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Victorio Milian, HRExaminer Editorial Advisory Board

Many years ago when I became a Human Resources professional, I realized that I had two significant obstacles to overcome in order to become a competent practitioner.

  1. I was young.
  2. I was stupid.

In the first instance, “young” is a reference to experience, not age. In the second, my stupidity was a mark of ignorance. At the time I was new to the (HR) game. It quickly became apparent that there was a lot about the profession I didn’t know. Labor laws and their impact, strategic planning, compliance–all these things and more I was familiar with, but not in a meaningful way. I was green.

And so I began my journey to HR enlightenment by immersing myself in the subject. I did it in several fashions:

  • I studied the subject of Human Resources. I did this both as an end to itself, yet also to take and obtain my Senior Professional in Human Resources (SPHR) certification. I read books. A lot of books. I was a frequent reader prior to becoming a HR pro, so it wasn’t much of a stretch. Now I was devouring HR and business books to the point where my wife would roll her eyes at me frequently. “Business books,” she would say. “Boring!” That may have been true for her (and for me on occasion), yet they provided me with the mental stimulation I needed to grow professionally. It wasn’t that I was just reading them. Oftentimes I would use them as study tools. I took notes on concepts and terms that I wasn’t familiar with. I would use those notes to conduct further research on topics of interest or that I had difficulty understanding. I would try to connect what I read to my experiences, both past and current, in the workplace. I bothered colleagues and those that I perceived to be SMEs (Subject Matter Experts) into helping me. I pushed myself to absorb materials concerning subjects that were beyond my role, in what some may refer to as “punching above your weight.”
  • I joined the Society for Human Resources Management (SHRM). SHRM is the largest professional organization on Earth for HR practitioners. This gave me access to resources, human and otherwise, that would allow me to expand my knowledge. It also allowed me to connect with veteran practitioners who could help guide me, especially through some of the more arcane subject areas.
  • I started blogging. That and other social media related activities served to give voice to my thoughts and ideas about what the Human Resources profession meant to me. It helped me to articulate and defend my position on various HR and business related topics. It strengthened my communication skills. It also helped to broaden my worldview.
  • I actively engaged with smart people. Speaking of blogging… A lot of my earliest interviews I conducted on my blog were my not-so-subtle attempts at learning from others. Disguised as interviews, these posts served to help me (and hopefully the readers) understand important or emerging concepts, such as finance, HR technology, and compensation.

Fast forward to the present… I’m now a well seasoned HR professional. Immersing myself in the subject of Human Resources, becoming part of a professional organization, blogging, and connecting with smart folks served as important components of my development.

Ongoing professional development isn’t a luxury, it’s a necessity. And while it’s worthwhile to explore and take advantage of formal models, it’s important to have other methods of learning at your disposal. With digital tools making information easy to access, hoarding it (e.g., in the form of unique knowledge obtained through a degree) is becoming more difficult to do, and has a shorter shelf life than ever before. A better strategy for professionals is to create and tap into knowledge and skills that can continually be refreshed.

Another factor is that many organizations are freezing or reducing investments in employee’s training and development. This, combined with the fact is that a growing percentage of the US workforce is labelled as freelancers or contractors. The independent workforce has grown from 16.1 million in 2011 to 17.7 million in 2013. This is further putting the onus of professional development on individuals, and less on organizations.

“Our parents had one job, I will have seven jobs, and our children will do seven jobs at one time.” ~ Robin Chase, former CEO and founder of ZipCar

Developing the ability to continuously develop, implement, and execute formal and/or informal learning strategies promotes a variety of skills:

  1. Tactical and strategic thinking
  2. The ability to self-organize
  3. Creativity
  4. Increased engagement
And in an era where one of the top concerns for CEOs is cultivating a creative workforce that address complex organizational challenges professionals have even less excuses not to explore all available options to develop their potential.


Ongoing professional development isn’t a luxury, it’s a necessity.


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