late to make a difference and impact your company’s strategy.
  3. Student loan debt. If you don’t think your entire workforce isn’t affected by student loan debt, you don’t know the American household. Parents and grandparents are postponing retirement because they paid for their children’s education through loans and second mortgages. Gen Xers are disengaged and still paying off unsubsidized Stafford Loans from the mid-1990s. Millennials with student loans from for-profit universities that offered a lackluster education are applying for your jobs in droves. And you’re trying to develop new talent from an emerging generation of workers who wants nothing to do with college. Good luck with your staffing plans.
  4. Immigration. The H-1B visa process is only one aspect of a system that is messy, tumultuous, bureaucratic and driven by mounds and mounds of paperwork. We can’t build a wall to protect us from the tourists who overstay their visas, and we can’t seem to find a balance between creating a culture of innovation and protecting American workers. The whole system feels like a crapshoot, doesn’t it?
  5. Diversity & Inclusion. We’re so used to thinking in linear ways. White men versus the world. Straight people versus gay people. What happens when race and gender are non-binary? What happens when we remove bias and everybody is mediocre because our schools are failing us? What happens when I need to pee in North Carolina? We’re no longer talking about quotas, folks. We’re talking about identities.

Those are my top 5 issues for the rest of 2016. I also want to talk about gun control and the related issues of worker protection, systemic racism, and even domestic violence. But let’s save that discussion for another time.

HR has enough on its plate, today.

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There’s a movement in my industry called “HR Positive.”

You guys are sharp. I don’t need to draw you a map. It’s about saying positive things about HR and being helpful instead of critical.

Being positive is a good way to live your life. Why be a jerk if you don’t have to be a jerk? Nothing good comes from incessant nit-picking and infighting.

I like to think that I’m HR-positive. I know you don’t believe me, but it’s true. Skeptics like me believe that things are flawed and broken. But here’s the cool thing: we notice the flaws because we can see the hopeful possibilities.

And because I’m so damn positive, my heart is broken when I consider the gap between where we are and where we could be.

For all the HR-positive talk, we can’t even oversee the eradication of the wage gap in HR — let alone across the entire business landscape. HR is mostly women, and yet American HR departments manage some of the worst family leave policies around the globe. And our biggest HR celebrities are older men and women — people who used to work in senior-level roles at big brands — and were fired.

Fired, you guys. Ripped to shreds by former employees. Noted in online journals as being some of the dumbest, most tone-deaf individuals in the history of business.

That, my friends, is why I’m HR-positive with an asterisk.

I believe in you — my readers, my friends, my colleagues — and I think you can make a difference. I don’t believe in anybody who currently holds a position of power in HR and thinks she’s doing a good job. And I certainly don’t believe in anyone who was fired, whether he or she sits on a board or not.

Until HR can solve real problems related to work (and not just brag about employer branding strategies), I’m going to be slightly cynical.

Well, I mean “slightly cynical HR-positive.”

It sounds like a terminal illness, doesn’t it?

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kill meI’m headed off to India in less than a month for TechHR16.

I’m super excited to attend. It’s wonderful to meet HR leaders and recruiters from around the world. And, based on my networking schedule alone, I will be jetlagged and hoarse when I’m done with the event.

Kind of cool. Then I’m off to see the Taj Mahal.

But traveling to India is no joke. I am not on top of my vaccinations, so I contacted Passport Health and arranged an overview. I expected to get a few shots and be sent on my way. Instead, they gave me a comprehensive briefing and talked to me about traveling alone as a woman.

It was awesome and insane.

Other than misspelling my name on my report, we went through all the different ways that I might die. The scenarios include Malaria, Dengue fever, Japanese encephalitis, and murder. I learned that Delhi has one of the highest rates of violence against women around the world.

I also found out that I’m at risk of all different kinds of hepatitis, both at home and abroad, along with typhoid. And, by the way, 50% of American tourists get travelers diarrhea when in India. So I was given a lesson on what to eat, what to drink, and what to avoid.

Side note: I was told to avoid dogs and monkeys in India since I’m skipping the rabies vaccination. I’m a dog magnet, so this will be interesting.

When I told my nurse that I went to Havana without any problems — dogs or otherwise — she gave me a look that was similar to the “surprised emoji face.” Apparently, I’m a woman who likes to take risks.

I do.

There are different ways to die all over the world. In America, it’s gun violence. In London, it’s the food. (Just kidding. It’s football hooliganism.) The best thing I can do is arm myself with information and play it safe.

So I had a ton of vaccinations, invested in badass mosquito repellent, signed up for Global Rescue insurance, scheduled another hepatitis combo shot before I leave, and filled a prescription for 100 mg of doxycycline for 37 days to ward off malaria. I’m also carrying Cipro because, you know, nothing kills diarrhea like a full-scale assault of antibiotics on your gut.

And, here’s another piece of info, you just can’t fly to India like it’s no big thing. You have to get a visa. In my case, I had to get a business visa, which was no easy feat since I’m a writer and that process takes bazillions of years. So we changed my status to “consultant,” which is true but sorta breaks my heart. The visa went through without a hitch.

India won’t kill me, but HR might.

Nevertheless, I’m excited to go!

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social media diet

My social media diet failed. More specifically, I failed at giving up social media and watching the news for thirty days.

June was a heartbreaker of a month. Avoiding the press coverage of Orlando was tough. The Supreme Court made historic rulings that were important to me. Also, Istanbul.

So much. Too much. Ugh.

When it was pretty clear that staying off social media 100% wasn’t going to work, I made a pact with myself to check my feeds 2x day. But that was the wrong move because lurking is just a nice way of saying “stalking.”

And just like you can’t give up alcohol but also have a morning drink, you can’t quit social media unless you quit it.

But June wasn’t a total failure. I do appreciate the reduction of HR tweets in my social media diet. Nothing gives me more joy than forgetting I have a LinkedIn account, even if it’s just for a day or two. And while I appreciate how my friend Lars posts all his favorite articles from NPR on Facebook — and he’s an excellent curator and totally aligned with my tastes — it was fun to visit the NPR website on its own.

I’m glad July is here. I’m not rushing to install any apps back onto my phone — except Instagram. (I missed posting photos of my cats, of course.) But I’m on to my next monthly challenge. In July, I’ll be giving up bread and pasta and trying to eat like an athlete instead of a frat boy.

Happy July, everybody. Hope it’s a good one for you.

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career coaching

When someone is depressed and asks me for career coaching, I send ’em to colleagues who are patient and know how to give guidance with the right touch.

That’s not me.

Here are the attributes of impressive career advisors in my network:

1. They are certified. Anybody can be a career coach. Some of the most unpleasant people I’ve met in my professional life were fired during the recession, couldn’t find jobs, and turned themselves into career coaches. When searching for an advisor, ask about degrees and affiliations. Also, check out The Muse. They ask their affiliated coaches to undergo a vetting process.

2. They are experts in a particular trade. Doesn’t matter which trade, but you want your career advisor to be good at something tangible. Don’t work with a career coach who is a leadership expert, for example, but hasn’t led anybody.

3. They are flexible. Lots of old school coaches out there will meet with you on their terms, not yours. Find someone who understands that you have a full-time job and may lack the freedom to take phone calls from your cubicle.

4. They are assessment-agnostic. Swear to god, I once met a recruiter-turned-career-coach who did people’s astrological charts as part of her package. That’s a random assessment, and it’s just as crappy as MBTI and The Birkman. Assessments are great if they give you some insight into yourself; however, remember that you’re paying for a clever coach and not the results of assessments you can take yourself.

5. They live their values. Very few people experience an optimized life, which is why very few people ought to be coaches. Nothing worse than a do-as-I-say-not-as-I-do advisor. Don’t be afraid to ask a coach how she is doing with her personal journey in life. Does she drink her own champagne? If not, look elsewhere for guidance.

I know lots of people, but I only know a handful of great coaches and advisors. Need someone? Let me know. I’ll do my best to make a love connection.

But maybe ask yourself this question: Is a career coach just another vehicle for procrastination and denial? And would the money spent on a career coach be better dedicated to lifestyle enhancements and personal wellness?

A week away from the job and the kids can do wonders for your perspective, and it might be easier on your budget.

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