A recurring side effect I experience as an HR Department of One in a geographically dispersed organization is loneliness. It is not uncommon to go days without audibly speaking with anyone as many of our communications are via email. In addition, since the main reason others reach out to me is to help solve a problem they may have, it is also rare that I am asked how I am doing. It is as it is as part of the role.
Throughout the years I’ve been in this position, I’ve learned I must intentionally source my own outlets and external connections so that I am better equipped technically and emotionally in tackling the various, sometimes complex issues that come up. Plus, sometimes it’s just plain fun to have someone to banter with on HR things or to walk through a situation when needed. However, as a shy extrovert, I’ve had to push myself to actually do so.
Although I am an extrovert, I have difficulties with initial social interactions, especially in gatherings and groups. I tend to be awkward and nervous when first meeting folks in social settings. I am the type of person who is fine being invited to speak on a topic, even when strangers are present, but please don’t expect chit chat in the elevator or at a conference table meal with strangers! I continually work to get outside of my comfort zone and that includes networking.
Networking has brought me much joy and opportunities for professional development. It’s such an exciting proposition that I would like to share some specifics on my connections with others both professionally and personally.
Some years ago, I joined an online Human Resources group where participants are primarily anonymous. Over time though, real relationships have formed as we share our day to day HR challenges and tangents about daily life. Soon after I joined this group, I relocated from one state to another. I shared about my struggles making friends as an adult and the outpouring of support was invaluable.
Another poster shared that they were going through the same things. It turned out she had recently relocated within a couple of hours from me and in an area I frequently visited for work. On one of those visits, we connected in person and the rest is, as they say, history. We’ve become best of friends, have met each other’s families, and have spent weekends together including some holidays. I cannot imagine my life without her.
During a time when I was looking for professional development opportunities, I joined the Association for Talent Development (ATD; formerly ASTD) and discovered they have a local chapter in my area, ATD Chattanooga. Although I had no idea at the time there was a local chapter, I also joined and was quickly embraced by many members (too many to name or link!). I was encouraged to actively engage as a member of the Board and was continually supported through that process.
I can honestly say joining ATD has been one of the highlights of my career and my involvement has connected me with many talented, knowledgeable, and helpful individuals who make my talent development journey half as hard and twice as good.
Through my involvement with ATD, I attended one of the annual ATD Chapter Leaders Conference which I believe is where I became acquainted with Christopher Lind. If you do not currently follow Christopher on LinkedIn, I encourage you to do so. One day while reviewing the LinkedIn feed, I saw Christopher’s response on a post by Matthew Ley. Matt’s topic struck a chord and I also responded although I did not know Matt.
Matt saw my post and reached out to connect with me. We set up a time to video chat and enthusiastically discussed leadership and development philosophies and values. This led to Matt facilitating a great discussion with our ATD Chattanooga chapter during the 2020 Employee Learning Week. Not only that, Matt has been one of my main supporters in starting and continuing this blog!
Fast forward to several months later when these connections come full circle. My best friend’s husband, the friend I mentioned above, was looking for someone to facilitate professional development within his team. Knowing Ty Schroeder’s leadership style and sense of professional values, I immediately thought of Matt Ley to lead this and was able to connect them. All of this was only possible through the power of connection.
Although I may sometimes feel lonely in my role, I’ve learned community comes in different forms and it begins with me. To remain connected, I must be vulnerable enough to reach out to others, and allow others to connect with me. If we are intentional, these networking opportunities can break from the superficial to meaningful professional and personal bonds.
How may we connect today?