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HR Lessons I Never Learned in the Classroom

Updated: Aug 26, 2023

In the classroom you’ll learn things like training and development, organizational behavior and employee relations which are all valuable lessons and foundational steps to developing any leader, especially in HR. Alternatively, I’ve learned there are a few lessons that can only be taught through being in the field, working in the weeds, and getting your hands dirty. Here are the ten most impactful lessons on my development as an HR professional.


You will wear MANY hats

Some days I will be an unofficial lawyer, therapist, event planner, peacemaker, etc. You get the point; the list goes on. When working in HR, you quickly realize that every day is different and has its own set of challenges, but that’s exactly what I love about it.

Sometimes your only job is to listen

Listen first, understand second, and act last. That’s my secret formula for almost any HR issue that comes to my plate. Being a “doer” and a “helper” sometimes my mind will jump to “well, what can we do to fix it.” When in reality the only thing I need to do at that moment is listen.

Lead with Empathy

Starting my HR career in the middle of a pandemic was certainly not the way I imagined kick starting my HR career; however it taught me so many valuable lessons to include leading with empathy. Generally, people don’t want you to feel sorry for them or towards their situation. All they want is to be heard and to know that they aren’t alone.

Don’t let problems fester

One of the biggest lessons that I learned the hard way was to not let problems fester. If you have a problem at work or don’t like the way your supervisor is managing you, let them know! Don’t sit back and hope that it gets better because it’ll lead to more frustration and burnout. Generally, people want to help and want to do better. They might not realize that they are doing the opposite until you tell them.

Don’t burn bridges

Never burn a bridge. That person might be able to give you a rave recommendation, help you out with a difficult situation, or give you a tip for a new job. No matter the situation, swallow your pride and be the bigger person. You’ll sleep better at night knowing you did so.

You can be a leader without the title

Leadership isn’t a title. It’s not VP, SVP, or CEO for that matter. Leadership is courage, optimism, positivity, understanding, integrity, honesty, trust and so much more. That my friend, can be done from ANY position.

Asking for help isn’t a sign of weakness; it’s a sign of strength

So many people are conditioned to think that asking for help makes them weak or makes them a bad employee. Those same people usually overburden themselves in the day-to-day and forget the big picture. They come in early, they stay late, they throw themselves into work and then when they finally have had enough, they burn out. Don’t let this vicious cycle happen to you. It’s important to ask for help when you need it and don’t be afraid to delegate responsibilities. Let go of control and find a balance. People want to help…let them.

Don’t be afraid to ask for what you want

If you feel you deserve an extra week of vacation, ask. If you want a higher salary, ask. If you want to work remotely 2 days a week, ask. Go into those conversations prepared. Know your worth, be confident and don’t settle for less than you deserve.

Take the leap and your wings will follow

I don’t think you ever feel truly ready to take the new job or accept the promotion. There’s always that tiny voice of doubt that creeps in. Don’t listen to it. You are capable, you are worthy, and you deserve everything you’ve worked so hard for. If it was easy, everyone would do it.

Not everyone will understand and that’s okay

Anytime that I tell someone that I work in HR I usually get the same few responses. “Why?”, “You mostly just hire and fire people, right?”, or, “That sounds like a lot of paperwork.” I’ve learned that not everyone will understand why you are so passionate about HR and that’s okay.


Every day in HR is an opportunity to learn something new. As HR professionals, we are forced to be flexible and stay up-to-date in the ever changing needs of the workforce. As much pressure as that can be, every job offer, every promotion, and every retirement party makes it so worth it. I can promise you that there will never be a boring day in HR and that’s what makes me get out of bed and choose this career over and over again every single day.

Carley DeLong is the human resources generalist at The Hicksville Bank, where she supports all four branch locations and tailors to their own specific HR needs. In her own words, she is passionate about people and helping her community grow. Outside of work, Ms. DeLong is Treasurer for the Hicksville Chamber of Commerce. She enjoys traveling, trying new restaurants, and spending time with her family and three dogs. Carley has a bachelor’s degree in Organizational Leadership from Purdue University Fort Wayne.

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