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When in Rome… Do as the Romans Do

Have you ever dreamed about travelling to a foreign country or wondered what it would be like to live there?  Most likely you have, but feel that it’s too complicated and you’re not sure how to go about it.  Similarly, as a graduating student or a person in a career transition, you may wonder–What will it be like to work in HR? How will I fit in?  What will the culture be like?  What can I do NOW to make my journey a smooth one?

Over a decade ago, I began my professional career in Toronto.  From the beginning, I was exposed to a variety of facets in Human Resources.  One area that I truly enjoyed was recruitment.  Working as a Recruiter helped to sharpen my skills in oral/written communication, interviewing and employment law.  These experiences proved to be beneficial in the later years.  With the birth of social media and technology, I am able to take advantage of the digital world and work remotely as a Recruiter/Sourcer  in Italy.  Every day I must continue to add value by keeping up-to-date with the latest trends as well as engaging with HR leaders abroad.  How?

The best advice comes from an old idiomatic phrase, “when in Rome, do as the Romans do.”  That is, do as the HR professionals do… The following three points will show you how to familiarize yourself with the subject of Human Resources and glean some insight of what it is like to the work in this field.

They are:

  • Build relationships
  • Get technical
  • Networking


When in Rome….

1.  Drink like the Romans do… building relationships.

Italians love their coffee.  From an early morning start with a creamy, foamy cappuccino to a late evening quick espresso all contributes to a “bella vita” (good life).  The experience of going to a coffee bar should not be taken lightly.  Many business deals, agreements, even employment contracts have been signed over an espresso caffè.

What can we learn from this?   Networking is everything.  Friendships do not happen overnight, but rather they are cultivated over time.  Take the time to invite HR leaders or mentors out for a coffee.  Use that time to get immersed into their world.  What’s new in HR?  How is social media affecting their organization? How innovative is your HR culture?

2.  Speak like the Romans do… get technical.

Learning a language can be a challenge.  What is involved in learning and speaking a language? You probably start off memorizing basic words and then you tried to mimic the pronunciation from a native speaker. When you are learning a new language, you need to concentrate on what you are hearing.

So, what else do you think you will need to do to “speak” the HR language fluently?  In everyday speech, we don’t use expressions like “exit interviews” or “360 review”.   But as we learn the HR language, we do.  The more you speak HR, the more comfortable you will become in using it.  Every day we hear of managers making “grammatical errors” on minimum wage requirements or vacation pay entitlement.  As a person that is familiar with the HR legal language, your ears should be in tuned to know if the information is true or false.  Therefore, you should practice at every opportunity.  Speak to friends, family members, fellow peers… all of this shows that you are starting to master the “language”.

3.  Hangout where the Romans do… networking and connecting.

On any given day, if you go to Piazza di Spagna (the Spanish steps), you will find hundreds of people relaxing on the steps.  In the past, you would find artists and writers gathering together exchanging thoughts. Piazza di Spagna is a great meeting place.

Today, it isn’t necessary to go to the Steps to “hangout” with those in your field.  Attending HR events, conferences, or meetups will assist you in widening out your network.

There are many events that can help you learn more about your field; more about a particular company and their culture; the who’s who in the HR world.  For example, here are a sample list of events to “hangout” & learn:

Now that you have all the proper guidance, you can make your travel transition a great one. Once you have reached your destination, you will be glad that you have taken the opportunity to taste, see and fully immerse yourself into your future career.

So, when someone asks you: Have you ever dreamed about working in HR?  Remember these tips of “when in Rome”, and you can with confidence answer, “yes”.



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