HR Memo To Professionals: Build A Professional Network

By Shawn Herrera, Practitioner Faculty of Applied Behavioral Science (ABS) & Organization Theory and Management (OTM) at Pepperdine Graziadio Business School

Despite recent news of layoffs at U.S. firms, the job market remains robust, and it is changing the traditional career path. Recent U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics data shows the acceleration of wages continues to increase, and the number of people who either are working or want a job has continued is dropping. Despite this, there is a countertrend of professionals who quit their job and later say they regret their hasty exit. According to a poll released in September 2022, one in four U.S. workers who quit their previous job regrets their decision. 

The Great Resignation raises questions about why people quit and how they quit. Some people report being inspired by peers who quit their jobs, saying it gave them the confidence they previously lacked to make a move themselves. Some jump ship for a higher wage without much thought at all about other factors. Others are simply burned out, lonely, experiencing family stress, and desire some time off before starting their next chapter. Research from Gallup states that “50% of employees have left a job to get away from a [bad] manager at some point in their career.”

Whatever the reason, HR managers play a role in guiding employees through leave-or-stay job scenarios. While the urge for a quick, clean break may be appealing, HR managers can curb that urge by reaffirming employees and encouraging them to consider moving up within their existing employer. Encouraging employees to build a solid professional network builds credibility for HR managers, helps employees and could benefit the business.

For those who want to move up with an existing employer, building and leveraging a professional network can be the difference between a smooth transition or a misstep on the career ladder. Some will climb a career ladder only to later realize their chosen ladder was leaning against the wrong wall. Professional networks can consist of company peers, mentors, and sponsors. Each plays a different, but equally valuable, role.

Here are three ways HR managers can describe how a professional network can be an essential help: 

1) Look Before You Leap

Wise job changers who seek to stay and move up draw on the advice of others before making the switch in order to affirm or reconsider their decision. An employee’s professional network can help clear up questions about whether the workplace culture, compensation package, and growth opportunities at your current position are worth the added responsibility and future growth. They can also advise on ways to develop additional skills or if an advanced degree might assist you to move up your current career ladder or pivoting to a different area. Connecting with professionals in a network can also challenge assumptions about the prospective position that may not be as they seem. More than just making your work not enjoyable, choosing the wrong workplace, and/or boss, can be hazardous to your health. According to the Mayo Clinic, “your supervisor is more important to your health than your family doctor.”

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