Transactionist to Strategist: Horatio Alger at Work?

Have you ever heard the term “Horatio Alger story”? Ever actually read one? Most likely the answer is no, if not to both questions certainly the last one. I knew that “Horatio Alger story” was a synonym for “rags to riches.” I was never even certain if they were about someone by that name or if Alger was the author. So I had the opportunity to read one the other day and got curious enough to do a bit of research. Horatio Alger, Jr. was indeed the author of a great number of stories about boys in late 19th century New York City who go from rags to respectability (however generally not riches as is usually stated.) They do this through a stroke of good luck that they then take advantage of through hard work and good moral character. There is even the Horatio Alger Association which honors individuals who “…are dedicated community leaders who demonstrate individual initiative and a commitment to excellence; as exemplified by remarkable achievements accomplished through honesty, hard work, self-reliance and perseverance over adversity. All potential Members must have a strong commitment to assisting those less fortunate than themselves and be willing to contribute to the mission of providing scholarships for younger generations.”

As I finished reading one of the Ragged Dick stories, I started thinking, in a convuluted way, about HR and the transition from being a “lowly transactionist” to the much more “respected” level of “strategist” as a potential potential “rags to riches” story. Certainly no one wants to remain the “boot black” of HR, functioning as a “transactionist.” Everyone wants to earn their “seat at the table” ( I see many of you cringing at that) and gain respectability in the organization. And many of you have done just that. You started initially in positions where you “toted that bail”, delivered that package, filed that paperwork, did the screening interview, etc. Some of you may have had a mentor, “the wealthy benefactor” of the stories, that helped you along, gave you guidance and helped you better yourself in your position. And thus you found yourself in a position to affect change in your organization by providing advice, direction and wisdom based upon your knowledge of the business and the world. You became a Horatio Alger character.

So tell us your Horatio Alger story. Where did you start? Was there a “good turn of fortune” that helped you make it to the next level? Did you have a “wealthy benefactor”? What hard work did you do to achieve what you have today?

Or if you think I am “all wet” in my statement that no one wants to remain a “transactionist” tell me why. Do you take pride in the fact that you can “put a better shine” on transactions than others?

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