What Do You Really Want?

I wrote “Finding the Best Person for the Job” a few weeks back. Since its publishing, the amount and content of correspondence I received has been quite flattering. Oddly though, without question, the overriding theme of the responses has been inquiries from people wanting to know whether I had any suggestions about finding their own natural point of aim in life.

Now, to be sure, I am no Dali Lama. While on your journey to discover the true self who lies, or lurks, within, don’t expect to find yourself summiting a mountain in Nepal only to stumble upon me sipping tea by a small fire, with a cache of wisdom titled, Life’s Answers to Who You Are, Where Are You Going? Keep in mind that I am probably trying to summit that same peak.

When I got the e-mail from one of my old pals at Monster who informed me that my ditty had been published, and on the front page, I was excited to see how the editors at ERE did with the slicing and dicing of my (well, their) intellectual property. Not much at all changed. The only thing I thought should be different was the title. In my opinion, it should have read, Finding the Right JOB for the Person. As I re-read it, I think that the focus got lost, or shifted to say the least. With the last two paragraphs acting as a preface, my second contribution here on this subject now follows.

Finding the right job for the person is hardly the recruiter’s responsibility. All too often, recruiters fall in to this trap: they change roles from finding good people to fill a position to finding a good position to employ people. One is a business function and the other is a coaching/outplacement function. I know from experience that I have fallen in love with a candidate or two, metaphorically speaking. Now, you can have a lot of success from marketing a solid candidate. I’m not going to dispute that. But, that’s not the point of my contribution. The point of this work is to offer some insight on how one goes about finding the correct career path, and how it relates to recruiting.

If you’re working at a desk, or functioning as an in-house recruiter, and find yourself wondering whether your professional endeavor is satisfactorily answering your life’s calling, chances are, it is not.

I’m not going to claim that I’m an expert on this matter. But it occurs to me that if you’re wondering about this, then your mind is not where it needs to be, and where it needs to be is where it naturally happens to fall at any given moment.

As humans, we are cursed with the capacity of self-examination. That curse has the result of what is known as “meta-thinking” in philosophical and psychological circles. That is, we can think about thinking. Our brains move so fast, that in functioning in our various roles, we lose track of where our comfortably thinking machines take us on our little neurological journeys.

Many of you may remember Kazoo, the little green guy on the Flintstones who would occasionally visit Fred and Barney with words of wisdom and deeds of misgiving. Wouldn’t it be nice to have your own Kazoo who could follow you around and take notes (in strict confidence, of course) about moment-to-moment thoughts? Perhaps after a few months, Kazoo would sit down with you and a psychologist to review your thought patterns. At the conclusion of this meeting, Kazoo, you, and the psychologist decide that, based upon their collective research, and your natural thought tendencies, you should make a career move to a…building custodian! Sorry, had to be humorous.

If you are among those camped out and searching for the answers to your own true calling, let me offer you this. You only get to travel around the Sun 80 to 90 times, assuming you are lucky and take good care of yourself. Chances are, you have already burned through 20, 30, 40, or maybe even 50 of those trips. Are you wondering whether you wasted any of those trips spinning your wheels?

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Now is the time to start taking notes on your life. Get out a notebook or start an online journal. Record things that bring you pleasure in a free-verse style. Write as it comes to you. You can organize it later.

Every time you have an experience that brings you pleasure, big or small, take note of it. Each of you reading this has certain activities that are a part of your career that you enjoy more than others. You also have those that you dread. You are probably far more proficient at those that you enjoy.

As you may have figured out, I love to write. I started this piece 45 minutes ago, and it seems like it’s been about 10 seconds. I like to think I’m good at it. (ERE must think so, too.) It drives my wife crazy because as she watches television in the evening, I snuggle up with a laptop and write. My point: I enjoy it, and as a result, I’m pretty good at it.

Now, if you are one of the fortunate ones who did get in to the right career and it happens to be recruiting, here’s what I have for you. Get good at asking questions about, and understanding, what makes people feel good. Then, ask them those same questions about their careers. Find out which aspects of their daily career activities they like, love, dislike, and hate. Then, get good at asking and understanding why. Is this something that you can do in a 10-minute phone screen? Not a chance.

Sure, there are pitfalls. You can become too empathetic and end up with a shoulder covered in tears because you forgot to play your own role and started to play shrink (neither ethical nor profitable). First, determine whether you are in the right career path: see Kazoo. If not, you have a whole different problem on your hands. If you are in the right career path/career field, then you have a new skill to learn: asking questions that will get to the heart of the matter.

The question that captures the “what do you want to do with your life?” phenomenon can best be summarized in one simple question. I think of it as a mantra, really. I took it from a Kevin Spacey movie called Swimming With Sharks: What do you really want? What do you really want? What do you really want?

Todd Rogers is the sole partner with The Alva Bradley Company, LLC, a professional services firm in Fishers, Indiana. Prior to founding ABC, LLC, Todd worked in sales for Monster.com. He has a total of eight years experience in the recruiting industry, which by his own account feels more like 80 years. He also served five years in the U.S. Marines, and has a B.A. in philosophy from Kent State University in Ohio.


2 Comments on “What Do You Really Want?

  1. It was called ‘Beyond the Sea’ and is part of his recent work. He plays the crooner Bobby Darrin. Late in his career (this being the 60’s and 70’s) he started to take a groovier bent (he, alone, on a stool with a guitar, sans his toupee, on a darkened stage with a spotlight on his bent head, showcasing his receding hairline) to entertaining and his lounge act flopped. His wife, Sandra Dee, remarked casually, one day, ‘People hear what they see.’ That startled him into an awakening from which he revamped his lounge act to include a chorus and visuals on stage (same 60’s and 70’s songs) and enjoyed much more success in his career.

    It’s hard to get people to ‘hear’, isn’t it?

    ‘I look at you and I write down what I hear.’ ~ Virgil Thomson

  2. Hello Todd:

    ‘Finding the right job for the person is hardly the recruiter’s responsibility.’

    That’s true enough since ‘Finding the right job for the person’ is the responsibility of the hiring manager. Why would anyone hire a new employee and not have the job be the right job for the new employee?

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