Life at the Crossroads and What to Do — NOW

Jun 10, 2009

“It’s a really unique situation where you have someone who is at a crossroads personally and professionally.” — Elliot Wilson

If living and working in this economy of disappearing jobs, tiny budgets, and little recruiting is getting a bit old, then perhaps you have arrived at your own personal crossroads. This metaphorical location is the intersecting point where what used to work for you in the past ends and what you will need to change in order to be successful in the future begins. As I see it, you have only two options:

  1. You can continue to do what you are doing and wait for the economy to “get back to normal.”
  2. You can make some fundamental changes to your core assumptions of how businesses that survive will operate so you might survive as well.

Personally, I have grave concerns about Option 1 because no one knows exactly what the new “normal” might be, and for all we know, this aberration might be the new “normal” and will remain such for years to come. If you share my concerns, please consider the following thoughts:

Expect Less. It matters little if you work as a contractor, agency, or corporate person. The face and very composition of work is changing radically. As such, the rewards normally tied to work will probably change as well. Consider the work-a-day existence of your past and acknowledge that it is probably going to remain in your past. Perhaps benefits will disappear. Perhaps the concept of “full time” will be based upon organizational need as opposed to “employee” legal standing. Perhaps you will trade value for money to be paid every Friday with both parties reevaluating the relationship every few months. Either way, expect less and smile.

Expect More. This is an opportunity for the cream of the crop to do great things. (It is also an opportunity for those who are not yet the cream to get there.) Regardless of what our flat, highly politicized world becomes, capitalists and entrepreneurs will always need to build great organizations in order to do great things. Those who effectively traffic in the procurement of human capital will always be paid for the talent they bring to the table because that is real value. Can’t get a job with one company? How about 60 hours a week with three or four companies? The time to get creative is now.

Don’t Freak on the Politics. I read a post on ERE saying that if the site went political, “I am out of here.” This thinking will not help your cause, your career, or your wallet. Show me something that affects your profession/business today and I will show you something that was political yesterday. The time to become aware and involved is now, because you can’t benefit from the political aspects of business with an “I-am-just-a-recruiter” mentality. Don’t get me wrong: I hate long, lunatic pointless ranting posts that blame all of this misery on one party/person/group or the other. The time for blame is over, and the time for awareness and action has arrived. Exactly how you do that is your decision, but pointing out the importance of being politically aware is mine. (In all of my years, I have never seen a recruiter with a copy of the Wall Street Journal. Why is that?)

They Told You They Have No Money? Are you an agency or a sourcer or some other vendor selling peripheral recruiting services? If so, let me tell you a little secret; all organizations have money. When they say that they have no money, they mean they have no money for you. That means, that they do not see real value in what you are selling, because if they did, they would find the money; they would stay up nights looking for it. I strongly suggest that all of us dramatically increase our value proposition. How? For openers, lower your price, because as cost goes down, value goes up. As an example, If I were in the agency business, I would reduce my fees. Most agency people hate this thinking for endless reasons but doing placements at 15% a pop is more sensible then non-stop conversations with clients about why your candidates are worth 30%. Those individuals who allow money to stand in the way of doing business are making a grave mistake.

Paradigm Shifts Are Good. Use Them. Many years ago, the Swiss owned the watch industry. Then the Japanese began to make watches using cheapo quartz innards that were far more accurate as opposed to expensive Swiss movements. That was a paradigm shift and all paradigm shifts bring the marketplace back to zero as the race begins again! The Japanese made bazillions of these watches and decimated Swiss domination. The Japanese found a better way, and the world bought. The lesson here? The future of recruiting is up for grabs. Radical new ideas in conjunction with creative, global, and scalable solutions will change everything! If you have an idea, shoot for the moon now or spend your life wishing that you did.

Leave Recruiting. Shocked? You shouldn’t be. Please remember that recruiting has no bar to entry. If and when recruiting “comes back,” regardless of how good you might be, your competition will be every 24-year-old kid with capped teeth and greased hair looking to make a buck. What’s that you say? They will recognize your years of experience and talent? Hmmm … Some will, but more will not, as their lower pricing will be a strong lure. Tired of being part of an industry that gets squished ever five or so years? Are you an agency person who is beginning to hate the grind and 75 cold calls a day? A corporate person who despises the politics and the games? If so, perhaps now is the time to realize that recruiting does not have to be a life sentence. Good recruiters have terrific skills and they can do so many other things. As an example, about three or four years ago, I was with Dave Lefkow doing a presentation in NYC for a fortune 100 client. Look at Dave now. Who knew? Hopefully, you can see there is more then one way to bring home the bacon.

These ideas are but the tip of the iceberg in looking at new ways to think, act, and do business. I do not see any real option to making these changes, because either business will adjust to you, or you will adjust to business. Which one do you think will happen?

(Hanging around Minnesota this Friday? See Howard Adamsky speak at Best Buy headquarters in Richfield. The presentation is entitled “Brave New World/The Emerging Role of Tomorrow’s Recruiters.” Cost is $12,500 per person but it’s free if you mention Howard’s name. Donuts included of course. Register at )

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