Thursday, November 29, 2012

Go Your Own Way

Perhaps it is just me, but I have always felt that if I saw the crowds all doing the same thing, I would do something different to stand out - and often I would do the opposite. I’ve never been a fan of strict conformity. I think being a little bit at odds with and rejecting strict adherence to convention is at the heart of innovation. Especially in the professional environment, one might conclude there is less and less tolerance for non-conformity when it comes to processes. By the very nature of this blog, wouldn’t you know it, I come right back to leveling an indictment at currently accepted / dictated hiring practices you’re supposed to follow.  

I’m not suggesting anything radical, just different.

  • When everyone else is introducing themselves with a mouse click, I suggest people introduce themselves with a hand-delivered resume and a handshake.
  • While others sit obediently by the phone or watch the email, two weeks following the delivery of your email, I suggest contacting the company to ask if they’ve received it and try to reach an appropriate party.
  • When you interview, don’t limit yourself to responding only to an interviewer's questions, I recommend engaging them in a business conversation.
  • When other people wait for a request for references I suggest people have them at the ready, in written form, and offer them at the end of the second interview, pre-empting a request with a gesture that says “Hey go ahead, check me out”.
  • Let others cross their fingers and passively hope for an invitation in the days and weeks after their interview. I suggest right then and there, ask about the next step before leaving your interview and following up accordingly. 
  • Instead of waiting passively with fingers crossed for a job offer, I coach people to ask for the job and to guide the conversation in just that direction. 
Yet there are many people who say, “Oh, I don’t know if I can do that, someone might not like it”. Like who, some administrative bureaucratic drone? That’s to be expected anyway because anything that disrupts their neurotically strict adherence to routine generates an expression of displeasure. Don’t get me wrong, I am not labeling all administrators as bureaucrats, just most of them. I have been an overtly proactive headhunter for over 20 years, and to get results I’ve learned how to probe and push right up to the edge, just short of crossing the line. In most cases, you can call the very next day and they won't remember you five minutes after you’ve spoken with them. If so, it is easier to ask for forgiveness than for permission in such situations. Business people aren’t so concerned and, ironically, if you can get through to them, the more senior they are the easier they are to speak with – that is, if you have something worthwhile to say when the opportunity presents itself. Don’t worry about upsetting bureaucrats; anything that interrupts their cup of coffee or online social networking discombobulates them anyway. As long as you act with professional courtesy you’re not doing anything wrong. I’ve learned that these rule books, about what is the accepted behavior, are a myth perpetuated by the very administrators to whom I am referring and has little to do with the smooth running of a company. 

I live by the phrase lead, follow or get out of the way; if you feel compelled to take the initiative in your own or your family’s self-interest, do it. If you need or want a job, fictitious protocols, propped up as being necessary, only serve those least affected by the rules. Take initiative - innovate. Playing by the rules is fine but, when they are only formulaic obstacles to your progress, break from the lock-step of others patiently waiting in lines that are going nowhere, collecting dust or worse.  

I’m not suggesting anyone abandon the current ritual of pursuing a job opportunity. I am suggesting, however, that depending on the situation, if your instincts tell you to be more proactive, do it and don’t be apologetic. Don’t talk yourself out of it because someone may give you a look of displeasure. If you do the same as everyone else and fail to choose to innovate and be different, don’t complain when you get the same results or the lack thereof. The moral of this story, and my message, is real decision-makers like those who take initiative.

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