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  • Writer's picturePaul LaLonde

The Expert with a Beginner’s Mind

“If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go with others.” – African Proverb


Note: This blog post is a contribution to the #SHRM19Blogger website. If interested in reading other amazing HR bloggers, please consider reading other posts there!

On March 19th, I had the privilege of presenting to the Rural Transit Assistance Center (RTAC) Conference in Springfield, IL. I was asked to present on the topic of HR challenges that rural transit operators face and how to overcome them.

As I was being introduced, the MC called me an “HR expert.” I was a little surprised by that description! I never really thought of myself as an “HR expert” before. It was a great compliment! Being considered by my peers to be an expert on something is an honor (so long as we don’t become complacent and stop learning; as the Zen master Shunryu Suzuki said, “In the beginner’s mind, there are many possibilities. In the expert’s mind there are few.” Always stay hungry for new learning!).

This got me thinking. Where does “expertise” come from? It’s certainly not something we wake up with one day out of nowhere! Expertise shows itself after years of many different experiences. First and foremost, it comes from our daily practice. The old adage is appropriate: Practice makes perfect!

Additionally, my own experience has shown that I have gained much knowledge from my peers. Networking to me isn’t about finding a job. It is about finding people who share similar and different experiences from which I can learn and make meaningful connections. Networking is about gaining friendships and a greater understanding of the world around me.

This is where I believe much of our “expertise” comes from – interaction with others! Some of the most amazing interactions I’ve had have come through my involvement with the local SHRM Chapter.

In 2016 I joined the Illinois Fox Valley SHRM Chapter, which is based in Elgin, Illinois. Immediately upon joining, I was impressed by how friendly and welcoming everyone was! The program was awesome, too! I learned so much that I had to stay involved.

Getting involved at the SHRM local level has been incredibly beneficial to my professional growth, my personal growth, and my organization. But don’t take just my word for it! The IL Fox Valley SHRM Chapter recently did a survey of membership, and here’s what some members said about why they joined the local Chapter:

I’ve been with ILFVSHRM for over three years. ILFVSHRM provides monthly luncheon meetings with relevant topics and great speakers, but the really great thing is the people. Being with a group of HR professionals that are facing the same challenges and issues allows us to share both our problems and solutions. The legal updates help us to stay current with the ever-changing laws. When any of us face a question without an answer, an email is sent, and almost immediately, the chapter members reply with great advice or solutions. I don’t know how or why an HR professional would want to do this process on their own when there is such a wonderful option – ILFVSHRM! – Warren Krupp, HR Manager, RESTORE Hair, Oak Brook, IL

I have been in ILFVSHRM for almost 11 years. The local SHRM chapter provides CEU opportunities every month – with excellent programs on various HR topics. The cost is very reasonable for the monthly meeting and gives me the opportunity to network and meet the wonderful HR professionals in my area. The knowledge and experience of the HR professionals in my local chapter is one of the best resources I have in my daily work. I am connected to people who openly share their wisdom and experience with me that allows my organization to make informed decision on HR topics and policy. – Judie Childress, Controller/HR, RPS Engineering Inc., Elgin, IL

I started with ILFVSHRM in 2007 when my company was purchased and I was looking to connect with HR professionals closer to my home. I quickly felt at home with this chapter as everyone was so welcoming, and began serving on the Board of Directors to give back to the HR community that supported me. Professionally, the chapter has kept me abreast of all HR breaking news and industry refreshers. I get charged up after each meeting to bring back what I have learned and apply it. The Chapter members are open to helping and sharing ideas too, so outside of the meetings we have each other as resources for HR questions that pop up. I have grown personally in the leadership experience I gained on the Board, and have made so many wonderful friends. I will forever be a part of this amazing chapter. –  Susan Oswalt, VP of HR, IPMG, St. Charles, IL

In addition to these testimonials, here’s some other comments from IL Fox Valley SHRM members:

  1. Networking opportunities mixed with an educational environment amongst other HR professionals.

  2. Keep me up to date on HR topics that affect my business.

  3. Teaches me how to grow in my new HR role.

  4. Learning and certification credits.

  5. Becoming more informed and bringing topics back to my employer.

  6. Keeping up to date. The networking and the education on diverse topics.

  7. Helping me maintain my certification current for many years!!

  8. PDCs, career growth, network building, making closer HR contacts and friends.

  9. Earn PDCs, gain knowledge, remind me of new laws.

  10. Networking and certification credits, updates and fresh ideas.

If you’ve ever considered joining a local chapter but just haven’t for whatever reason, I encourage you to try one out! SHRM has a great search engine that helps people find local chapters that are close to you. Even if there isn’t a SHRM affiliate near you, see if there are any other local HR peer to peer groups. One example is the Kishwaukee Association of Human Resources in Sycamore, IL. The point is that networking with and learning from your contemporaries should be a nonnegotiable part of what all serious professionals do! Taking the time to invest in these groups has benefits that far outweigh the simply earning recertification credits. Investing in these groups brings forth professional blooming for the individual, the collective, and the business.

Remember, we are never alone! There are so many awesome people to help you along your journey to becoming an expert! Go and meet them!

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