The TRUTH About Seizing Opportunities in HR…

By Alan Collins

One of my senior HR mentors likes to tell this little story.

Years ago, he was on vacation at a tiny beach town in California.

And while there, he decided to connect with two former colleagues, both now successful HR leaders.

They arranged to meet one evening at a small diner to grab some steaks, beer and catch up after being out of touch for years.

When they all met at the diner and walked in, there were a bunch of people sitting around the bar and others sitting at various tables eating, drinking, and talking.

However, the place was quiet and didn’t have much atmosphere.

After placing their orders at the bar and collecting their beers, my mentor spotted an old piano in the corner.

It was an old Baldwin piano – just like the one he had at home.

And like his old piano, this one was banged up and worn by many years of harsh use.

He had kept his old Baldwin for several sentimental reasons, but also because of its beautiful sound.

And on this day, this particular piano in the bar was just begging for a song.

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So he went over, sat down, laid his beer on top, and started playing Elton John’s Crocodile Rock.

That was all he intended to play while he and his buddies waited for their steaks to be prepared.

However, while he played, the place came alive.

People looked up from their conversations and nodded their approval in his direction.

Many clapped their hands and tapped their feet to the upbeat music.

Just as he wrapped up the final notes of the song, the food came out. So he got up from the piano to go sit at the table with his former colleagues.

The small crowd then stood up from their tables and applauded.

Immediately, the owner ran over and said, “Hey, I’ll give you your food and anything you want to drink at no charge if you keep playing!”

When my mentor explained that he was only there for a quiet meal and drinks with some old friends…

The owner then offered to provide FREE drinks
food for him…AND his two buddies, too!

So he did.

And the three old friends enjoyed a great meal — at no charge.

What’s the point of my mentor’s story, and why does he share it?

Simply put, he uses this story to convey three critical messages for managing one’s career in HR — specifically about seizing opportunities that unexpectedly present themselves to you.

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HR opportunities will present themselves if you continue to grow your skills and become more accomplished.

In his case, he learned the piano when he was eight years old and loved it.

Over the years, the more he practiced and played, the better he got — despite his busy schedule.

Clearly, he would not have been offered a free meal had he not developed his piano skills to the point where he attracted the owner’s attention and energized the customers.

The same is true in HR. 

The better you get at your HR specialty and the more you can delight your clients, the more opportunities will flow your way.

These opportunities could be:

♦ Broader HR roles.
♦ Plumb project assignments.
♦ Terrific speaking or consulting gigs.
♦ More exposure to key senior leaders.
♦ Platforms that provide a bigger stage to expand your HR brand.

Good things will unexpectedly arrive on your doorstep when you take steps to enhance your competencies and become a better YOU.

*   *   *

Surrounding yourself with successful,
positive, and talented people will
expand your opportunities.

His two buddies got free meals simply because they were mixing with him that day.

The point: YOU need to mix with, listen to, learn from, and associate with talented winners who can help move you forward in your career — not whiners and losers who will drag you down.

For every toxic HR professional who preaches the worst — “the lack of opportunities,” “the tough job market,” or their “horrible boss” — there’s another who is succeeding on a massive scale.

It is this latter type of person you should strive to build and maintain relationships with.

Otherwise, you’ll find yourself with limited options and paying the full price for your food and drinks every time (hey, just kidding!).

Finally, that takes us to the most essential message of all, which is…

*   *   *

Nothing happens if you don’t have the confidence to stand up, step forward and showcase your skills and what you can do.

Nothing occurred until my mentor went over to the piano, sat down, and had the guts to start playing.

That’s when the magic happened!

The owner could have asked him to stop.

The customers could have complained about his type of music or walked out.

Nevertheless, he took a risk and put himself out there anyway.

And it paid off.

You must put yourself out there too.  

This means pulling yourself out of your daily routine and ensuring that you make time to showcase your accomplishments, market yourself and make yourself more visible — without being an arrogant jerk and doing it in a way that pisses people off.

This is crucial because merely expecting your hard work to be recognized and rewarded will guarantee you only two things: old age and an HR career laboring in oblivion.

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All that said, here is the simple takeaway.

My mentor went into that diner, didn’t know anyone there and knew he’d probably never see any of them again.

He could have chosen to do nothing and wait quietly like everyone else for his order to arrive.

Instead, he decided to seize the moment to share with others something he was skilled at, had confidence in…and that he absolutely loved doing.

And without intending to, he profited from it.

The same can happen to you too — if you decide to step up and seize the opportunities presented to you.

Just sayin’.

Why not make this year your best year yet?

Stay inspired!

Comments and thoughts? Please share them below by clicking HERE.HERE.

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Want to stay inspired so that you can recognize opportunities when they land on your doorstep?  Then check out: STAY INSPIRED IN HR: 21 Positive Reminders To Keep You Motivated, Encouraged, Confident & Committed To Success in Human Resources.  Get more details here.


Want to seize opportunities to better market yourself as an HR professional — without ticking people off?  Then check out:  UNWRITTEN HR RULES: 21 Strategies For Attaining Awesome Career Success in Human Resources. For more details, go here.

About the author:  Alan Collins
is the Founder of Success in HR and the author of various best-selling books for HR professionals. He was formerly Vice President – Human Resources at PepsiCo, where he led HR initiatives for their Quaker Oats, Gatorade, and Tropicana businesses.

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23 Responses to “The TRUTH About Seizing Opportunities in HR…”

  1. Oladapo Says:

    Another blast. Keep sharpening your skills, look out for opportunities and step forward when it counts. Thanks Alan.

  2. Madonna Bentz Says:

    As always – your “stories” are inspiring to read and great reminders to us all to take personal responsibility for our careers and more importantly – a positive attitude in all that we do. The people we interact with on a daily basis can have an impact on the way we approach our jobs and our life. Why not spend time with positive people that energize you instead of those that drain you and drag you down with them.
    Thank you so much for sharing your articles with our community. I will share with my HR staff.

  3. L Cooper Says:

    Awesome story… confirming I AM ON THE RIGHT PATH and going about it the right way, despite conflicting feedback from recruiters. Awesome!

  4. Joe Fernandez Says:

    A beautiful and inspiring story, as always. We need
    to take risks and showcase ourselves, Alan, otherwise our hr KNOWLEDGE COULD WELL BE IN THE CLOSET. a GREAT STORY AND THOUGHT-PROVOKING.

  5. benidad Says:

    well said….thanks for sharing this great insight as always.

  6. Marissa Schmidt Says:

    Great Advice and very true- the confidence to showcase yourself is important, thanks for sharing

  7. Liz Hammond Says:

    There are a number of old sayings that relate to this story. Nothing ventured nothing gained, put your money where your mouth is, he who dares wins. I could go on. A great example of how putting yourself forward with confidence can bring great benefits.

  8. Patricia Fernandes Says:

    Thanks for sharing this inspiring story. It helps us thinking on a more holistic way.

  9. Portia Talbot Says:

    You always have such inspiring stories! Thanks for sharing.

  10. Tamantha Green-McCarty Says:

    Great article!

  11. wilbroad Katema Says:

    This is a master piece! i totally agree with point 3, luck of confidence and not showing one’s skills has killed a lot of good HR Pros. one has to come out of their “trenches”.

  12. Paula Clements Says:

    Alan, your blogs are the only ones that I take the time to read. They are direct, to the point, but more than anything they give this 25+ yr HR veteran valuable info and encouragement and things to ponder. Never a waste of my time. Thank you!

  13. Marcell Spencer Says:

    Very inspirational!!

  14. Clarice Rogers Says:

    Great story with a message that is spot on! Thank you for sharing!!

  15. Shameka Grinage Says:

    Your stories are always refreshing and enjoyable to read. You provide tools that you can put into action right away. You remind us that we must actively participate in this thing called life to reap the benefits. I appreciate how you make me pause and self reflect on where I am now, where I want to be and what to do to make it happen. Keep up the amazing work!

  16. Alan Says:

    Shameka, thank you for taking time to comment. Thrilled that the story & message made you think. Glad to add value. -Alan

  17. Phylliss Says:

    Dear Alan,
    Thanks and it is absolutely true.

  18. Diana Dema Says:

    Thank you Alan,
    you always come with your articles in such a friendly and comprehensive way, that sometimes, like today, it makes me think I am hiving a coffee with you, and grasping your great story and pondering on it in a powerful learning mode. Thank you for sharing, the article..not the coffee:) (just kidding – liked this detail in your story.

  19. Ayotunde Says:

    Very useful, thank you.

  20. Ireneus Mushongi Says:

    Sharing is caring! Alan you care. Every day we learn new things from your articles.

  21. Nike Y. Says:

    Very inspirational and educative! Thanks for sharing, Alan!

  22. Muhammad Tahir Says:

    This apt. Thank you Alan.

  23. Alam Firoz Says:

    Good day,

    Thank you so much.