The unicorn candidate

A quick glance through my blogs posts will reveal that I have a tendency to focus on and write about the things that irritate me. Do I think it’s my purpose in life to point out the failings of others? Do I have to be as judgmental as I am? Do I think the world would be a better place if everyone else were more like me?

Of course not.

But be honest with yourself. If you are a regular reader of my blog – do you come for the unicorns, rainbows and cupcakes? Are you looking for quotes that are worthy of a motivational poster?

Of course not.

There is a mutual understanding that you are here to read my take on things and I’m going to deliver that.

I try to go as far as Sarcasm, but not all the way to Snark. Snark is just mean and petty. Sarcasm for me is like two glasses of wine…both make me feel like I’m a pretty damn witty person.

However, even I am capable of seeing good and I am more than willing to share. Especially when it comes to recruitment, which is my regular whipping post for all things evil.

It’s true.

Most aspects of recruitment make me feel like I’m being subjected to some social experiment designed to test my sanity and patience. And this is generally the result of candidates who blatantly disregard the process/system because they read some terrible HR-blogger advice that you should break all the rules.

However, there are some gems out there and this post is about one of them.

I had the good fortune of screening and interviewing a candidate who was good and really keen, but not the right person for the job at the time. And when I told him this, he asked if he could keep in touch with me because he really wanted to work with us. I said yes, but thought…great, more phone calls to avoid.

He did keep in touch with me on a regular, but respectful basis. His updates included news about what he was up to personally and career wise. He asked good questions about what kind of training or reading might be useful, should another position come available. He found a great balance between staying on my radar and not being completely annoying. His emails were never pushy and I never resented having to answer them.

When an opening became available – he was the first person I contacted.

He now works for us and I am told he is showing incredible potential and commitment in the role. This is really not a surprise to me because he showed incredible potential and commitment in his approach to his job search. I mean, he should be writing a blog advising candidates on what to do.

It’s not very often that I am without a snappy comment about a situation.

It’s about as rare as unicorns eating rainbow-coloured cupcakes. Or the candidate that does it right.

How asking for feedback saved this blog

If Golom had only asked Bilbo this riddle, maybe he could have kept his damn Precious.

I am always asked for, but never really wanted?
I am often avoided when needed and ignored when warranted?
Both my presence and absence hold the power to determine fate.
What am I?

All you HR people out there, stop waving your hands in the air, I’m not going to pick you. Geesh, no wonder they won’t let you sit at the table.

The answer is feedback.

Ah yes, the elusive feedback. We want it, but aren’t always happy with what we get, whether it’s because it’s not enough or not what we expected.

Managers avoid giving it when there’s a problem and don’t think it’s necessary when things are going well. Similarly, employees don’t feel that they need to provide feedback – they assume their managers can read their mind.

Feedback has the power to influence whether someone improves, fails, stays, leaves, smiles, cries, or writes a blog post.

Is it really that big a deal? Shouldn’t our employees be big boys and girls and learn how to self-soothe? Why do they need their manager to pat them on the bag or kick the in them arse all the time?

Why indeed.

Let me tell you something about the power of feedback, in a non-work context.

Over the past year or so I have been struggling with finding my place in the universe. I know, that sounds grandiose, but I don’t mean it in some existential way, I just mean asking the questions about what I want, what I want to do, what I’m willing to do. This included my work, my interests, and even this blog.

In fact, all this introspection started because I heard an advertisement for a lottery and the tagline was something like “what would you do with millions”. I listened to the different dreams and then wondered what would I do if I had carte-blanche.

You know what? Beyond the mundane pay off my mortgage, go on a trip, buy some clothes…I came up blank.

I had, as Anne Shirley would say, “no scope of imagination”. Basically, I could not come up with a dream, a passion to pursue, a hobby to explore….I was creativity-less. I started to panic when I realized that I might just be living in black and white.

So I read, I wrote lists, I did some soul-searching, but I really felt like I had developed a filter so thick and effective that I was no longer able to see my true self. I needed help.

I put it out there to a few people close to me, whose opinions I value and honesty I could count on, and asked them…what do you think are my strengths, what do you see me potentially doing (either as a career or a hobby). I was worried that they would come back with the same results as me: “I don’t know” or worse, tell me that who I was today was exactly who they saw me as.

Their answers were overwhelmingly supportive, somewhat surprising, and very encouraging.

And maybe because I put this out there, I received unsolicited feedback that was actually on par with what my supporters gave me. Or maybe I was just more open to hearing it.

The common thing I was told was that my “writing” was my strength, my interest, and my potential.

Oddly enough this is not something that I came up with on my own. I like to write, mostly because it’s a socially acceptable way of enjoying the sound of my own voice, but also because it helps me understand and make links among the various parts of my life.

To hear that others think I’m good at this is unexpected, but welcome feedback. I know that sounds like false modesty, but it’s not. I have a terrible habit of under-estimating myself so this was motivating and encouraging. It hasn’t given me delusions of grandeur or unrealistic expectations – it’s reassured me that maybe others like the sound of my voice too.

I desperately need a creative outlet in my life and writing is one possible way of achieving this.

So if you find yourself wondering whether providing feedback is worth it, consider that this post, and possibly the blog, would not have existed without it. And to me that is truly precious.

Be careful for what you wish for

I grew up with a relatively equal amount of male friends and female friends. This started in grade school and stretched well into university and beyond. In fact, during high school, I would say that the majority of my friends were guys or at least it seemed that way.

At the time I felt this was the better option. Conversations with guys were less complicated – they were straightforward and not loaded with potentially misinterpreted emotional outbursts. They were calm, relaxed and it was no big deal if you just sat there and watched the TV show. I appreciated how direct they were with each other – no clouding what you really thought. Maybe someone got pissed off, but by the end of the day…it was over. They laughed at each other, swore, and didn’t talk about what they were wearing the next day.

And so, I hung out with them when I could because life seemed so much easier with them.  Had you asked, I would have told you that I would have more issues raising a girl than boy – I mean, how could I relate? Could I deal with all the drama?

Funny how time and perspective can change your opinion on things.

Like being the parent of a teenage boy.

Suddenly all those characteristics that I found appealing as a teen are completely irritating as a mother.

That calm relaxed demeanor without emotional outbursts seems more like living with an extra from The Walking Dead.

The direct, no BS way of talking…yeah well, if I had a dollar for every time I’ve said, ” it’s not what you just said – it’s the tone you used”, I could buy an island and escape the oppressing fog of disdain that I live under.

I thought my friendships from adolescence would have prepared me for raising a teenage boy. I believed that my teenage daughter would have been my nemesis – given that I actively avoided dealing with them when I was one. What I have discovered is that the only things that these experiences gave me were false expectations and bad assumptions.

This is not unlike the manager or VP who is determined to fill their team with high-energy, career-driven, status-challenging people.

Why? Because that it is who they were in their early career – they pushed boundaries, crossed lines and rocked boats. And look at what they achieved!

But being one of these A-players is not the same as managing an A-player.

They can be a pain in the ass. They can be high maintenance. They can be insubordinate, disruptive, and plain ole irritating. I mean, why can’t they just follow the plan and stop questioning everything?

Why?

Because you got what you wished for.

The problem is that you didn’t really stop to consider what you were wishing for.