Now hiring - smart companies
Why it's a great time for job hunting.
PEOPLE WANT to call it anything except what it really is, but I have finally given in.
When the question, “So, what are you doing these days?” comes up, I’ve stopped saying, “I’m doing some career assessment.”
I’ve also sworn off, “I’m working on expanding my network,” along with, “Searching for a new opportunity.”
Nope, not any more. In the words of, well, seemingly everyone these days, “It is what it is.” I’m looking for a job.
A funny thing happens these days when you answer that simple, innocent question with an equally simple and direct response: People suddenly begin behaving as if you’ve just told them you have three weeks to live.
It comes in many forms — just like my previous attempts to dodge the original question — but generally sounds like, “Man, I’m sorry. Pretty crummy time to have to look for a job.” An even funnier thing happens, though, when I tell them, with absolutely no hint of irony or sarcasm, that I think it is a great time to be looking for a job. Once I convince them I’m not smoking crack, I give them the short version of my reasoning. There are two primary reasons.
First, there is always a market for top talent; talent matters — a lot. Second, when times are tough, only the smart companies are hiring.
Let’s go a little further in depth.
There is, in fact, always a market for talent, and a talented, highly performing team is never more valuable than when times are tough.
Of particular value are people who bring two important characteristics to the table. First, they need to have the wisdom to know that while tough times don’t last, tough — and talented — people and organizations do.
Second, they need to bring a variety of skills into the organization — and a willingness to apply them for the good of the cause, regardless of the task.
Did you notice I didn’t mention a word about industry-specific knowledge when talking about the two important things new talent brings to the table?
The fact is, bringing in talent from outside your industry could be an excellent decision when times are tough.
When you stare at the same old challenges day after day, seeing them from a new perspective becomes extraordinarily difficult.
It has been my experience that the most complex and daunting business problems I’ve faced become much more manageable when someone asks, “Why do you do it that way?”
But why are only the smart companies hiring? It’s pretty simple, actually. Because they are well-run, smart companies; they’ve already got their “tough times” plans in place. And, because they didn’t over-reach when times were good, their “tough times” plan more resembles a nip and a tuck than a whole-body makeover.
The smart companies are spending their time thinking about what opportunities are going to present themselves when the economic tide turns and what new talent they will need to quickly capitalize on them.
Another reason why it’s the smart companies doing the hiring during otherwise tough times is because they know that one of the most important things a manager does is always look for ways to raise the average talent level on their team.
It may sound cynical, but using the cover of a downturn to shed a few “C-players” and eventually replace them with “A-players” is a smart-company strategy.
Don’t misunderstand me; I’m not whistling past the graveyard. The economic crisis we face is grave and complex. Few industries and companies will be spared at least some disruption.
There will be, though, in virtually every industry, smart companies that will do better than the pack and use tough times to position themselves for extraordinary success when things improve.
So, I may, in fact, not quite be telling the whole truth when I tell friends and acquaintances, “I’m looking for a job.” What I’m really doing is looking for a job with a smart company. And the best news? When times are tough they are a lot easier to find!
George Bullock is a Tulsa businessman and recent candidate for the state House of Representatives.