This is not your Mother's SHRM Conference | HR Fishbowl

I trust many of you are planning on attending the SHRM 2011 Annual Conference and Exposition in Las Vegas in a few weeks. Doesn’t matter what you think about SHRM, or the scheduled sessions, or the venue itself.  If you’re serious about a career in HR, you should consider this a good opportunity to develop it. I for one am thrilled to be attending as a blogger for the second consecutive year and will again wear my press pass with pride. I plan on sharing my perspective on all of the keynote speakers and at least a couple of breakout sessions every day. We’ll even do a little roving reporter stuff on the expo floor. Make sure you look for opportunities to stay plugged into the events, the content, and the people – there are a number of bloggers and Social Media pros that are planning on nourishing the stream with a bunch of good stuff from the event…day and  night.

So it ain’t cheap to get yourself out to this shindig every year…I get that. I would argue that the chance to listen to and see either one of the inspirational keynotes – especially Sir Richard Branson, Arianna Huffington (big crush), Tony Hsieh, and Michael J. Fox – is worth the price of admission alone (see other reasons below in the ‘Comments’ section). Throw in the opportunity to do it all while hanging in the world’s “adult playground” kind of makes it hard to pass up. This is a chance for HR pros to take a step outside of their job description for a few days. We are the proverbial cobbler’s children, and taking care of our own personal and professional development is often something that falls prey to “higher priorities.” That just plain old sucks. If your company really believes HR plays a role in its success, they ought to relax the purse strings a bit. But first you have to ask! If they balk, tell them this is the only thing you want to do this year for development and remind them that you don’t get to do it often; mention that the networking opportunities alone will be invaluable to your role in strengthening the employment brand for the organization. Help them recognize that the face of Talent Management is changing more rapidly than almost any profession and this is a near perfect way to stay on top of it. Promise to bring back your learnings and share them at great length with the HR team. Let them to take a look at the program and suggest they pick a few of the sessions for you to attend. Offer to disseminate a summary of your take-aways to a wider leadership audience (and do it anyway even if they decline).  Suggest you’re willing to pay for it yourself (but only if you think they won’t call your bluff). If they say (and many will), “there are better conferences to go to – this one is too elementary,” then you should gently educate them on the contrary. Times have changed…This is not your Mother’s SHRM Conference. The content gets better and better every year. The breadth of subject matter is impressive. And there are a number of tracks which appeal to all levels in the profession – entry-level to executive.  And if all else fails*, just go to Vegas…and then look for another employer to develop your career when you get back. Why would you want to work in a place that didn’t support your attending the biggest event of the year for your profession?

If you aren’t asking for – in fact, insisting on – this opportunity, then you’re doing yourself, your colleagues, your clients, your business, and your profession a disservice (no pressure).  And if you’re too timid to at least ask, then maybe this profession isn’t for you any way.

*Don’t play the “but he gets to go to the annual sales conference” card unless you absolutely have to.

Image Credit: Eclectic Bibliophile

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