Can true happiness be found when life’s decisions are rooted in logic and reason?
I have spent most of my adult-life and the years leading up to it trying to make calculated decisions. I thought these decisions would naturally result in the creation of the life I had always envisioned. This ideal life (“the checklist”), and the supporting facts that my brain used to rationalize my choices were heavily influenced by the values and opinions of others. (Maybe this means that the logic I thought was employing was actually just me being ruled by my emotions and desire to conform? Who knows.)
Thinking back to what I wanted to be as a child, the professions I remember role-playing included rollerskating waitress and bank teller. Once I got to high school, my career goals had shifted. After having a particularly amazing and influential grade 10 English teacher, I decided that I wanted to study English Literature and go on to help inspire and shape the minds of future generations. All that changed in grade 12 when my high school teacher, well aware of my intentions upon graduation, seemed to have developed a personal vendetta against me and swiftly crushed my dreams. He told my parents that I was too immature to go to University, and if I did, I wouldn’t be able to cut it.
I didn’t want to believe him. But I guess I did.
After taking a year off between high school and University I decided to go on to study business. I chose this direction because it was the safe bet. I would be “guaranteed a job.” I would work hard, get my degree, and it was generic enough that I would be able to land an office job doing any number of business-related things. It sure wasn’t the same dream as shaping the minds of youth, but it would lead me to a steady paycheque.
In my second year of University, I declared my intention to specialize in Human Resources Management. In an effort to set me apart from the droves of new Business graduates that flood the workforce every spring, I needed something more than a BBA diploma in hand, and dreams of grandeur.
Why did I choose HR? To be quite frank, it’s because it was the only option available at the time.
So I did it. I became a student member of the professional association, and finished my studies. Upon graduation, I went on to write my Comprehensive Knowledge Exam so that I could reach my professional aspirations and one day attain my designation.
Out of University, I got a government internship in Strategic Human Resources, working on employee engagement and retention programs. I picked up as many tasks as I could to assist colleagues and learn as much as possible. My internship came to an end and I had no where else to go. I ended up in Finance. Then I ended up having a quarter-life crisis.
Since then, I’ve been trying to navigate, find my footings, and figure out what the heck I want to be when I grow up. And all along, through being unemployed, a bank teller (childhood dreams do come true!), executive assistant, medical residency program assistant, HR associate consultant, and now as a funding program coordinator and finance wrangler, I have continued to be a member of the HR Association.
Things change though. Since graduating and writing my association exam, the whole structure of HR designations and requirements has been updated. I am currently (for now) an official Certified Human Resources Professional. I pay hundreds of dollars a year to maintain my CHRP status which I could (but don’t) place after my name. I keep up on changes in legislation, read case studies that are of interest to me, and am always the one people come to when they have questions about employee and employer rights.
But every year, when I get that email that it’s time to pay up, it always makes me reflect on who I am and what I want to be. I wonder, “Why am I paying for this when I’m not actually a Human Resources professional?” Maybe that’s why I choose to not include the letters after my name. Because I would feel like a fraud. Aside from a 10 month internship when I was fresh out of University and a 3 month consulting gig, I haven’t been able to buy a job in HR.
It is not for a lack of trying. Believe me, I sent out applications. Hundreds even. I thought that one day I would end up running great programs for employees. I wanted to sit at the corporate table and make things better for the workers – and better for the employers. People would actually want to be there. They would want to give 100% because they would feel like valuable members of the team.
Even though I never made it to that dream HR position, I still do what I can to influence change in every job that I have held. I want to enjoy my time at work. God, we spend more time there than we do with our families, why on earth shouldn’t it be great?
All of this reflecting has brought me to my latest break-through about my life’s direction. I am not an HR professional. I am never going to be an HR professional. I am never going to be able to level-up in this crazy structural hierarchy that the association has created. Why? Because I’m tired of pursuing something that I don’t even want to be.
In order for me to maintain those letters after my name, I have to obtain 60 hours of professional development in the next 10 months. Of course, the cumulative time that I spend reading articles and keeping abreast of industry trends every week doesn’t count. I would have to engage in lively and documented discussions with others if I wanted these hours even considered as professional development. Sure, the association offers some free webinars throughout the year where you can get an hour here, an hour there. But to get 60? I’d be looking at spending thousands.
And after that? Since I am unable to submit documentation proving that I have 3 years of progressive HR experience right now, I am unable to level-up and attain Certified Human Resources Leader status. If I were to actually to accumulate this over the next few years, on top of paying my annual dues and paying to validate my experience, I would also have to pay to: rewrite my Comprehensive Knowledge 1 Exam, write a Comprehensive Knowledge Exam 2, Employment Law Exam, Jurisprudence Exam, complete a Job Ready Program, Professional Program and a Final Performance Exam.
As a struggling millenial still trying to pay off student loans, keep a roof over my head, gas in my car, dream of home ownership and seeing how poorly I am setting myself up for retirement every year at tax time, I can’t even fathom (or justify) the dollar investment required for this profession.
And if I did happen to get my 60 hours done and decided just to stay the course and maintain my CHRP without moving up to the next level? Well, my University degree is only valid for another 3 years and then I’m back to square one – my HR education renders itself irrelevant.
Deciding what I don’t want to be opens up a whole new world to me. A world where I can focus on what I do want to be and spending my time and energy getting there instead.
I want to be a leader.
To say that my HR journey was a waste would be false. I have developed great skills and an incredible foundation of really important knowledge. This will only help me build an environment of encouragement and positivity. It already helps me navigate and build relationships with others, influence valuable change, and provide support to others.
Even if you don’t know where you’re going, it’s important to know where you don’t want to go. I am proud of myself for finally deciding that. I’m one step closer to my future, and my vision is a little bit clearer.
Keep your eyes on the prize, my darlings. (And ICYMI: the prize is actually happiness, right now.)