Listen Up: It Could be Life-Changing

By Jessica Speas posted 08-10-2022 16:24

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Listen closely. Did you hear it? It was that informal conversation that magically yielded a tidbit of transformative advice. Maybe it happened at a VHMA meeting breakout session or at the breakfast buffet that proceded it. Perhaps the pivotal chat happened when the conference day ended over a glass of wine. Regardless of where it occurred, advice was bestowed, and my advice to you can be summed up in three words: listen, consider, and grow.

I speak from first-hand experience. I genuinely believe that none of us can or should claim victory as self-made individuals. Pathways toward success are formed by circumstances, opportunities, bits of luck, and random pieces of advice that are given to us along the way.

When I was new to VHMA, a seasoned VHMA member said, “Great, you are a CVPM; now you need to join a VHMA committee.”  I figured, sure, why not? Then I joined three: Programming, Membership, and Ethics. When a new chair was needed for the Programming Committee, the current chair said, “Why don’t YOU chair the committee?” I took on the challenge, and he stayed on to guide me.

I found committee-level involvement with VHMA very rewarding. So, when a new piece of advice came my way – “You should run for the VHMA Board” – I opted to take it– and joined the VHMA’s Board of Directors.

 “Don’t be quiet and shy; speak up!” a fellow VHMA board member advised me early into my first term. Perhaps to the regret of others, I took that recommendation to heart and spoke up…a lot.  Encouraged and mentored by other VHMA board members, I progressed from two-term Director to Secretary, to Vice President, to my current role as your President. I can look back on this journey and say with certainty that the words of advice from others served as my faithful guide.

Twenty years into my professional journey, I feel it is my turn and my responsibility to speak up with sage advice for others new to the profession or VHMA. While one-on-one is my preferred approach, I figured this blog could be a great way to reach many of you simultaneously. So here it goes:

  • Don’t wait for the right time to take the next step. Just take it. I can honestly say that I have never been quite ready for anything I have done. But I never let that stop me. Professional paths are no longer paths that start from the bottom and progress up a ladder. There are step stools, side steps, and even steps backward. These are all okay, as long as you are taking some sort of step.
  • Embrace the unknown. The best thing you can do for yourself is to boldly pursue the unfamiliar. What do you have to lose? True confession – I am terrified to speak on stage, but as VHMA President, I must do it. What puts butterflies in your stomach? Try to do it.
  • Be open to unconventional ideas. When I was anxiously prepping to sit for the CVPM, a wise member told me to book myself at a nice hotel, relax and study. Eccentric advice? Maybe, but I took it, and I passed.
  • Listen! It Could Be Life-Changing. There is no such thing as a random conversation. Every expressed idea and every piece of advice has the potential to open doors, transform careers, and unveil opportunities. Listen and consider them all!
  • Speak Up and Share. If you follow my first four pointers, chances are good that you are ready to be an impactful advisor yourself, ready to go guide the next wave of VHMA members. Speak Up and become that person!

Now that I have shared my tips allow me to share one more thing: Gratitude. I am beyond grateful to every VHMA member who has guided me along my pathway. Thank you for the time you engaged me in a conversation and offered your advice. I am so glad that I listened!

Jessica Speas, CVPM, SPHR, PHR-ca, SHRM-SCP, CCFP
VHMA President




08-29-2022 14:58

It's so true that being part of the VHMA and earning my CVPM has afforded me opportunities I couldn't have even imagined! And I'm so lucky to have people like Jessica be part of my journey! These are great lessons before the Annual Conference. Thanks for the reminder!

08-26-2022 10:05

Truer words have rarely been written. There is no way that I could envision where the VHMA has led me. Step out and take that scary opportunity!