Monday, March 18, 2013

What Is an Advocate and Is It For Me?

Today's post is from Brian Spencer. He is our intern this semester at ILSHRM as well as Rogers HR Consulting.  He will be graduating this May from UIS with a degree in Management and focused on beginning a new career in HR.  He has been a tremendous asset to us in promoting the Advocacy Program here in the state and help coordinate projects for the upcoming Legislative Conference this April.  Connect with him on Linkedin

Many of you have heard about ILSHRM seeking to build an Advocacy Team throughout the state.  Some of us have new representatives that were just sworn into office this past month, so it is a great time to start planning to introduce ourselves and the value that we can bring to them as professionals who represent both, our companies and our employees, rather than a party affiliation.  As I have been talking to people about advocacy I have noticed some of the first questions that come to mind are: 

“How much time is involved?”
“What am I supposed to say to my elected official when I talk to them?”
“What exactly is an advocate anyway?” 

Well, I will start with the last question first.  An Advocate is simply someone willing to establish and maintain a relationship with their local elected official and set themselves up as a support person in the area of HR.  Additionally, as our legislative team sees bills coming that require attention, information will be passed to you to help educate your elected official on how it could impact our field and our people. 

            This takes us right into the next question.  I have heard that it can be intimidating to call or speak in person to our elected officials.  In fact, I was rather intimidated the first time I spoke to one of my legislators in his office, but it has been refreshing to find that they truly want to hear from us. We are their constituents first and foremost; in addition, we represent our companies and our employees.  Often times the conversations start with a simple introduction of ourselves and our profession, and then offering ourselves as a resource for them in the future.  One of the best things we can do is to simply be nice.  We are simply a resource for them in an area where many do not have as much expertise as they would like.

            And now, for the question about time; the next “most valuable commodity of our day” according to some.  To say that many people are overcommitted today would be an understatement.  This is a project that I can comfortably say does not take an exceptional amount of time.  In fact you may likely only get to speak with your official for 15-20 minutes at a time to begin with.  If you will maintain this extension of service about once or twice a quarter the result may surprise you.  The ultimate goal is for us to get to a place that by time the Legislative Conference comes next year we can go to the capital and they will hear our name and come out to say, “Hey Brian, how are you?  What can I do for you?”  Then you will know your time has been well spent!

            As a follow up point…  Don’t forget to say “Thank you.”  We all know what it is like to be worn down by criticism.  For people in office this can be a daily grind that becomes wearisome.  Besides the fact that it is nice to be appreciated, it lets them know you are watching! 

            If this sounds like something that could be exciting for you, or if you would simply like some more information please click here and give us some basic information so that we can follow up and help equip you to be an Advocate!

(Special thanks to Terry Steczo who helped to coach me through each of these points.)