The “War for Talent” Has Become the “War on Talent”

JibberJobber War For TalentWhen I lost my job in 2006 I learned about this disgusting concept of the war for talent. I don’t quite understand it completely, probably because I’m not smart enough. But it feels to me like a big pot of bull.

Some context for this post:

New Study Reveals Skills Gap Grew By Double Digits Since Last Year

Skills gap will cost US economy $1.2 trillion over the next decade

Skills Gap Growing as Companies Struggle to Find Capable Talent

Those are three Yahoo Finance articles.  The headlines are bleak. The arguments and stats are sometimes not as bleak, but I think the are very shortsighted.

Since 2006 I’ve been passionately involved in the job search space. Not from HR’s perspective, not from the job board perspective (they cater to HR, not job seekers), but from the job seeker perspective. I have been an advocate of job seekers for almost 14 years now. I have traveled to many locations in the U.S., and some outside of the U.S., and have had opportunities to talk to JibberJobber users and my audience from around the globe. What I know is that there are a lot of exceptionally smart and talented people who are being overlooked for stupid reasons.

One stupid reason to overlook this exceptional intelligence and talent is that, for some reason, job seekers are broken. They are, or should be, unhireable. The longer you’ve been out of work, the more broken you are. I don’t have time to find out why you have been out of work for a long time, I am just going to sit here and stereotype that something is wrong with you. It would be easier for me, as a recruiter (disclaimer: I am not a recruiter) to justify why I hired talent away from a competitor than why I hired someone who no one else would hire for the last year.

Headlines, like the ones above, make it sound like there are not any smart humans around, and we are going to lose “$1.2 trillion over the next decade” because of it. Of course, we all know this is because schools aren’t focusing enough on teaching STEM, right?

Why then can I go to various cities in the U.S. and speak to audiences from 10 to 300 people, who are ready and willing to plug right into your little talent deficit? Hello? I’m waiting…

While you are coming up with a good answer, humor me by reading a recent tweet I wrote:

I recently worked at a company that was, what I thought, my dream company. Turned out, it was not meant to be. When I sat across the table from the lady who became my boss (the guy who hired me had left the company to start his own entrepreneurial endeavor), and she told me I had six weeks left, I had a lot of thoughts run through my mind. One of them was how Jim Collins talks about, in Good to Great, getting the right people on the boss. As I remember it, Jim made a strong argument for finding the right people and even if you didn’t have a specific job for them, getting them on your bus.

Now, I realize that you can’t just go find a bunch of great people and get them on your bus if you (a) can’t afford them, or (b) don’t have anything for them to do (last thing you need is a dozen employees with no jobs, but hey, they are great “cultural fits”!). But when I was getting let go I kept thinking “but I’m the right person for this bus! Sure, you are eliminating my role, and the mini-department that I was supposedly going to run, but I have other talents, expertise, etc. I am clearly a great team and company and cultural fit, and I’ll be a great cheerleader. I contribute. I add value. I have shown, in nine months, that I value and should get a seat on this bus.”  Alas, the posters in the hallway, even the one that pulls from Collins’ book, was not aligned with this concept. You out. Da boot. Who cares about all that fluffy stuff. Who cares about the fit if we haven’t got a job description waiting and approved.

That’s okay. I landed on my feet. But if I hadn’t been working for twelve years on my other revenue streams, that would have been (another) devastating life experience. But I digress…

Companies will talk about the war for talent. How hard it is to hire a this person or a that person. It’s nearly impossible. Let’s change immigration laws so we can get more H-1B visas, because no one here is smart enough to do this job, and we just have to import the talent.

I should mention I’m not opposed to bringing talent in from outside of the U.S. But I am not happy to see talent that is here being thrown to the side of the road, ignored, trampled, and spit on. I’ve seen this from Seattle to Orlando, from Boston to San Diego.

I know I’m not going to change the world. I won’t change laws or affect how HR, recruiters, and hiring managers find and hire talent. But maybe… just maybe, we can start to rethink what talent is. Maybe we can start to think about great companies and cultures that value humans, and instead of declare war on them, or war for them, we think of how we can re-skill people as the world changes.

When I started college a friend from high school told me I had to get into programming. “You learn new stuff all the time! It’s awesome!” Frankly, that sounded horrible to me. I didn’t want to be in a role where I always had to learn, or I’d get phased out. So I chose to major in Spanish (I changed that later), which is something that doesn’t really change. I wanted to get my sheepskin, get into a great job/career, and then have a comfortable retirement.

That is not how things are done today. Today we need to re-skill constantly. We need to continually learn new stuff. When I went to the Pluralsight conference (Aka LIVE!) and saw that was their theme (skills), and their focus around skills management, skills growth, skills measuring, and all thinks skills, I was completely on-board.

It is OUR job to learn new skills. Yes, I think companies should create a learning environment, and they should help us retool and reskill regularly, but we need to understand that life and work now is all about learning new…. new ways to do things, new ways of thinking. No longer can we rest on our laurels because we have a degree, or a masters degree. We need to seek out learning. We need to seek out change. We need to figure out how we can keep up on what’s new, and adjust and shift and change.

That concept sounded horrible to me back in the 1900’s, but now it’s kind of exciting. To improve, to innovate, to keep up with… and to stay competitive.

It’s our job to stay competitive. If our employer offers us real continual education, what a great blessing that is. But it’s our job to learn, to invest our time, and to keep up on ever changing skills.

What I have found is that a person who does this and knows how to communicate it (personal marketing, personal branding, story telling, etc.), is the person who is unemployed for the shortest lengths of time. This is career management, and it’s ours to own.

Now, what are YOU going to do for the rest of this year, and into 2020, to improve your skills? You already missed out on the $100 off special on Pluralsight (it will come around again). Tell me, what’s your strategy? Because it’s much more fun to have a war FOR you than ON you, and that, my friend, is up to you.