Sassy, Irreverent Punk Rock HR Ends Its Run

Aug 2, 2010
This article is part of a series called News & Trends.

The Punk Rock HR lady is about to pen her final post. What will it be? A nostalgic farewell to the blog she started three years ago? A rant, perhaps, about why sex and drugs don’t mix in the workplace, but might elsewhere? Or a pitch to neuter your cats and dogs and that indecisive manager who insists hiring is all about the vibe?

Yes, indeed, Laurie Ruettimann is calling it quits. Sort of. Her final post to Punk Rock HR will come the end of the month. She’s known since selling the site to RecruitingBlogs last year that sooner or later the day would come when she would stop offering her punkian views on everything from men in plaid shorts who pee a lot to such career advice as “When your butt hurts from work, it’s time to make a change.

But this is no eulogy. Ruettimann won’t be blogging on Punk Rock HR, but she won’t be not writing. “I am a writer by nature,” she says, explaining she’ll be starting a new blog somewhere. When we talked last Thursday, she didn’t have a name for it and wasn’t exactly sure what it would be like, except that it will be about HR and especially recruiting.

By now she may have decided. She’s supposed to be announcing her departure today on Punk Rock HR and talking about her venture as a partner in New Media Services. The new business will provide targeted content to participants at conferences via new media platforms.

Let me pause here for a moment to reassure Ruettimann fans that the complete collection of Punk Rock HR posts will endure. She’ll have a copy on her new blog, while Punk Rock HR will have a set. Jason Davis, founder of RecruitingBlogs, promised the archive would remain, saying, ”We are not exactly sure what we will do with the site. There is an amazing body of great posts from a great writer and personality.”

That anyone should care what becomes of last week’s posts, let alone last year’s, puzzles Ruettimann. Writing, she says, is “Just a job to me.” That’s a comment she’ll repeat often during our hour-long conversation.

It’s the first time I’ve spoken with her, though I’ve read Punk Rock HR and seen her speak at HR conferences. I tried to introduce myself at one, but the crowd around here was deep enough I never got the chance.  She seems surprised when I tell her this; surprised there was a crowd. “Really?” she asks.

“I have no illusions that what I write about matters to anybody,” she tells me. “Absolutely nobody cares.”

“I try to be healthy about this and not take myself too seriously,” she confesses, and then thanks me for referring to her as a writer. “I’m just a blogger.”

Ah. But what a blogger. Her career advice shows up in The New York Times and her recruiting counsel in The Conference Board’s journal. CareerBuilder lists Punk Rock HR as one of the “5 Job Blogs You Should Be Reading.” The credentials list is long, matched only by the list of speaking engagements.

Ruettimann’s success dispensing HR wisdom comes from a past as serious and even button-down as Punk Rock HR is sassy and irreverent. An English major with degrees from U.S. and U.K. colleges, Ruettimann began her career parlaying a candy company HR internship she took out of necessity into a full-time job.

She needed money. Leaf had a job. She took it and discovered her niche: recruiting. “I was good at it,” she says, quickly adding that it wasn’t hard to be good at the job. “As long as you’re sober and show up you can make candy.”

Leaf was acquired by Hershey and she came along for a while before leaving to do staffing for Monsanto and later moved on to Spherion as recruiting manager. A few more moves and she was at Pfizer, commuting to her job in New York from her home in Michigan and preparing to move to North Carolina.

Sick of commuting, tired of corporate HR, and fortunate enough to be offered a “sweet severance package,” Ruettimann figured she’d do a little blogging, pick up some consulting work, and between that and her husband’s job, they’d make ends meet. “We really worked hard to keep our expenses down. We don’t spend a lot.”

It was 2007, the year before the world’s economy came crashing down, taking with it more than a few publishing giants. Yet Ruettimann managed to survive. HR Bloggers, which she started in August of 2007, the same time as Punk Rock HR, is still there. She co-founded HRM Today a year later. Last August, she stepped away from both when she sold Punk Rock HR.

Why the businesses survived, even thrived, when the economy claimed so many other victims, is a surprise to Ruettimann. “Did I just get lucky?” she wonders, admitting to the insecurity that seems to be an occupational trait of writers. “Is there some window of the universe that is about to close?”

“It amazes me sometimes,” she says, “that anyone reads this stuff. Nobody gives a shit about what I do. ”

I point out that someone must. She was just recently cast as the career adviser in a pilot for a reality show about finding a job. She won’t or can’t talk about it, though she makes me promise to note that it wasn’t her idea; that it hasn’t been sold to any network, and; she may not end up in the role, should it be picked up.

Her blog is on most HR blogrolls and every post has comments.

For God’s sake she even gets something like 30 comments when she complains about hubby missing the recycling bin with the day’s newspaper, itself an interesting artifact in this digital age.

She concedes that, OK, there are people who read her blog, and actually do pay attention to her HR advice. And even care about her five cats who often appear in posts. She gets paid to attend conferences and to dispense such advice as, “I’m a cynical HR professional and I know one thing: if you’re dumb enough to give me a free work product in a desperate attempt to get a job, you are too dumb to work for my company.”

She’s a success and wonders why. And how. “What is it that makes me succeed?” she repeats before declaring, “I have no f***ing clue.” But she does, and in a moment offers this: “I just don’t accept no. I just plod forward.”

And that bit of advice from Laurie Ruettimann is free.

This article is part of a series called News & Trends.
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