Recruiting, Misery, and the Opportunity for Hope

Dec 10, 2008

“Success in almost any field depends more on energy and drive than it does on intelligence. This explains why we have so many stupid leaders.”
Sloan Wilson

“Try not; do.”

We recall a time back in late November 2002 when, out of shear pain and frustration, Howard wrote Recruiting Today: Good People in Difficult Times.

As we read it now, its content and tone seem strangely familiar. We hear the same fear and grief from so many today as in those miserable days gone by. Lost again, adrift in a sea of uncertainty, anguish, and doubt. Revenue, stability, normalcy — once again threatened as we seek a road out, a spit of land where we can rest and think of why so many of our lives have been disrupted. First-time angst for newer recruiters; multiple times for others.

As with most misery, there is pain and that sense of unfairness. The feeling of “why me?” comes to mind. Yet entitled as we are to these dark feelings and tendencies toward self-pity or rage, good news looms in the distance, and his name is Barack Obama. Seeing him just before his victory speech, we could not help feeling that in just the right light and posture, our soon to be president smiles the same smile with which Jack Kennedy warmed, charmed, and challenged us in 1961. That might seem like long ago, but time is meaningless when you are in trouble, and make no mistake — as a country, we are in big trouble.

So despite all that is broken, we have much to celebrate.

Regardless of the financial meltdown, the bailout(s), and the evaporation of unspeakable amounts of money and jobs, we urge you to see the good news: Eight of the most ugly, brutish, and crushing years we can remember will end on a sparkling day in January as Barack Obama assumes the Presidency. For this opportunity of optimism and renewal, we are endlessly grateful. We do not remember the last time we felt this sky high with possibility, energy, and hope. We also do not remember a time that doing well by doing right had more meaning and greater importance then it does right now.

In our society, most of what we do is connected in ways both far reaching and profound. Stop spending money in one location, and you put a person out of work in another, as saving oneself rich simply does not work. The engines that fuel our greatness run on money, and money is generated by the growth, profitability, and ongoing innovation (see Recruiting, Innovation, and Thinking Differently) that accompany the careful building of great organizations. The bottom line is actually quite simple: we need to get this country back to work and we need to do it fast.

But what is to happen to recruiters? What is to happen to those individuals who build the organizations? Do we hang in and wait? Do we go off on our own? Leave the business?

Sadly, there is no easy answer, but we do urge you to consider the following five points upon which to reflect:

  • Help others. No one succeeds alone. Employing the spirit with which Kennedy challenged us, “ask not what your country can do for you.” With that thought in mind, reach out to people you know who have lost their jobs and help guide them on how to reinvent themselves as best you can. As recruiters, we are specialists in knowing what companies are looking for, often just by reading a requisition. Share this knowledge and feel good when your friend or neighbor gets their new start with your help. (See Are You Really Meant to be a Recruiter as it will help you get that little lift that makes us feel better in challenging times.)
  • We will come out of this. We have seen this before. It is nasty and unpleasant, but it will not last. Fight on and keep heart. Tough times do not last; tough people do. Become one very tough person.
  • Question the futurists/thought leaders. Do you ever wonder about thought leaders and how they are anointed? Is there a secret ceremony? A special handshake or some type of a magic decoder ring? Want to continue reading them? Feel free, but take it all with a grain of salt as so much of it is yesterday’s news. We need to invent the future, not reconstruct the past.
  • Lead the charge. Your brain is as good as ours or anyone else’s. The future is up for grabs. Can you add to the collective progress in terms of building great companies? If so, do it and do it now because to look back and wish that you did would be tragic. Innovate, restructure, and design your own future because the time to do great things is now.
  • Outthink, outwork, outhustle. Bill Russell once said “hustle is talent” and this is a man who knows a few things about both. Working for a fool? A company that will never succeed? Change jobs or strike out on your own, as it is far better to fail because of your inability than because of their abysmal leadership.

We would like to dedicate this article to all of the great recruiters out there. We strongly believe that new opportunities will be unearthed and great things will happen to those who move forward with dignity, a commitment to excellence, and an unwavering belief on one’s personal sense of value.

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