Making The Most of a Candidate-Short Market.

I have a milestone birthday tomorrow. A big one. The sort that really makes you reflect, and feels like the culmination of years of counting down to it.

The gravity of this milestone was heightened by a new search we won and commenced last week – a fantastic MD role for an eCommerce fashion business, the remit to take over from the founder who wanted to step back to enjoy the fruits of her labours (and who can blame her)….a founder that was born the same year I graduated from University.

These events cause us to look at decisions taken as well as the choices yet to present themselves. Careers form one of the greatest of such decisions. I had 15yrs of a career, working for other people, working to promises that seldom materialised. 

My last huge career decision was taken in the run up to my last milestone birthday after months of broken promises, I started a 12-month process to plan, research and set up my own business. 10 years on, it’s been the best career decision I made, even if the path to launching was a little rocky(!).

After the most unusual 2 years any of us has ever faced, millions are facing their own career decisions at present, both those looking at their own careers, and those looking at their own teams.

We face a candidate-short/candidate-driven market. With more people in work that ever before, and more job vacancies than genuine job-seekers, recruitment is causing headaches from the shop-floor to the boardroom. 

That brings huge challenge to employers to find the talent they need; the talent their businesses need (read more on that here)…..but it’s also a challenge of those looking to make a move in their own careers.

We have only just come through a period of great tumultuousness; 2 years that saw plummeting economic contraction, fears of 9m people out of work, perennial lockdowns & restrictions and unending uncertainty, we have now sprung into a country of full employment, recruitment being cited as the biggest risk for business growth and dramatically reshuffling working environments with a side-order of high inflation and increasing living costs…..little surprise that the recent global Microsoft survey showed us that over 40% of employees are considering moving jobs.

“Give me 6hrs to chop down a tree, I’ll spend the first 4 sharpening my axe”

Abraham Lincoln

True Lincoln quote or not, insufficient consideration to major decisions is often fatal in career advancement; “Take time for such things; great haste makes great waste” – Benjamin Franklin.

Certainty is the first of the six core human needs (the others being Variety, Significance, Connection, Growth & Contribution). All are critical when looking for a new career opportunity, but certainty is critical when beginning the process…. The need for safety, stability, security, comfort, order, predictability, control and consistency.

Those elements are threatened when entering the job market and often lead to increase anxiety and stress, in turn leading to a rushed decision in the quest to regain those elements.

37% of professionals who leave an employed tenure of 5 years or more leave their subsequent job within 18 months, compared to an overall average of just 12%. The biggest cause of that 3x likelihood is the lack of full analysis of the key drivers to make such a move from a longer term, ‘comfort-zone’ employer, and the recognition that it is the employer and employer’s culture that is the key ‘fit’ challenge, more than the job in isolation.

That fit always starts with values. If the company’s values are not in the briefing document or openly visible on their website, ask for them. They will provide the first step on understanding your fit with the business’s guiding principles their collective fundamental beliefs. Do you share those values? Question yourself in what areas you want to learn, develop, grow and contribute. Do those value support that.

There are then 3 key areas to ensure true cultural fit; the 3 Ps:

  • Purpose
  • People
  • Pace

Purpose

Purpose is more than passion. Arguably more important than passion. Purpose is more than just your career, it reaches relationships, love, family, finance, fun, ..and beyond. It is what gives you energy and drive. It focuses you on where you want to go, what do you want from your career, what are the paths to get there – making sure your energy is taking you in the right direction, taking control of your career, being part of a team to get you there ….the alignment of your purpose with a prospective employer’s is important. 

Mark Zuckerberg defines purpose as “Purpose is that sense that we are part of something bigger than ourselves, that we are needed, that we have something better ahead to work for. Purpose is what creates true happiness…But it’s not enough to have purpose yourself. You have to create a sense of purpose for others.”

Ensuring a fit in your purpose and the business’s purpose (and values), provides a long-term fit.

People

If you want to improve, progress, develop at something, you have to surround yourself with people that do that thing better than you do.

Our biggest learnings are from those who do what we do, but better. In business, in leadership, in sport, in everything. We can all pinpoint numerous people from our careers who have influenced, coached, imparted their knowledge, even if only by osmosis.

With your career move, are those people present? Do they have the skills and experience to help you? Do those leaders support your ambitions and objectives? Provide you with the right opportunities? Does the business invest in it’s people? 

Even if the answer is no, will they facilitate you finding these people as part of your role?

Pace

Back to those core human needs. Control is present through many of them, it is never more important than with your own career. You need to do your bit first, define your goals, define your objectives – and as part of that, define the timescales to reach them, and for each milestone on the journey.

Once you know what you want to achieve, and in what timeframe, will this business help you? Will they be able to help you accelerate it? Do you want the excitement and exponential learning curve of a small entrepreneurial business, or the more considered growth of a large corporate. Do you want a clear path with defined deliverables or do you want the unpredictability and ultimate meritocratic rewards of a high-growth SME?

Do you want to accelerate your career? Are you prepared to be the driving force behind that pace?

Elon Musk – one of the world’s greatest entrepreneurs and with a $300bn fortune, the richest person in history by some margin. He also has 6 children and reached the milestone birthday I reach tomorrow only 6 months ago!  He categorises his success with the mantra:

“Stop being patient and start asking yourself, how do I accomplish my 10 year plan in 6 months? 

Elon Musk

It utilises Parkinson Law: “Work expands so as to fill the time available for its completion”

Back at University, how many of us with a 2-week assignment only completed it the night before it was due? We set our deadline according to those time constraints.

Give yourself 24 hours to do that assignment, you’ll do it in 24 hours. Give yourself 6 months to deliver your 10 year plan…. well, as Elon says: 

“You will likely fail but you will be a lot further ahead of the person who simply accepted it was going to take 10 years.” 

Elon Musk

Even Elon will admit he regularly misses targets and deadlines, but by reaching for these goals, you get closer to your final destination than you would have done.

Surround yourself with people that will help and support you to reach those goals, at the pace you desire.

Back to me. As I approached that last milestone birthday, I realised I wanted more. My then employer was not delivering any of the 3 Ps. My purpose was misaligned with their values. The people were no longer developing me in the areas I wanted. Most importantly, the pace I craved to fulfil my purpose was glacial compared to where I wanted it, and worse still, was frequently being stalled. Fate helped me accelerate that pace, but momentum has been easy to maintain.

I was sent the below by a client at the time; he’s been my best client ever since.

PS – Purpose does not only dictate career. In an unashamed refusal to accept that 50 is old, I’m marking the occasion by planning a 1,000 mile bike ride from Wilmslow to Barcelona for charity. Pace? Aiming for less than 7 days.

Fittingly for the modern generation, it will be documented via Instagram.

%d bloggers like this: