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HR Exec Shares 6 Workplace Lessons He's Learned The Hard Way Over The Course Of His Career

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If only our careers came with a guidebook! For most of us, we have to learn how to navigate work by simply gaining experience.

And as one HR professional revealed in a TikTok, those lessons can provide some invaluable guidance for those still finding their niche in their careers.

Today's job market is more cutthroat than ever before — and comes with virtually no guarantees or job security to boot. Roll that together with the staggering costs of student debt, and any leg up you can have in your career is a godsend. 

So, when a recent trend circulated on TikTok in which people shared the unforgettable lessons they've learned in the workplace, TikToker Jay Maliq had lots to say.

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As a senior HR professional, he has a wealth of insight to share, which he broke down into six key pieces of guidance. 

The HR exec shared 6 workplace lessons he learned the hard way during his career



1. 'HR does not work for you, HR works for the company'

This is a common mistake all kinds of people — this writer included — tend to learn the hard way in their careers.

For all the assurances HR professionals give to employees about "being on their side" and having an "open-door policy," the bottom line is that HR is there "to prevent the company from being exposed to risks," as Maliq put it.



Anything you tell them will be examined from that perspective, and Maliq went on to say that one of the most common misinterpretations of this is employees who try to "weaponize" HR when they're angry about something. That's literally not their job — protecting the company is.

2. 'There's no such thing as corporate loyalty,' so always be ready to job hunt

The days when dedication to a company paid off are, sadly, over. "A job will take six months in an interview process to hire you and take 60 seconds to terminate you," Maliq bluntly explained. 

So he urged workers to always be ready to make a move. "You should always have an updated resume… be open to interviews… [and] be applying to jobs that interest you," even if it's just to sharpen your job-hunting skills.

3. Being laid off and being fired are two different things, and how companies handle them is revealing

"There's no such thing as…you being laid off because of performance," Maliq said. If it's because of performance, "you are being fired. Period."

HR Exec Shares 6 Workplace Lessons He Learned The Hard WayPhoto: 4 pm production / Shutterstock

But many companies use "layoffs" to save face and avoid the more difficult conversations firing requires — a move Maliq said is a sure indicator that the company leadership lacks integrity. 

"Companies that bundle them are spineless," he warned. "Don't even try to go back to that company, they are spineless leaders."

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4. 'At-will' employment does not mean companies don't need a reason to fire you

Maliq said this is something workers frequently confuse: that "at will" employment means companies can fire you for any reason or no reason at all. He said this is totally false for one very important reason.

"Because managers can discriminate. They can be biased," and without documentation, the company is exposed to legal risk.



And you, too, are put in a position of not being able to defend yourself without that documentation, so demand it. "You need to ask for the documentation and stop taking that bull…" Maliq urged.

5. All managers care about is whether or not you get your job done and do it well

"Nobody cares if you are the best dressed, if you are early all the time… if you're the funniest," Maliq said. " Do you execute? What is your progress on what you are responsible for? That is what matters."

HR Exec Shares 6 Workplace Lessons He Learned The Hard WayPhoto: Gorodenkoff / Shutterstock

Personality components, he said, are "secondary," and he urged workers to "stop listening to people that convince you otherwise."

6. Most people follow 1 of 3 career paths, and deciding which one you want is vital for your career strategy

This is perhaps Maliq's most useful piece of advice. Most people, he says, end up on one of three paths:

  • A generalist: a sort of "jack of all trades" who learns to manage multiple aspects of their field. Using HR as an example, Maliq explained that an HR generalist's ultimate goal might be to become the Chief Operating Officer, "so that means HR, operations, sales, customer service" would all report to them.
  • A specialist: someone who focuses on one specific part of their field, for instance, payroll. Maliq explained that a person's ultimate goal might be to become "vice president of payroll," and they work their way up the ladder of that particular specialty
  • A business owner: someone who spends however long it takes to amass enough expertise and money to then venture out on their own, either forming their own business in that field or becoming a consultant.


Maliq said figuring out which of these three paths most interests you should be the foundation of your career strategy, and will help you discern how to navigate the working world effectively and avoid ending up on paths that might not suit you.

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John Sundholm is a news and entertainment writer who covers pop culture, social justice and, human interest topics.