Tag Archive for jobs

The Apex of Awesome

lightning boltIdeas do not fall, fully intact, from the sky.  They are formed, refined and clarified when we interact with each other and with the world around us.  Any given concept, although viewed by some as recycling of the same old thing, can be fresh and wonderous to others.  A commonplace event can, without warning, turn into a lightning bolt moment.

We see a blooming bud emerging on a barren tree branch and are amazed at the rebirth wrought by spring.  We remember our youthful freedom as we’re struck by the unselfconscious joy on the face of a little girl as she skips down the sidewalk.  While whizzing by on the interstate we catch a glimpse of a stunning piece of architectural design and marvel at the human talent that creates beauty from the foundation of imagination and vision.

These pieces of disconnected fluff float in the recesses of our mind and when they are illuminated, connected or viewed in a new manner we learn.  We grow.  We celebrate, anew, our capacity to think.

To get to these moments we need to actively pose questions, challenge assumptions and poke holes in the balloons that are the status quo.  When we do, ideas that were once viewed as subversive or even dangerous to long-held beliefs germinate, grow and spread.

I was reminded of this over the last few weeks as I dove into a few HR topics in the course of doing what I do: organizational approaches to socialization and the evolving world of work.

Organizational Socialization

In “Toward a Theory of Organizational Socialization” (1979) John Van Maanen and Edgar H. Schein identified 6 major dimensions that represent how organizations may differ in their approach to socialization – in other words how newcomers are introduced to the group.  One of the tactical approaches is “Investiture vs. Divestiture Socialization.”  The investiture approach affirms the individual’s identity – recognizing, and even celebrating, the personal characteristics inherent to their personality.  This occurs when organizations ask  “what makes this person unique and how can we, the organization, use his/her skills, attitude and value?”  The divestiture approach, on the other hand, disaffirms the personal identity of the newbie and requires them to eliminate, tamp down or change their personal characteristics in order to develop new habits and a new ‘identity’ to fit in with the organization.

Bringing the Awesome

Earlier this week I sat in on my friend Eric Winegardner’s session “Exploring the Evolving World of Work” at the SHRM-Atlanta HR Conference. He covered a wide range of content focused on understanding “why do we work?” yet there were two ideas tossed out by Eric that seemed to particularly resonate with the audience:

“Everybody has awesome in them; some of us just have more than others”

“If you can be who you are at work, that’s when the magic happens”


Not that many years ago exhorting a group of human resources professionals to let employees be themselves at work was HR heresy.  In the name of cultural and company assimilation many of our HR brethren/sisters firmly believed that divestiture was the way to go: “wear our logo polo shirt every day when you come to the office.” “We discourage contact with your former co-workers, clients or colleagues; you’re one of us now!” “No personal décor in your cubicle or on your office wall.” “Cut your hair.” “Please be quiet.”

I’ve heard all of those.

Denial of awesome.

That stuff doesn’t work.

And HR professionals are getting it.  Not all of them of course – there are still quite a number who, via their policies, processes and HR rules are afraid of other people’s awesome.  Why?  They may believe it’s easier to manage a workplace populated by compliant serial-numbered inmates than one that houses free wheeling free thinkers.  They may want to hang on to the modicum of perceived power they have in their compliance focused role.

They may feel unable to unleash their own awesome and think “if I can’t be who I REALLY AM AT work, why should anyone else get to be?

I’ve heard that too.


But I have faith in HR; what was once heretical is shifting towards the mainstream.  I say bring it.

Bring the awesome.

John Doe’s Resume

blank name tagAt a recent HR gathering one of the folks in attendance shared the story of a resume he had recently been shown.  The resume, received by yet another HR colleague, was a one page document written as such:




My name is John Doe.  This is my resume.


My name:                John Doe


My wife name:         Mary Doe


My father name:      Bill Doe


My mother name:     Sally Doe


My birthday:            March 1, 1955


My church:              St. John’s


My jobs:                 ABC and XYZ


My reference:           Alice Doe




This is not an exaggeration.  This was how the resume was formatted and the content/spelling that was included.

This gentleman had a work history and background that is quite common in my area, and, let’s face it, most everywhere.  He’s worked in general maintenance/ handyman/laborer roles for decades.  You may note he had no hesitation in listing his birthday and at 59 years of age he’s got a few years of working ahead of him; he quite possibly anticipates working until the day arrives when he just stops drawing breathe.

After all the initial “oh my god, how can people submit a resume like that?’ chit chat around the table died down I pointed out that this was, in my estimation, more than likely the first resume this man had every put together.  I’m quite sure that for all his working life he was able to find a job by walking into a company, completing a paper application, and landing a gig.  I theorized that he was looking for work, admonished by the HR lady to send in his resume, and so he approached a family member or friend to help him put something together.  And, quite obviously, the person who did this for him had never compiled a resume either.  At some company where this guy wanted to work an ATS demanded to be fed or a hiring manager insisted upon seeing a piece of paper.

I get it.

I just wonder – and worry – about ensuring access to jobs for people who don’t spend their days updating their resume or wondering if their online personal brand is sufficiently optimized.


There are solutions out there that focus on connecting the “hourly” job seeker with employers: Snag a Job is a well known job board and Apploi has an app that provides job seekers with the ability to create and store a profile which can then be used to “apply” for various positions at any number of companies.

As I was intrigued with the whole scenario and to satisfy my curiosity I went poking around for some local positions that might be of interest to John Doe.  After finding a Front End Loader opening (full or part time!) I set off to begin the online application process with the local staffing agency filling the position.  I appreciated that the application did not require me to key-in a lot of information (I only had to input name and contact information) but then I was asked to attach my resume.


Perhaps something like that occurred to John Doe.


I think it’s important for folks in the HR and Recruiting space who like to discuss sexy things like mobile, social employee referrals, and the candidate experience to remember that we need to focus on all job seekers.  It seems to me that many of the conversations, whitepapers and conference sessions around this topic always concern either the need to find candidates for high-demand tech positions or the experience for candidates at glamorous global companies.   There are, indeed, large retail or service companies employing tens of thousands of hourly workers who do pay attention to the process across the spectrum of their workforce; read this post about Sears as an example.

And yes, drop-off rates are discussed and some organizations are tracking and attempting to improve the process to minimize frustrations for job seekers – which is great; for every John Doe who takes a pause, types up a resume, and goes back to continue the application process there are a high number of job seekers who move on to something else.

But I wonder… when John Doe the Front End Loader drops off does it cause the same level of consternation as it does when Joe the Java Developer does?

Branded a Loser: Vintage Candidate Experience?

Ah yes the ’70s.  Post the introduction of the Pill.  Post Betty Friedan’s The Feminine Mystique.  The era of Title IX and the (failed) attempt to get the Equal Rights Amendment (ERA) ratified by the states in order to become part of the US Constitution.  Those pesky second-wave feminists were busy.

And in a decade when air travel was still viewed as a glamorous experience complete with ashtrays, cocktails in stemware and people who dressed up for a trip to the airport (I’m looking at you guy-in-sweat-stained-unbuttoned-shirt with a bag from McDonalds’s that sat next to me on a recent flight) the fine folks at Eastern Airlines apparently settled on a way to make sure their consumer brand (especially for the male business traveler) matched their employer brand.  Their solution? Shame not just their job candidates but all women.

“Presenting the Losers”


The copy reads:

“Pretty good, aren’t they?  We admit it.  And they’re probably good enough to get a job practically anywhere they want.

But not as Eastern Airline stewardesses.

We pass up around 19 girls, before we get one that qualifies.  If looks were everything, it wouldn’t be tough.  Sure, we want them to be pretty…don’t you?  That’s why we look at her face, her make-up, her complexion, her figure, her weight, her legs, her grooming, her nails and her hair.

But we don’t stop there.  We talk.  And we listen.  We listen to her voice, her speech.  We judge her personality, her maturity, her intelligence, her intentions, her enthusiasm, her resiliency and her stamina.

We don’t want a stewardess to be impatient with a question you may have, or careless in serving your dinner, or unconcerned about your needs.

So we try to eliminate these problems by taking a lot more time and passing up a lot more girls.

It may make our job a little harder.  But it makes your flying a lot easier.”


How nice.  They actually ‘talked and listened’ during the selection process rather than just judging hair, nails and bust-waist-hip ratio. And check it out 1970’s job candidates – if you were fortunate enough to pass phase 1 (the ugly screen) Eastern Airlines kindly laid out the job competencies right there in the advertisement: patiencepersonality, maturity, intelligence, intentions, enthusiasm, resiliency and stamina. 

After your trip to the beauty parlor and the make-up counter you might have had enough time to think about answers for the moment you were actually deigned worthy enough to enter into conversation about actual skills and abilities.




It’s Impossible to Work in These Conditions!

restaurant boothsYesterday I spent several hours at a local restaurant called Mama Della’s NY City PizzeriaI was part of the crowd brought in to dine for the ‘pre-renovation’ filming of an episode of Food Network’s Restaurant Impossible.  I heard about the event via Jay Ducote’s Bite and Booze blog and after Mr. S. tried to volunteer for the remodeling crew (boo! – already filled!) we were then invited to participate in yesterday’s filming (yay!).

Now I can’t share any details about the filming or what we saw, heard, tasted, sampled, etc.; we had to sign NDAs and I sure don’t want to violate them and have the host/chef Robert Irvine, with his enormously large and impressive biceps, come hunting me down for a pummeling.

Naturally though I observed through the eyes of an HR practitioner and was fully aware that I was seeing two distinct work groups coming together: the restaurant staff and the show’s crew.   I’m not going to discuss anything having to do with the restaurant staff since it may play into the show (NDA!!) but I have to say I was totally enthralled watching the balletic dance of the show’s production crew.  Never having hung out at any sort of film shoot I found it utterly fascinating. (note:  friends filming me on instagram or something does not constitute a film shoot) What did I learn?

  • Everyone had a clear sense of purpose and role; no one had to ask “Where should I go? What do I need to do next?”
  • Crew members had an uncanny ability to ‘sense’ when a co-worker needed them; no words were necessary (“Hey Tim! Can you come over here?”). Tim seemed to instinctively know when he saw a co-worker doing something that he could be of assistance
  • Camera Operators have mighty muscles; a necessity for hoisting those giant cameras on their shoulders and keeping them there seemingly forevah! Yet another job I would never be able to do in a million years.

It was a fun adventure and extraordinarily interesting to observe a show I watch all the time from behind the scenes.

The episode is set to air sometime in autumn; once that happens I shall be unshackled from the burden of keeping my mouth shut.  The great re-opening/reveal/unveiling of the “new” Mama Della’s is tonight (no, we’re not going) but you can be assured I’m heading over there next week to see what changes have been wrought.

Next stop?  Somehow I need to get a cross over to HGTV and get myself on a Property Brothers show.