Networking doesn’t come easy to everyone. In fact my first networking experience nearly killed me. I’ve had a few enquiries recently from people who wanted to learn a bit more about my approach to networking so I thought I’d start by sharing the story about my first ever networking story and then follow that up with another post with some tips on how I capitalised on this event.
How my career in HR nearly killed me.
I find the fact that I mentor young students on their career paths quite ironic as I didn’t follow a career path myself. But after young professionals hear my story & how I have shaped my career path, I truly think it inspires them to take control of their own career and know that anything is possible.
After finishing High School in 2006, I got my dream offer of a Bachelor of Business at QUT in Brisbane, Australia. It had awards from all around the world and is recognised globally as a great university to study business. To say I was excited was an understatement.
Fast-forward twelve (12) months and I had managed to completely screw my degree up. I spent the first year of university chasing girls & drinking in the bar instead of attending lectures. I managed to scrape through six (6) passes and two (2) conceded passes in my eight (8) subjects. I originally thought marketing was the major for me. But after not really shining in any of the first year subjects (marketing, management, accounting, statistical analysis, business law & ethics etc) I was at a loss at what to do in my second year.
After a quick chat with my father he told me to go with a stable career like Finance. It was at that stage that wisdom from a past life kicked in. I told him ‘Dad as stable as that career might be I just don’t like numbers. I don’t enjoy numbers & regardless of the job prospects or the potential earning capacity of the job, I just couldn’t do it. It doesn’t inspire me.’ He asked what other majors were on offer. I said ‘what about this thing called Human Resource Management.’ Dad looked at me & goes ‘I think you’d be pretty good at that. Give it a shot.’
So now it’s the start of 2008 & after really enjoying my the first three weeks of lectures & being quite excited about the role that HR plays in organisations, I had another one of those moments when past wisdom kicked in. I knew that I needed work experience for two reasons.
1. To apply what I was learning to the workplace
2. To boost my resume & employability after the car crash of a first year
So when I went up to the Lecturer after class to ask how can I try to get work experience, she looked at me and laughed. First, you have to cut that hair; and second, you have to network. To understand why I needed to visit the barber, here is a picture (guaranteed to make you laugh and smile) to explain how much of a HRockstar I looked back then…
So one week later and hair still at the same length, maybe even a little longer, I decided to attend an AHRI (Australian Human Resource Institute – Similar to SHRM for US folks and CIPD for UK folks) event and try my hand at networking. I did a bit of research and read it was polite to have some food/drink in the left hand and the right hand free for handshakes and business cards. I was a bit nervous so every time the waiter came around with food I just took some and kept meeting and listening to peoples’ stories. This is probably a good time to let everyone know that I’m allergic to seafood.
Whilst talking to a nice man about a potential HR internship available in the company he worked for, I slipped into my mouth what I thought was a vegetable dim sim. As I was nodding my head enthusiastically about the opportunity available, I started to feel my throat swell up. I was starting to panic. The two friends who didn’t want to be there and were attending merely for moral support noticed that I didn’t look right. As I was writing down my email address, I felt it close in more and I started to feel light-headed. I quickly thanked him for his time and managed to mumble out that I look forward to hearing from him.
I was now racing down to the elevator out to fresh air and explained to my friends what I thought had happened. I tried to walk back to where I parked my car in the city but could only make it about half way there when I started vomiting. What made this more embarrassing is that it was a Wednesday night, I had stopped right in front of a pub, and was vomiting at 7pm. I was now being called a drunk by cars as they drove by. After making my way to the hospital via an ambulance due to having an allergic reaction to seafood, I was back on my way home a few hours later. After all that, I was very glad that three weeks later after an informal interview and my long hair still in tact, I was offered the job.
2009 came around and I knew I had to keep thinking outside the box to be an attractive candidate to employers. I took up the Presidential reigns of the HR student group at QUT, was working three days a week in a large corporate HR department, had just purchased my first ever business cards, had an 80% complete LinkedIn Profile, and was networking like crazy and loving every minute of it. My marks were improving dramatically and I started to realize that I had a passion for all things on the ‘softer side’ of people management. Recruitment, attraction, retention, engagement, training, onboarding, change management, organisational culture and talent management were words that really excited me as I continued my own forms of professional development by reading books, blogs, and buying HR professionals’ coffee so that I could network with them and learn as much as I could about the profession!
All of this work paid off as I graduated with a Bachelor of Business with a major and extension in Human Resource Management in November 2009. In February 2010 I was offered a position in an HR Graduate Program beating over a hundred & sixty other HR Graduates.
That wasn’t enough though as resting on my laurels is not what I’m about. After finding a job that I love and am passionate about, I found myself doing a lot of reading for my own professional development. I also started to find lots of professionals around the same age as me (21) asking questions about my journey and breaking into HR. It was at this time that I decided to try my hand at sharing my knowledge through blogging, Twitter & public speaking.
Since then I’ve also learned the importance of having an online presence and the Google search. Whilst having a unique name such as Damon Klotz was great for SEO, I wanted more than that. I started reading about branding on a corporate and personal level. So I thought to myself what do I stand for. It was a combination of my dress sense, my long hair (it’s a bit shorter now), my loud personality, my need to voice my opinion with an amplifier (my blog/twitter), as well as my desire to bring change to my profession that The HRockstar was born! So The HRockstar is here to stay. I love my work; my networks from around the world and my love of travel (spell my name backwards!). I was lucky enough to be able meet some amazing thought leaders at #TruLondon in February where I also got the chance to speak and make my international speaking debut. When I consider the cataclysmic changes my life has witnessed from 2007 to 2011, I can only look to the future with anticipation & the glint of desire in my eyes.
So in the last three (3) and a bit years, I’ve learned a hell of a lot including not to eat seafood even if it’s polite and that ladies and gentlemen is the story of how my career in HR nearly killed me!