I’m approaching my ten-year anniversary of working with my company, and it’s astounding to note the journey that I’ve had… From a fresh-out-of-grad-school program in the call centers, through four years in Home Loans, almost three in change management, and two years in HR, my career has had quite a few twists and turns.
Throughout it all, though, I’ve always been “just Kevin”. And I’m starting to worry that I’ll have a hard time escaping that.
What I mean by “just Kevin” is this: having been in one company for basically my entire post-grad professional career, I do worry that in some respects I’ve become a little too well known among select people. Yes, building an internal brand is a good thing, and being known among the key HR and Diversity & Inclusion (D&I) people can be helpful for someone who’s building a career path there. But what happens when the first impression you made was a wide-eyed, well-intentioned volunteer who didn’t know anything about the subject?
My D&I path got started as a volunteer in the LGBT employee network in Charlotte. I progressed to committee member, and then chapter chair, and then Southeast Region chair, and eventually one of the global chairs of the entire worldwide organization. (I tried for years to get permission to add “Head Gay in Charge” to my business card, but no luck.) During this time I took classes, attended conferences and seminars, and even began and finished a curriculum of Ph.D. coursework. I’m working on research and a dissertation focused on diversity programs in the workplace. In short, I’m no longer the naive kid I was when I began this journey.
My concern, though, is that many of the same senior HR and D&I leaders who first met me when I started volunteering years ago are still in key decision-making roles within the organization. I’m not sure that I’ve had (or fully utilized) the opportunity to show them that I really have learned and accomplished a lot since then. I’m not sure that I’ve built a brand as a subject matter expert. And I worry that I may have an uphill battle overcoming that first impression.
Obviously one approach is to work hard to establish that brand, show that I have a strategic vision for D&I in my job and at this company, and demonstrate the results that I can accomplish in my “day job” doing D&I. And that’s certainly something that I’m trying to do…
But another approach may also be to package up what I’ve learned in the past ten years, and start fresh somewhere new as an incoming subject-matter-expert in the field. Stepping into a D&I role in a different company could offer me an opportunity to begin a new job without the baggage of outdated first impressions.
For what it’s worth, “Dr.” sure does have a better ring to it than “Just Kevin”.