If you’re looking to speak to someone who’s happy in their job – no, scratch that, adores their job, so much so that their enthusiasm should be bottled and sold – you need look no further than Wendy Murphy, Senior Director of HR for LinkedIn, EMEA. With a beaming smile and a warmth that you just can’t help but gravitate towards, this HR specialist knows a thing or two about what it takes to stand out from the crowd in a competitive workforce. What’s more, if you’re looking for someone to inspire and encourage you to pursue your career aspirations, whether you’re starting out, post-university, or you’ve lost your mojo twenty years down your career path, Wendy’s your woman there too. Leading a team of 70 on LinkedIn’s talent organisation, she lives for working with people, developing them and helping them to achieve their potential. So much so, she’s built her entire career around just that. We had the pleasure of sitting down with Wendy for one of the most invigorating chats we’ve had of late, and quite frankly, we could have spoken to her for hours. With practical advice on making the most of your LinkedIn profile to new ways of looking at your ‘work/life balance’, Wendy is all the reassurance we needed that Ireland has long left the recessionary doldrums and there are now opportunities aplenty for those who seize the day.
The early days…
“As a kid, I wanted to be a teacher, and then when I got a little bit older I wanted to be a lawyer; sure you wouldn’t even know what HR is growing up. When I was in transition year I spent a couple of weeks doing work experience as a teacher and a couple of weeks in a law firm and then the school offered us the chance to do a third one, but there was nothing else I wanted to do, as far as I knew anyway. My mum arranged some work experience for me in a HR department of a large company. I had such a fantastic time. I developed this love for working with people there and then and later on, when studying business in college, I realised that the modules I was best at were the ones that centred around people. Fresh out of college, I got a proper internship at Eircom and I absolutely loved it so I knew, at that point, that it was the career path for me. Soon after that I met with someone who became a mentor of mine – he still is to this day – who gave me a lot of guidance that I’m now able to pass on myself. One of the things he advised me on was to make sure I get international experience (at least with regard to HR) because there would be talent shortages in the future (which there was) and working with talent was going to become hot property around the world (which it is). And it still rings true today; you need to be able to show that you are a global thinker, that you’re dynamic and that you understand the business you support.”
Wendy on ‘imposter syndrome’ and the importance of humility…
“I always knew I was good at building relationships with people. People naturally gravitate towards me and always ask me for advice. One of my first jobs was as a dance teacher with a troupe of fifteen girls so I’ve always had that interest in leadership (although I didn’t know it then) and I’ve always been fairly confident in that regard. Where the imposter syndrome really kicked in for me though was in understanding the mechanics of a business in the early days, but that comes with years of experience. It doesn’t happen over night. For me, being able to show humility is very important. I don’t know all of the answers and I’m still asking lots of questions and learning along the way so I’ve always tried to remain authentic in showing this vulnerability. You cannot be perfect and good at everything. This is paramount for anyone in a leadership role; one piece of feedback I’m consistently given from my team is that they appreciate my honesty and transparency, so, in turn, they feel that they can be really open and transparent with me too.”
A day in life of one of LinkedIn’s most senior directors…
“My role is very diverse. I sit on a number of leadership teams. I sit on the global HR leadership team for LinkedIn so I would have a lot of conferences with the US. I sit on the EMEA leadership team which consists of the most senior functional leaders across our region, and then I’m also sitting on the Dublin leadership team as it’s our EMEA headquarters. We’ve such a large headcount here; it’s a really important strategic hub for us. So depending on which hat I’m wearing, I’m in various meetings on that. I also manage a team of seventy people working in the talent organisation in EMEA; I am their leader. So I have to make sure I am there for them and that I’m supporting them. As for my typical day? I get up at 6am, I am usually in the gym at 6.15am. I’m doing three days a week, sometimes four at the gym. I’d finish at 7.30, head home, shower and change, then back into work and then I would have a series of meetings.”
The best thing(s) about her job…
“There are so many things that I love. I say this all the time but I have the best job I’ve ever had in my career to date, and this is the best company I’ve ever worked for. My only challenge would be where I would go to next! I’ll be snookered (she laughs). My team would be top of the list. I have the best team who I can 100% rely upon, we have great fun, we get on so well and we’re all completely different (diversity in age profile in gender in backgrounds in nationality). We just connect really well. Second to that would be the opportunity I have here to do what I’m passionate about. I live for developing people and helping them reach their potential, whether it’s early in someone’s career or a senior executive who’s not sure what they’re doing yet; I live to help them navigate their career journey. That’s what stimulates me.”
The biggest challenge?
“Juggling all of the travel. I’m responsible for ten countries and I report to the US and I have all of those different hats that I’m wearing, so it’s hard trying to make sure that I do leave that time for myself and my family and that I don’t give everything over to the job.”
Learning from career mistakes…
“I was working in a recruitment agency a good few years ago and a lot of the things that I had to do just didn’t sit well with my core values. I really struggled with that and I kept staying because I felt it was the right thing to do for my CV, and I wish I had left earlier. Hindsight is a wonderful thing! It was just draining my energy and they weren’t getting as much out of me as I knew I could give; I just wasn’t passionate about it. It took me a long time to get there and it does for a lot of people, to figure out ‘what are your core values?’ but now I have some very clear bright lines that I just won’t cross. This is an integrity piece for me now and actually that has helped me be a better professional.”
The death of work/life balance…
“I personally don’t believe in work/life balance. I don’t think it exists anymore, I think with technology we’re always on. So I believe in work/life blending. I blend my personal and my professional lives together. So my family and personal life might be in the middle of the day, depending on what’s going on. My team have often been on calls with me while I’m at the hairdressers.”
I personally don’t believe in work/life balance. I don’t think it exists anymore, I think with technology we’re always on. So I believe in work/life blending.
The benefits of meditation and positive stress…
“I try to factor in some down time. I meditate, doing ten minutes of mindfulness in the morning and ten minutes in the evening to bookend my day. And then every four to six weeks or so I build in days where I’d book myself into a spa and have a massage. My job is very full-on and I spend about 65-70% of my time travelling. The meditation has helped hugely, though; I’m much more focused. As far as stress is concerned I’ve always been pretty good at handling that; I’ve luckily always had a very high tolerance for stress so it doesn’t really bother me. I believe very much in positive stress though and the adrenaline that comes from that. Negative stress creates the worst environment and it’s not good for anyone. I have worked in companies that have had that and I’m so grateful to work for LinkedIn now where everything is so positive. If it’s negative then my energy just gets completely zapped.”
The essentials of a positive working environment…
“I think having a very clear agenda of what it is you’re trying to do – which is where the mindfulness can really help – is important. So is being really transparent with the team around what you can and can’t do and helping each other out. We always have each other’s backs. Most importantly, a good working environment relies upon having a bit of fun. I genuinely believe if you can’t have a laugh in work or vent to your peers then you’re in the wrong place. It’s a safe zone. I also think it’s really important and positive that, particularly in LinkedIn, we can be really open about our challenges at home, if any. When I had an issue with a sick family member and needed time off for example, my manager just said ‘family first, no need to even ask.’ So it’s all about give and take and trust.”
What Irish companies need to catch up on…
“The days of the traditional 9-5 should be well behind us. That level of micromanagement and time management is not helping anyone. And that’s where I come back to the blending. A day is not going to be the same today as it was 15 years ago when you clocked in at 9am and out at 5pm. You get the work done whenever and wherever you get it done and there’s trust there. Companies have to adapt to this way of thinking and working because the talent is demanding it. Commuting times are getting longer; people can’t necessarily afford rental prices in the city so all of those factors require companies like us to adapt our talent strategies. Companies need to evolve to survive.”
What the future holds…
“For LinkedIn? I see so much opportunity to broaden out what we do. Check out our economic graph strategy that maps out the next ten years; it shows our plans to have more jobs and company pages on our platform, help universities connect with talent and help professionals develop skills to get their dream job. In general we’re striving to create more economic opportunities for the global workforce. I strongly believe we can actually change the GDPs of countries. The thought of being able to change lives like that is just amazing. As for me personally? I would see me scaling this business for the next couple of years in EMEA and then I would hope to take on more of an international role which hopefully means I could be based anywhere in the world.”
Wendy Murphy’s career guidance.
What do you look for in a potential candidate?
“Agility. Being able to learn quickly, on the fly. I don’t hire for one job I hire for the next 3-5 years. So I’m always thinking ‘what could this person potentially grow into?’ and have they got the agility to be able to navigate through that. A positive attitude is another trait that goes a long way. People that are willing to dust themselves off and show that resiliency and move forward, learning from their mistakes and getting on with it.”
What advice do you have for readers who are struggling to cope with stress at work?
“Share the problem, first and foremost. You’re not alone, and everybody has gone through the same problem at some point. There is no shame in asking for help. Get an outlet, whether it’s going for a walk or going to a gig with friends, have another outlet other than work so that you get to enjoy your full authentic self. I’m all about getting out and going to gigs and events; any opening of an envelope? I’ll be there.” (she laughs).
Are things finally improving in Ireland?
“Without a doubt. I left Ireland in 2007. I moved to the Carribean to work for Digicel (Denis O’Brien’s telecommunications company) and at the time things were just starting to go downhill here; you could feel that happening. Then I came back in 2012 and things were so much more cosmopolitan. From the restaurants to the diversity of people around, we’ve become a lot more open and there are so many cool and fun things to do now. And the career opportunities are huge once again, particularly if you have that all important international experience. We’ve recently published research on global migration patterns from an employment perspective and there are currently 18% more professionals moving into Ireland than leaving. When we were smack bang in the middle of recession we were losing so much of our talent to Australia, America, Canada etc. Irish people are coming home and then of course we have those who are non-Irish also coming here because of the opportunities, which creates an even bigger talent pool and more economic opportunities for Ireland.”
Potential areas to upskill?
There’s huge growth in the tech field right now. Anything to do with the cloud, or big data. The mining and extraction of data, the building of insights etc., this is where there are the most opportunities as all of the up and coming tech companies are using these methods. HR is another huge area of growth, funnily enough. If you’re a comp & ben (compensation and benefit) specialist, the world is your oyster right now! It’s such a niche area of HR.
Is the CV and cover letter dead?
Yes, 100%. Most employers now are using LinkedIn to find employees. I certainly don’t look at anybody’s resume when I’m interviewing them, just their LinkedIn profile.
Developing your ‘personal brand’…
People are not using their LinkedIn profiles in the right way, they’re not thinking about their personal brand which means that employers like me and other potential employers can’t find you. If you don’t have your skills listed out, and taken time to share your achievements, you haven’t positioned yourself in the right way etc. I often find myself pulling information out of people during interviews and asking them why they didn’t have that listed on their profile because it can often be amazing experience. Your profile has to tell more about you and create a more authentic picture of you than the old traditional application process ever could. The data is always live and up to date; people tend to update their profiles far more regularly than they ever would their CV. What’s more you get to see rich media where people are sharing articles, or they attach their blogs or share presentations that they’ve done and you get a much clearer feel for people.
Don’t be afraid to put yourself out there…
It’s a definite shift for Irish people who are conditioned to be more self-deprecating and not used to shouting about their accomplishments but we need to move more into that realm. Why not celebrate all of the great things that you’ve achieved in your life, there’s nothing wrong with it! There is huge competition for roles today so if you want to stand out and differentiate yourself you have to push yourself a little bit more. Think ‘what is my brand?’. Even if you’re happy in your job right now and you’re not looking elsewhere, LinkedIn can be hugely useful because it’s not just about getting jobs; it’s about building out your profile so that you can connect with other professionals. You can be also a thought leader in your space. You can have an input into the profession that you’re in and maybe make it better as it develops. People think it’s all about getting a new job, it’s not at all.
Top tips for a killer profile?
Good professional photograph, number one. Number two, your tagline. This doesn’t have to be your current job title. Don’t put the job you currently have there, put what it is that you are passionate about. If you look at mine it says ‘Inspiring and enabling Talent at Linkedin to transform themselves, the organisation and the world!’
Carpe Diem. Seize the day.