An Empty Shell

I love collecting shells on the beach and I was able to do that on a holiday at the Gold Coast recently. The excitement of sifting through the sand in the hope of finding the perfect shell keeps me walking for far longer than my legs would like.

Upon my return home I have a bag full of gorgeous shells! As I pull them all out and find places around our house to display them they don’t seem quite as special as they did on the beach. They have lost some of their magic and beauty when taken out of their environment and now they just seem like…well…empty shells.

I had another “empty shell” experience recently in my hunt for a job. The company had the values and culture that I dream about and I had actually dreamt about working for them for at least the past 10 years. You can imagine my surprise when I got an interview and then eventually got the job. You can imagine my dismay when I decided to turn the job down.

This experience made me realise that organisations are simply made up of people and people don’t always embody the values and culture of the organisation. The way the job was offered to me was in conflict with my own values (and those of the organisation) and left me feeling like I do when I bring shells home – underwhelmed…

You see, when you stand on the outside and look in things tend to appear magical and wonderful but when you scratch around a bit and become involved things can look very different. I am a huge fan of standing on the outside and looking in as you can learn a lot about people that way (I am a self confessed behaviour voyeur) however, you do miss a good dose of reality if you do this too often. As you might have realised, I am not a huge fan of reality but there are times when it does tend to bite you in the face!

So, what did I learn from this experience? I think Bella said it best when she suggested that we collect lots of shells and then throw them back to their home, into the sea. I will continue to collect shells on the beach, but I will only take home the really, really special ones. All the others can be thrown back into the sea where they belong. Sometimes, I wish I could do that with some people…

What are your “empty shell” experiences?

How do you behave/react when you have one of these experiences?

Are you living your organisation’s values when you talk to customers or prospective employees or are you contributing to the ’empty shell’ approach…?


Recruitment Reframed

I have recently joined the masses that are looking for work. It has been both a sobering and an enlightening experience as I come to terms with the recruitment process and my own demons.

This column is in two parts, firstly a bit of a rant on the current outsourcing of recruitment and then some ideas on how to reframe the whole recruitment experience into something meaningful and maybe even…pleasurable…

When did HR get so lazy? The last time I was looking at changing jobs (in 2008) you could still apply directly to the organisation. This time, most jobs seem to go through a gatekeeper, the recruitment company. Why would HR outsource one of its most important functions? Can you really trust someone else to screen applicants, particularly if it is for a specialist role? If people are the organisations’ most important asset wouldn’t HR take the time to own the end to end recruitment process?

Outsourcing is the way of the future I hear you say. Outsourcing serves organisations well when they are unable to provide the service internally but why outsource something you, as a HR practitioner, are qualified to deliver? HR Leader Magazine (August 30, 2010) provides a list of the pros and cons of outsourcing. The comment that organisational ‘processes need to be improved before outsourcing’ is relevant to recruitment and echoes the point of view taken by Kelly McGowan in an interview for B Talk Australia. McGowan, herself a recruiter, concedes that organisations often take a reactive approach to recruitment and the brief for the recruitment agency is to locate a candidate quickly to plug the hole. The agency then adopts a production line process and seeks to find the person who has the right wording on their CV (literally, as they sometimes use word matching software to sift through the many applications).

I have experienced this first hand during the beginning of my job search. I showed my CV to a recruitment consultant and was advised that it was too different and I needed to dot point key skills up front. Angela Lussier would have had a heart attack! I actually changed it and that was the beginning of my loss of power…more on that later.

So it has been established that HR and recruitment agencies might need to rethink their recruitment processes. You and I have no control over this – we can only live in hope. We do, however, have control over how we approach the job seeking market and the next section of this column is on that very topic.

One of the career related sites I love is Brazen Careerist and they recently offered an eBook called “Getting a Job”. It’s a quick read that provides hints from some of the coolest HR bloggers. I’ve synthesised the book for you in dot point below. Here’s what you need to do to get a job…

Get a mentor
Post your CV online
Figure out who you are – know what you value
Figure out what job you want – where do you fit
Up your EQ
Take control
Be happy
Remember job = income and there are other ways to obtain an income
Know your destination and pursue it with complete abandon

A great list! Consider these quotes from two of the authors of the eBook.

Peter Clayton

Recruiters search for and recommend passive candidates (ie people with jobs). They don’t help you find a job.

John Sumser

Jobs online = lottery ticket. You have a one in two hundred chance of getting the job.

I thought a lot about that list and those comments and I have decided that I need to reframe my recruitment search. Here’s what I now intend to do (I must acknowledge Deanna for some of these suggestions)

Get really clear on my values and passion
Get really clear on the organisation I want to work for
Visualise myself working there – my desk, the people around me, colours etc etc etc.
Visit the building, sit in the foyer, immerse myself in the environment
Send some unsolicited CV’s directly to the organisation
Use my network to source jobs
Take back all the power of job searching and really own the process

Here’s what I am going to stop doing

Applying for jobs through a recruitment agent
Allowing the recruitment agency to hold all the power

You have to believe in yourself and know that the right organisation is out there for you and they will be so happy when you find them!