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Today is my niece’s birthday. She is eight-years-old and, in my opinion, absolutely sassy.

Last year, we celebrated her birthday in style. I booked a corner suite at the Hard Rock Hotel in Chicago that overlooked North Michigan Avenue. We held a surprise party at the American Girl Store, and then we went shopping for a doll. On top of that, we pierced the dolly’s ears because my niece isn’t allowed to have her ears pierced until she’s 16.

It was a huge day.

My niece lives in a regular, working-class home. She doesn’t want for anything in life, but it’s not as if hotels and shopping weekends are normal for this kid. Or most kids. That kind of life just happens on TV.

So, we got into our suite, and she said some funny things.

“I’ve never been this high up.”

Most people have never been more than 11 stories off the ground, so that’s fair.

“Is this all there is?”

I almost choked when she said it, but then I realized she was confused. She asked me, “Auntie Laurie, is this a hotel or a house?”

She couldn’t find the kitchen. That’s when I told her that room service is the kitchen. Let’s try it, shall we?

We had such a fabulous trip. We went to H&M and bought a tiara and some tights for her fancy birthday girl dress. Her eyes were like saucers, and she didn’t want to leave the store.

After H&M and the American Girl adventure, we saw all the important tourist attractions in Chicago and then went to Target. I promised her one toy, but she couldn’t find anything to buy. That’s when I saw the paradox of choice in full effect.

We were looking at Shopkins, which makes no sense to me but whatever, and some gramma said to me, “In my house, we don’t allow Shopkins.”

I said, “Lady, she’s not my kid. She can have whatever the hell she wants.”

My niece and I were rolling. Who is this bossy lady trying to tell us what to do? What did she just say to us? Obviously, she doesn’t know us. And, by the way, we didn’t buy anything at Target. Gotta love the paradox of choice. We went back to the hotel room and watched Finding Dory.

This year, I was worried that my niece was straight-up ruined. She would ask to go to Paris or somewhere fancy for her birthday, and I would have to tell her that Auntie Laurie killed her start-up and won’t have the budget for Paris. Unless she wants to go to New Paris, Indiana. That’s within the realm of possibilities.

But this kid is grateful, fun and unpretentious. She’s got some super awesome DNA from her mom. You know where she wants to go? A waterpark. In Wisconsin. After we go in the swimming pool, she wants to go to Olive Garden.

Done! God knows I’m going to have some insane stories. I can’t wait.

I never want to be that crazy aunt who acts like her nieces and nephews are her children. That’s not my style. I’m also not the aunt who sits at the kid’s table trying to reclaim my youth. No thanks. I want to be a positive influence in the lives of my nieces and nephews on all sides of my family, and sometimes I want to surprise a kid on her birthday and show her a good time.

I know my strengths. Swoop in, swoop out, have fun. The story of my life, my career, and my relationships. And, in that way, it’s super fun to be an auntie. I never expected a sassy little niece, but I wouldn’t have it any other way. I can’t wait to start spoiling my little nephew, too!

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The only reason Colin Kaepernick isn’t playing football is that the NFL and its team owners are trying to appease racist fans.

Before you email me and explain how capitalism works, I know that teams can hire anybody for any reason. They can also fire people for performance. But anybody who tells you that Colin Kaepernick isn’t playing football this year because of his performance is either stupid or racist.

You pick.

Stop yourself before you tweet at me and tell me that Kaepernick isn’t playing because he’s a distraction because I agree with you. Racist fans don’t want to be distracted by thoughts of police-on-black violence. It’s a distraction for racist fans to consider the lack of justice for Freddie Gray, Sandra Bland, Alton Sterling, Philando Castile and, now, Lamar Smith.

I already know you think some team will eventually pick up Kaepernick, but you believe that his performance will suffer. He’ll probably be rusty. That might be true, and funny how Kaepernick fares in this scenario. Works out fine for the NFL team who will be “brave” enough to hire him eventually. Works out well for racist fans who will say that Kaepernick was never as good as he seemed. Doesn’t work out well for Kaepernick who only wants to have an opinion and do his job — same as you.

And, just last week, I heard that this “media circus” is good for Kaepernick because he can work on behalf of causes that are near and dear to his heart. Like, you know, racial equality and keeping black people safe from racist cops. But if anybody out there thinks Kaepernick prefers to have the spotlight on him instead of playing football in a world where black people don’t die at the hands of cops, they’re either stupid or racist.

Again, pick one.

So, to summarize: The only reason Colin Kaepernick isn’t playing football is that the NFL and its team owners are trying to appease racist fans. If you’re not one of those racist fans, it’s time to start letting owners and executives know by reminding the NFL that you’re a consumer and you’re with Kap.

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My friend Mollie Lombardi has Parkinson’s Disease.

She’s not merely living with the disease. She’s promoting awareness, raising money, and kicking ass in her career.

Mollie organized a challenge: Get up, get moving, and track your steps. You can find more information on the HR Gives Back site. Sponsors will donate money to the Michael J. Fox Foundation in honor of your steps, and there are all kinds of prizes. You don’t need to donate cash. Just track your activity and play along.

I’m all in for this challenge, but I had a weird thing to confess: I don’t know a thing about Parkinson’s. It’s a neurological disorder, sure. But what does that even mean, bro?

Mollie gave me the scoop in this video that took us 125 times to record. She also told me why it’s hard to cure Parkinson’s. Turns out, it’s got something to do with recruiting!

I’m pleased to raise money and awareness to fight Parkinson’s disease. Head to the HR Gives Back website and enroll for the challenge, follow along on your favorite social channels, and follow Mollie to watch her journey unfold.

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My mentor, Naomi Bloom, knows how to kick a girl in the pants without making her cry.

After pressing pause on GlitchPath, I took the summer off and spent some time with my cats. Okay, that’s not accurate. I read some books, volunteered, and got back into running and Pilates. I didn’t write that book on failure, but I painted a few spare rooms in my house.

Naomi was thoughtful and encouraging, but she’s like — It’s time to contribute something to society, and I don’t mean blogging.

There’s a lot of truth in that. So, I sent out an email to friends and former clients. Told them that I’m bored and slightly depleted. I am not interested in a job for the sake of putting chicken in the bucket for the man. I need to reboot my life. Whatcha got?

A friend of mine responded back and was like — wanna do some cool stuff with me?

That might be an exact quote, actually. It was six weeks ago, and now I’m doing some consulting work for Zenefits.

(Wait, don’t google them. Fine, okay, google them. The search results will change over the next few months if I’m doing my work properly.)

I wasn’t going to write anything about this gig because nobody cares about my life enough to track my billable hours. However, I’m committed to being authentic and transparent. It’s important to tell you that I’ll be doing Zenefits work like attending their upcoming conference called Shift, but I’m not being paid to blog or tweet nicely about my experiences. That’s not part of the deal, although I’m excited to attend and contribute in a small way to the inaugural event. I think it’s going to be great.

So, I’m back on the road and splitting my time between Raleigh and San Francisco. I had to use hotel shampoo and conditioner because I forgot my toiletries at home and didn’t feel like running out to CVS when I woke up at 5 AM PT. It’s worth it. Super interesting work, friendly people, and a chance to work with some of the best minds in the business. It could be six weeks or six more years, but I’m excited to bring you along on this chapter of my life.

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Get ready for employee experience.

Employee experience is the number one topic that executives discuss when talking about their workforce. It’s not culture. It’s not passion. It’s not purpose or meaning.

Why employee experience? At their best, leaders want to be the change and dramatically alter the way you feel about your job. At their worst, they see themselves as smarter than you, and they operate as guardians of your activity at the office.

Whatever the reason, I am 100% down with a focus on employee experience because it’s an opportunity to remind ourselves of a few central truths about work.

    It’s time to enhance your hiring practices. You can’t create the best employee experience if your workforce is full of dicks. An employee journey will always have bumps along the way; however, instead of screening for cultural fit, it’s time to start testing recruits for manners and adult-like behavior. Some assessments can help you select candidates who score high for respect, appreciation, gratitude, and patience. Even your biggest go-getters and sharks can be kind and thoughtful human beings.
    It’s time to improve salaries. An employee experience doesn’t matter if workers can’t pay their bills. More and more people have side hustles and second jobs, which leaves them feeling run down and exhausted. Nobody has a good experience when they’re sleep-deprived.
    It’s time to use technology for good, not evil. An employee experience that comes with a seven-pound laptop and a mobile phone also comes with a ball and chain around your ankle. Professional workers don’t need massive devices sitting on a workstation and a thousand apps on their phone. They need to collaborate with their colleagues, have meaningful conversations, spend some quiet time reflecting on those interactions, and then go back and use technology to drive change with the lightest touch. It’s where design thinking meets management practices, and this is one of the exciting places you can explore if you work in HR and are intrigued by enhancing the employee experience.

It’s super cool to move away from a decade of “culture” at work and start talking about something new. But, to keep the employee experience from moving into a rote and faddish trend, begin with the end in mind.

Want people to stay? Learn? Grow? Improve the bottom line at your organization? Treat them like individuals who deserve to be compensated for their knowledge, hire adults to do adult work, and don’t saddle them with early 2000s tech to do jobs that move your company to 2020 and beyond.

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My friend Mollie Lombardi is passionate about finding a cure for Parkinson’s Disease. Because I love her, I’m passionate about it, too. That’s how life works. You get involved in charitable causes because you care about someone.

Mollie created a movement called HR Gives Back, and we’re doing a “steps challenge” before my very favorite HR Tech conference to raise money for the Michael J. Fox Foundation. So, I’m asking you to take a lot of steps and track them.

Here’s how you do this:

  1. Sign up using the form on this page.
  2. Make a $15 entry donation here. Hush, cheapskates, you have $15 for Mollie.
  3. Join the Facebook Group and get to know your team — East Coast versus West Coast.
  4. On Sept 25 you’ll be sent a link to start tracking your steps right on your phone! For the next 12 days (Through Oct 6) you just track whatever you do — steps, wheelies, laying in bed looking at the wall because you can’t stand another day of the Trump administration.
  5. During the 12 days, you can share your progress, invite people to sponsor your steps, and talk some smack on social media.
  6. Prizes to the individuals who raised the most money and did the most steps. But you’re not in this for prizes. You’re in this for Mollie.

Here’s a message from Mollie herself. Get involved, get yourself moving, and let’s fund research and cure Parkinson’s Disease!

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You need to stick it out at your job.

There’s a myth out there that, in the future of work, you don’t need to work somewhere for an extended period. You can bounce around companies—and that’s okay—because it’s all about being agile, nimble and disruptive.

I’m here to tell you that it’s a goddamn lie.

It will take you two years to do anything great at work. The first year is all about building relationships. The second year is all about doing the actual work you were hired to do.

It’s true if you work in sales, marketing, or even at a hot dog stand. You don’t know anything when you start your job. It takes time to ramp up and earn trust. When you’re finally granted the freedom to do your thing, it takes a minute to be successful.

You may think that’s nonsense. In today’s economy, it’s crucial to make an immediate impact with an employer. If you’re there for 18 months, that’s a win if you leave with some accomplishments under your belt.

But, the thing is, eighteen months is not enough time to rack up achievements. It’s barely enough time to get to know your boss and colleagues. If you’re bouncing from company to company every 20 months, you’re not making mature and meaningful connections with the people around you. Positive outcomes are attained only through trust and a mutual understanding of goals.

So stick it out.

And, by the way, it takes you 24 months to do anything great in life beyond work. Recently married? It takes at least two years before you get a real sense of your marriage and its cadence. You have the first year of being newlyweds, and the second year of being like, “Holy shit, I’m married. Pass the potatoes.”

I think divorce is like that, too. You have your first year of grief, then a second year of trying things out by yourself for the first time. If you can get through those twenty-four months, I hear that you rediscover your inner greatness.

And I also think that retirement, whatever it means in 2017, takes twenty-four months to understand. There’s the decision to retire, which takes at least a year of mental preparation, and then the first year where you redefine the way in which you operate in the world. Fishing? Hiking? Golfing? Going to the grocery store at 11 AM? It’s all new.

The change curve in life is steep, my friends, and I stand firmly on the side of patience and vigilance. If it takes two years to do anything great, the clock is ticking. Whether it’s getting stuff done at work or moving on with your marriage, the time to start is now.

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Today is Labor Day, the unofficial start of the job search season in America.

Are you looking for work? Are you tired of your current role? Before you jump into the fray, some good news: there are six million job openings in America. The bad news: six million people are looking for work and the jobs remain open due to mismatched expectations on wages.

Companies call it a skills gap, and they’re right: it takes skills to live on $8/hr, and most people don’t have ’em.

So it’s important for you to know that your compensation expectations might not be met in a new job. It’s true for hourly workers, and it also applies to the professional workforce.

I think the other thing to remember is that most jobs, if not all jobs, totally suck. Leadership teams are beholden to nameless, faceless boards made up of white men over the age of 40. People don’t know how to talk to one another. Co-workers assume higher levels of intelligence and competency than they display on a regular basis.

It’s true where you work right now. It’s true where you’re going to work. The only difference is you. Can you be quiet and patient? Can you continue to forgo autonomy and independence for a paycheck? Can you seek to understand instead of accuse? Are you able to forgive the small stuff and remember that you work for something greater than petty political battles?

For those of you thinking about bouncing to the self-employed market, the time has never been better — if the time was 2013 and Obama were still in office. Right now, there’s uncertainty about healthcare and tax reform. Politicians routinely squeeze earnings and incent capital gains. So, if you make above $100,000 but under $1,000,000, prepare yourself for bullshit taxes and increased regulation in the name of “reform.”

What I’m telling you is that work is work. Labor Day might be the unofficial kickoff to the job search season, but it’s also the unofficial kickoff to the season of dashed dreams and busted expectations. Maybe you can do things differently, this year, and vow to make peace with your current situation.

Does your boss suck? Are you working too many hours? Are you spending more than you earn? There are ways to fix your life and improve your happiness quotient without jumping ship to another company.

The answer to a bad job isn’t another bad job. The answer is to examine your priorities and remind yourself of what matters in your life. Define your values. Set up some boundaries. Do less emotional work at the office and more emotional work with the people you love.

And stay off the job boards. If you’re going to find a new role, it will be from someone you know — or someone they know — and not through a website that ends with dot com.

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Hey, everybody. How’s your summer? Things are fine over here. I killed my company, got food poisoning with my husband, and had to cancel a trip to see Green Day at Wrigley Field because my brother is going to Rwanda.

You know, just an ordinary summer around here.

I’ve spent most of the summer at home, which is new for me. A couple of weeks ago, my neighbor sent me a text in the middle of the afternoon. Was I around? Could I come over and take a look at an injured cat under his porch? He’s not a cat person, and he doesn’t like to see animals suffer.

Not sure anybody likes to see animals suffer, but I didn’t have time for a discussion on human psychology. I rushed over and saw a pretty horrific sight: Mister Snuggles, my other neighbor’s cat, was suffering in a bad way.

Mister Snuggles belongs to a guy who lives behind me in the woods, as much as any outdoor cat belongs to anybody. Snuggles is part of a colony of rescued black cats. They live in the woods because they have nowhere else to go. I love having them around because they eat moles and chase snakes out of my yard. Snuggles, in particular, is a glorious beast. He has long black fur with chocolate undertones, and he likes to sun himself on my driveway and pee on my neighbor’s porch.

So, anyway, Snuggles got into a fight with a car and it wasn’t good. His body was all twisted and mangled. He was crying gobs of mucus from his eyes. To make matters worse, his dad was out of town.

I won’t give you any additional details, mostly because I don’t want you to puke, but I wasn’t sure we could move Snuggles safely. Would he bite? Would I hurt him more if I scooped him up? My neighbor called animal control to intervene, and I worked the phone and email for 24 hours to find the owner. I was also able to zoom over to animal control and check on Snuggles, who was suffering and on a ton of pain meds, and let them know that I was trying to track down the owner.

Eventually, I reached my neighbor. He was able to see his cat before they had to euthanize him. I have some peace about that.

Since that afternoon, I haven’t been able to return to animal control for my volunteer shifts. While I’m sure somebody accidentally clipped Mister Snuggles with their car on the county road and didn’t realize it, I’m just shaken by the experience of seeing an animal suffer. It’s gonna take some time before I can go back to that building.

But there is some good news. Green Day is coming to Raleigh, tonight, and, in the ultimate #treatyoself move, I bought myself a VIP ticket. Snuggles would’ve wanted it this way. Gotta end this summer on a high note with one of my favorite bands. I have a ton of pent-up anxiety that I can unleash in the mosh pit. I want to punch Nazis in the face and chew bubblegum, and I’m all out of bubblegum.

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Back in 2008, I felt like a rock star. I had a blog, and I was going to take on the world. The first destination for world domination? The annual SHRM conference.

I sent an email to Sue Meisinger, the CEO of SHRM at the time, and was pretty direct. I wrote something like — Hey, I’m Laurie Ruettimann. I write a blog called Punk Rock HR, and it’s awesome. You should read it. Can I come to SHRM for free? Will you give me a press pass?

That’s not an exact quote, but it’s close. Lots of “I”s and “me”s and not much else.

Sue wrote back almost immediately, and she was equally direct. It was like — I’m busy with some personal stuff, and, also, I’m retiring. I know what a blog is, duh. Have fun at the conference. Find William Maroni if you need anything.

Again, I’m paraphrasing the exchange, but I was in awe of her leadership skills. She was like Jean-Luc Picard, and people truly listened to her.

“Make it so.”

Her team was awesome, and they “made it so” for three white guys who thought they invented blogging and me. I had a great time at that event, and I formed relationships with people who work for big HR technology companies that still exist today. And Sue continued to stay in touch, and she always donates to my Hustle Up the Hancock race in honor of her sister. I think about them both as I climb nearly 100 flights of stairs to beat lung disease.

Sue Meisinger has long since retired from SHRM, and she just wrote her final column over at HREOnline about what it takes to be a successful practitioner and leader in human resources. You could do worse than to follow the advice of a woman who kicks ass and takes names like Sue, and I hope you read it.

I also hope Sue finally follows through on her threat to retire from the HR world. Good grief, this woman deserves a break from the world of performance management and talent acquisition software. And, while she has big shoes to fill, I’m sure she has trained and inspired enough people who will follow her common-sense-style and make life a little better for the next generation of HR professionals.

I know she has inspired me.

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