A year ago, I left one of the best jobs I ever had to follow my passion. I had grown tired of the role I was in and the path I was on. Yes – I could go take a bigger title with more money at a different company – but that sounded awful to me and more of the same. I had been thinking about making the move out on my own for a while, but fear always stopped me from making the leap. How would I support my family if it failed? What would it mean to my career if it didn’t work out? These and many other questions constantly played with my head and always stopped me from taking the leap. As a kid, I wanted to be everything from Steve Grogan to the fourth Beastie Boy and many other cool gigs.I certainly never dreamed of being a recruiter. Honestly – young Ed wouldn’t have even known what the heck a recruiter was. What happened to me over time that this type of fearless ambition and dreams became replaced with fear and trepidation? Much like anyone considering a new job or a different career, safety and fear of the unknown meant a lot to me whether I wanted to admit or not. I vividly remember the turning point though. I was talking with my kids about what they wanted to be when they “grew up” and their responses hit me in a way I was not expecting. My daughter said “I want to be a musician like John Lennon” (great parenting there by a massive Beatles fan BTW) and my son said “I want to be a Lego master builder”. These answers truly hit me in the gut. This is what they LOVED doing, and thought, as children often do, if I LOVE doing it, why wouldn’t I do it when I grow up?
I thought a lot about this as the final impetus for me to ” man up “ and go for it. While as a kid I never dreamed of being in the world of Talent Acquisition (who does?) here I was with a new, “grown up” dream and I was letting the fear of failure and expectations stop me. I remember back in 2013 at LinkedIn Talent Connect in Vegas they had a keynote speaker named Erik Wahl. Typically these paid keynote big name type peeps are when I close my eyes and sleep until the real stuff happens, but this was different. He talked a ton about how whatever that “spark” was we all have as kids goes away as we get older because we let fear and society kill it. If you haven’t seen it – you should check it out here. Anyhow – I remembered this message and the utter simplicity of my kids answers and decided to go for it. I haven’t looked back since.
Passion is a word a lot of people throw around a lot lately. I think, by law, 1 out of every 4 LinkedIn profiles these days must reference how passionate they are. I call bullshit. Not on some people doing what they love to do, but everyone? No way dude. As I started thinking about this blog post I thought at first about writing a one year retrospective on what has been a really great first year of going out on my own with “lessons learned”. However – as I started to write this blog I thought a) I think those “lessons learned” blogs are really douchey, and b) there is no lesson learned except one. That lesson is, simply, do what you love doing. I am not going to go off on the virtues of passion here, but what I can unequivocally tell you is that I never been happier in my career. Not because of money. Not because “I’m the big boss” now. Nope. I am happier than I have ever been because I get to do every day what I truly love doing. I think of the people I admire in business and the common trait amongst all of them is that, very clearly, they are doing what they love to do. That is what makes them unique, special and effective. I also think about the people I “less than admire” in business and see what turns me off – the obvious soul sucking going through the motions approach. Think about the people you admire in business and among your personal friends – I am willing to bet this trait is common among all of those folks too. Seems pretty straightforward – no?
When I think about the world of recruiting, employment branding, etc. this is the one thing most in my industry don’t get. Yes – money is important. Yes – titles are nice. Better commutes? Yes please. But let’s be blunt. People ultimately just want to be happy and love what they are doing and be surrounded by people they love working with. Yet, most in our industry “feature sell” or “feature market” – whether selling benefits, compensation, commute, whatever – and by doing so they are missing this very key element and core human driver. I often say, outside of who you marry, there is no more important decision in someone’s life than their career. It is how you support your family, pay your bills and identify yourself in society. Next time you meet someone new, time the conversation until the “what do you do?” question comes up. Yeah – we typically don’t answer that with “but my commute is 20 minutes less and I got a 10% increase” if we are genuinely happy. With such an emotional and impactful decision, the best route to success in recruiting is to get to why they are talking to you about your open job. What would they love to do in their career? What excites them? What are their ambitions? These core emotions will better help you be the matchmaker with careers we all signed up to be. This is sales – but a very personal sale. The faster we all understand that as an industry the sooner we can shed the horrible reputation we as recruiters now enjoy.
Man – it has been an awesome year and I love thinking about what this next year will bring. Who knows – I could flat out fail, do great or be the same. Whatever the outcome, there is no doubt that for me, following my passion was the right move. Now, when I meet new people and I am asked what I do, they can’t get me to shut up. In my mind, our goal as an industry is to do this for every hire we make. While we can’t all be the fourth Beastie Boy, we will all enjoy and appreciate our jobs in recruiting a lot more.
(Ed gets off soapbox)