The summer of 2011 was uncomfortable. I ruptured 2 discs in my neck, had a double spinal fusion, and spent 4 weeks out of town, at home with my family, recovering. Louisiana from mid-July to mid-August is NEVER pleasant, but the summer of 2011 was particularly bad. The temp gauge on the car routinely said 115 degrees and I was wearing a neck brace 24/7. To get an accurate picture of this, imagine that someone has just cracked a dozen baseball bats over the back of your shoulders. Then put on your tightest, warmest, itchiest scarf and crawl into a sauna. Stay there for 4 weeks. It was unpleasant. Thank heavens for Netflix and Buffy the Vampire Slayer!
During the 4 weeks I was home and largely stoned on Lortab and Valium, I watched all 7 seasons of “Buffy the Vampire Slayer” on Netflix and I’ve been hooked ever since. On Buffy, not the Lortab or Valium. It was in this Buffy-drug haze that I decided to go back to school and finally finish my degree. I had long been thinking that payroll and HR was something to do…until. Until what? I did not know, but I definitely wasn’t going to do this forever. I was meant for much more important and interesting things.
Then Buffy showed me that HR could be every bit as badass and entertaining as any other profession. I didn’t choose HR…I fell into it, and now I’m kind of glad. I had to tweak my perception and my attitude a little, but once I did, the decision to stay in HR has felt totally right.
Here’s what I learned:
1. In life and HR, you absolutely never know what is going to walk through the door.
It was called “Buffy the Vampire Slayer” but she fought way more than just vampires. There were lots of other types of demons, gods, robots, evil humans and she even went to war against the concept of evil itself. The show got pretty deep sometimes. Hell, for the first four seasons, Buffy was an only child. Then at the beginning of season 5, up popped a 14-year-old little sis that everyone knew and who’d been around the whole time. (There is an explanation but I won’t spoil it.) Buffy got pretty good at expecting the unexpected.
I once had a guy come into my office after being terminated and ask to speak to my boss. He’d called a few times and I assumed he’d apologize and beg for his job back and she’d turn him down and we’d move on. Nope. When the boss came out to talk to him, he said “I know you have an opening because my cousin _______ was just determinated from here. Can I have his job?” He looked us straight in the face and pretended to be his own cousin. Are you kidding me with this?
At another job a long time ago where I was working as a cashier, I handed a lady back her change and she went completely white. (She was black to begin with, by the way.) She got goosebumps all up and down her arms and refused to let go of my hand. She leaned in very close and told me she’d had a dream about me the night before and that God wanted me to follow the white rope. She’d been sent to put me on my path. She was absolutely serious and I was absolutely stunned. What on earth can you say to that except “Go away, you’re making me uncomfortable.”?! I didn’t say that but I absolutely thought it.
2a. Everyone makes mistakes. Admit it. Correct it. Learn from it.
2b. THEN MOVE ON AND DON’T LOOK BACK.
In the Buffy pilot, Buffy is new to her school and befriends a group of three students: Willow, Xander and Jesse (played by Eric Balfour). Presumably these 3 have been friends a good long while. Jesse is turned into a vampire and Willow and Xander are very upset about it. Then his vampire self is killed, they immediately get over it and HE IS NEVER MENTIONED ON THE SHOW AGAIN. It’s become kind of a joke among Buffy fans that one of their best friends dies and they barely give a damn. But, clearly someone decided that Eric Balfour was right up there with Keanu Reeves in terms of annoyance and they fixed that mistake but quick. And they did not look back even once.
I’ve been accused of throwing myself under the bus sometimes. Not wanting to blame others and appear petty, I take the blame myself. Or if something goes wrong I just assume it was my fault because I was doing something new, etc. Or I keep thinking about mistakes I’ve made long after everyone else is over it. I’m going to stop doing that. That’s self-centered and gives no one any grief but me. I don’t flip out and stay angry when others make mistakes at work; why would I assume they’d do so about me?
3. No one knows everything. Be prepared to research. Though Buffy had a Watcher named Giles (sort of a mentor) who had been trained his entire life to be a Watcher, they came up against a surprising amount of demons they couldn’t identify. They positively LIVED in the library, then the magic shop, with their heads buried in books to find info on the latest meanie who’d burst into town. Research is good.
I used to think that I wasn’t qualified enough to do HR because I’m not an expert on FMLA, ERISA, COBRA, PPOs, HRAs, FLSA, ADA, EEOC, blah blah, acronym acronym. You know what? No one else is either. Everyone has their fave topics of study and areas of knowledge, of course. But things come up that are outside the purview of everyone’s expertise from time to time. Laws change constantly. Research is required all the time. Even the experts consult experts.
IT IS NEVER AS IMPORTANT TO HAVE ALL THE KNOWLEDGE AS IT IS TO KNOW WHERE TO GET THE KNOWLEDGE, WHEN YOU NEED IT.
4. You can never have enough weapons in your arsenal.
One of the best things about Buffy, in my opinion, was that she didn’t rely on guns. She relied on her own physical strength, fighting skills, and hand-to-hand weaponry like stakes, axes, swords and a baseball bat with a hook on the back of it that I never really understood. Bet it would stink getting beaten with it though, so yeah…good weapon. She also had friends who were witches, used “good” vampires to help her fight, and sometimes hung out at the local demon bar for info. She relied on these old standards usually, but when the situation called for it…my girl whipped out a rocket-launcher or a homemade volcano. Also one time a magic necklace, but…yeah, a rocket-launcher!
I’ve learned in life AND HR to use all the tools available to me when I need them. Research, friends, family members, mentors, etc…all make great resources for different situations. For example, I needed to de-clutter my apartment and though I can absolutely help others with such tasks (and do, pretty frequently), when it came to my own apartment, I’d get overwhelmed and need a nap just from thinking about it. I created a Facebook event and invited my most OCD buddies over and we de-cluttered the hell out of this place. For the cost of some vodka and a few snacks, I got hours of free labor from people who LOVED getting rid of my junk!
Just yesterday, a graphic artist from Starkville, MS followed me on Twitter. I asked for some help tweaking my logo cause the one I designed online myself using a cheesy website was a little static and unpolished. You know what? He wrote me back and fixed my logo! (He even changed it to LSU colors even though he lives in Starkville! SEC Rivals!) I had a need. A new weapon became available to me and I used it…with fabulous results!
Get ready for new logo later this weekend & stay tuned for Part 2 on Saturday, containing lessons 5, 6, 7 and 8! In the meantime, go watch some Buffy on Netflix, Hulu or Amazon. The Jesse thing isn’t a big spoiler, I promise!
All image credits to Joss Whedon and Warner Brothers Studios.