Is the ball on your court?

I know; it is not easy…! Your job is demanding enough, you probably wish you were spending more time with your family or friends already, yet I am asking you to get even more involved on your professional outreach…

Well, for what it is worth, let me tell you that I have found more rewards than I ever expected! As a Professor at Clarion University of Pennsylvania, in 2006 I became the Advisor to our local SHRM Student Chapter; also, I joined the Global SHRM Special Expertise Panel in mid-2008. Serving in these positions does not have any immediate tangible benefits like monetary compensation or even opportunities for other paid projects. In fact, meetings with the students are often held late at night, once they’re done with classes. Also, I have interrupted family vacations to join panel teleconferences, and my tiny budget is hit hard after attending SHRM activities at the national level, in spite of the cost breaks that are sometimes offered to volunteers.

Why go through all the trouble, then? Wouldn’t it be much easier to just do my work and stay home? Well, I have taken very seriously the criticism that many academics are out of touch with practice. These opportunities help me find a meaningful context in which I can actually come out of the ivory tower; I can learn what is going on in industry from folks that have achieved pretty high levels as well as help them with my research, and I can help others that are just starting their HR careers get excited about jobs that greatly benefit their companies and our society. These are, after all, some of the reasons why I became a business researcher and instructor to begin with.

But I often feel that the complementary criticism should also be taken just as seriously: that many in industry neglect their responsibility to help the profession evolve, or help those who are in earlier stages of their career. Attending PHRA events gives me hope that there are many individuals who have taken these responsibilities seriously and invest a great deal of energy to make a difference in the profession. But the proportion of volunteers compared to the size of the membership shows that the more involved are a very small minority.

Perhaps you are one of these members who have been actively working on behalf of the profession, serving as an officer, chairing a committee, inviting others to join the association, etc. Or maybe you have approached your alma mater or a nearby university and told students about your job, about how your work as an HR manager improves and protects your company and even society at large.

If that is the case, congratulations! You know how needed and useful your efforts are! But if it isn’t, shall we play? I think the ball is in your court!

NOTE:  The article above was submitted to Perspectives, a publication of the Pittsburgh HR Association (