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Who should you hire?

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Everywhere you look today there are “Help Wanted” signs. But lately not enough people are willing to go back to work. Maybe it is time to rethink who we are seeking for our workforce. Are you looking for high-velocity jackrabbits or proven achievers? Drag racers or Cruiser Class?

I grew up in the automobile era. As a baby boomer I remember that everything cool was about cars (or motorcycles). If you had a good car, you just had to customize it to express your own personality. My first car (in 1963) was a 1950 Plymouth Special Deluxe four door. It’s factory color was tan and it had a 97 horsepower flat-head six-cylinder engine with a standard shift on the steering column. “Three on the Tree.”

As a teenager I was thrilled to have my own car but disgusted with how un-cool it looked. To make matters worse the floorboards were rusted through and the driver’s door had been heavily dented in a collision. But it was mine! I spent weeks on end in the driveway with Dad replacing the old parts and renewing the car. We painted it “midnight metallic blue”, reupholstered the interior in “Naugahyde” (leather-like vinyl) and put cool hubcaps on it. I got a Corvette shift knob to put onto the column shift lever and added a boastful warning sign to the dashboard: “Do not exceed speeds of over 100 miles per hour for more than five hours under normal conditions.” (Remember now, I was a teenager and had no idea how dumb that seemed.)

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I named the car “The Heap” and painted a 3 inch square cartoon of a wrecked car just under its name “The Heap” on my left front fender. (Again, you’ve got to remember, this was a time when we thought it was cool to roll up your T-shirt sleeves, grease your hair, roll up your jeans to show off your white socks and hang a cigarette cynically out of your mouth.)

The engine was very old technology and it had barely enough horsepower to ascend all the hilly streets in western Little Rock, Arkansas. It burned about as much oil as gas too. I’d almost always have to add a quart of oil with each fill up. Luckily prices were comparatively low. Now for the important metric: its speed from a standing start up to sixty miles per hour, known as “zero to sixty”. That was the prime measure of a car’s power and competitive potential. “Take Off” was where the power was measured. Above 60mph is considered “Cruising Speed” and is much more efficient and enjoyable, but take off is where the noise is made, tires are worn out and fuel gets burned up fast. The same is true for an aircraft; its fuel is often used up more for takeoff than for the rest of the journey.

Those were the days of drag racing. (See the James Dean movie “Rebel without a Cause” for details. Or read old copies of the #1 auto magazine of the day “Hot Rod”.) Well, my old heap would barely do sixty on the same day that the race started so it didn’t see any competitive action. But it looked cool to me!

Now, are you ready for the big segue? Stay with me. Here it comes. In the 1960s cars that could cover a quarter mile in under 20 seconds and could go zero to sixty in under 10 seconds were considered fast. My buddy Jimmy Stevens had a car that would do 0 to 60 in 6.4 seconds, and I remember dragsters that did a quarter mile in 9 seconds from a standing start! Today those numbers are considered mild. If you wanted to impress someone you’d spin your tires and race through the gears up to about sixty miles per hour.

But there is another category where the 0 to 60 measure often applies with equal levels of prejudice, (Here comes the transition…..) Age.

In the past people who were between zero and sixty years old were considered good investments and those over sixty were “old.” Nobody took 61+ people’s advice or considered them to be in touch with the real world anymore. Remember the hippie slogan “Never trust anyone over thirty”? Well today those 78 million Baby Boomers are turning 70+ at the rate of tens of thousands every single day! Including me. I was born on the first year of the boom, 1946, and graduated high school in its last year, 1964.

Along with this demographic shift there is a corresponding economic shift. We have seen the youth of the baby boom become the leaders of the world. George W. Bush, Bill Clinton, Donald Trump and I were all born in 1946. Joe Biden is older by about 4 years. Paul McCartney is just a bit older than me. Bill Gates is younger. Hillary is about my age and Barack Obama is younger. But the vast majority of our nation’s wealth and power is vested in people who are no longer between zero and sixty.

Today the reframing of life to include 60 to 100 is an important consideration.

Highly functional life expectancy is now well above 75 and some folks are still productive well into their 80s. If you reach “retirement” age and still have 20+ years of viable life ahead, you start looking for your next career. No more do we simply seek a part time job to supplement our pension. Today people are seeking bold new challenges and reasons to stay active and involved. Check the findings of Age Wave and its founder Ken Dychtwald. We will see tens of thousands of former retirees re-entering the workforce with vigor in the coming years. So, if you’re hiring, you might want to ask some impressive seniors for business advice and see if they fit with your vision and goals. A bonus is that these folks have an abundance of Common Sense. They don’t buy into the woke mentality or implied guilt and stain of sins committed before they were born.

The one thing that keeps life and health intact is Purpose.

We all need a challenge that is bigger than we are so that we can keep on growing. We need a sense of purpose in what we do. We must find meaning in our life and feel that we are truly necessary. This is much greater than just getting a secondary job. It is also important to recognize that once you’ve traveled the career path once you don’t have the same patience with wasted efforts during the second trip. Spending energy and time on things that don’t hold much value is seen as a waste and we quickly get bored and curious about new challenges. What we put up with in order to “pay our dues” the first time, we find to be depressingly meaningless on the second trip.

We want our efforts to matter and we want our voices to be heard. Challenge, contribution and meaning will be vital factors in Cruiser Class second careers. And there will be lots of job-hopping experimentation. We’ll be trying on second careers like new coats. If the fit isn’t near perfect, then we start searching again.

These Cruiser Class workers can be great assets. They have experience, maturity, wisdom, patience and insight that you would never find in their younger counterparts. They can truly advance your business and serve your community as well. Your existing structures and policies might need amendment though. They insist on having meaningful and fulfilling lives with plenty of extra time for the grandkids and their latest adventures. They want to enjoy life while making a difference.

So, don’t let the lure of GenX, GenY or Millenials occupy all of your attention. There is a sea of talent out there seeking to recommit to productivity. Let’s all put on our thinking caps and restructure our working world to make room for the Cruiser Class. Maybe the Hare should take a day off and watch the Tortoise show some wisdom.

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Jim Cathcart, CSP, CPAE is an Executive MBA Professor, Author of 21 books, Hall of Fame Professional Speaker, Top 1% TEDx video (2.4 million views), US Army veteran, Singer/Songwriter, and Lifelong Motorcyclist. He is known as "Your Virtual VP" for his Advisory/Mentor work with organizations worldwide. Based in Texas...and proud of it!



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Common ‘Wisdom’ that Just Ain’t So

Much of what we read, think, and repeat is not accurate, at all…

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Much of what we read, think, and repeat is not exactly so. For example have you encountered the phrase, “Those who give up liberty for security deserve neither”? Often incorrectly attributed to Benjamin Franklin, the phrase is nonsensical. With no national security, soon enough you’ll have no liberty.

With complete security, you’ll have no liberty as well. A trade-off is always needed. For the record, Benjamin Franklin actually said, “Those who would give up essential liberty, to pursue a little temporary safety, deserve neither liberty nor safety.” That makes more sense.

‘A penny saved is a penny earned’? Once again, Ben Franklin is in the mix. A penny saved is not a penny earned. A penny earned is a penny earned and even then it might not be a full penny depending on taxes, inflation, and other hidden costs and expenses. If you save your money in a long-term CD, you can’t have access to it months. If funds are tied up when you need them that is not a pretty penny.

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Not Actually

Consider the phrase, “Experience is the best teacher.” Perhaps, this is so, but not as a given. Generally, an excellent teacher is the best teacher. Experience might teach us the wrong lessons or send us down another blind alley. If we don’t fully comprehend the meaning of our experiences,we’re as likely to make bad decisions in the future and have unfortunate experiences as a result.

Closely related is, ‘practice makes perfect.’ Practice does not make perfect. If your practices are off the mark, then you will continue to be imperfect and you might be reinforcing a bad habit. As they say in Tae Kwon Do, “Practice makes permanent.”

On my daughter’s softball team, a young girl named Whitney was regarded as the star pitcher. Yet during the pregame warm-ups, time after time, she could barely throw a strike. With luck, she averaged 20% strikes out of all her pitches thrown. Sure enough, when the game started, she was no better. Why would anybody expect the outcome to be different?

The best chance for you to excel is to have perfect practices. An array of imperfect practices leads failure.

Lemons and Life

‘When life gives you lemons, make lemonade.’ This sounds like good advice, but to actually make and sell lemonade, you’d also need to have clean water, a good lemon press, some type of sweetener, a paring knife, a pitcher, an implement for stirring, and cups. Such bromides leave out 90% of what else you’d need.

Periodically, I encounter authors and speakers who write or say ‘to live life more fully’ by pretending that “you have six months to live.” If you had six months to live you’d engage in behaviors different than now.

You might sell your house. You might go on world travel, or at least travel more than you’ve been doing. You might dissipate your assets. You might spend your money down to nothing, or give it all away. Then, when you undoubtedly live beyond six months, you’re likely to be penniless!

Thank You For Sharing (!)

‘Think outside the box.’ What does the “box” even mean? The phrase has been so overused that it is now rendered meaningless. Would it be better simply to say “expand your thinking,” or “brainstorm,” or “reach beyond the norm”?

‘There is no ‘I’ in team.’ Michael Jordan once remarked that while there is no “I” in team, there certainly is a “me.” Acronyms and creative word use might have their place in a corporate pep rally, otherwise let them be.

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Ten Ways to Overcome Information Overload

How do we narrow down thousands of journals, magazines, newsletters, emails and blog posts at our disposal?

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We are confronted by staggering amounts of new information every day; some of it valid, some of it contrived. Career professionals in particular can be easily overwhelmed by the wealth of information related to competitor data, new product and service launches, market changes, and industry trends and wind up with information anxiety.

Although we have access to a variety of information and communication tools, how do we narrow down tens of thousands of journals, magazines, newsletters, and blog posts at our disposal and manage information coming in? How do we flourish amidst thousands of printed pages, not to mention millions of pages on the web, and hundreds of emails, phone calls and text messages?

More Information, More Confusion

While we enjoy a growing capability to extract relevant information that supports our careers and our lives, most of what we encounter is of marginal value, at best, and often stands in the way of our goals and objectives.  We don’t have hours on end to contend with everything that competes for our attention; most days, it feels as if we don’t have sufficient time at all.

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Fortunately, we can employ 10 strategies in a manner that will be productive and even enjoyable and fight that information overload:

  • Contemplate in advance the kind of information you seek.
  • Identify the vital information carriers.
  • Streamline your intake capability.
  • Beware of information crutches.
  • Establish a distribution system.
  • Be thoughtful when sending information.
  • Design responses.
  • Do away with paper.
  • Constantly review and update.
  • Acknowledge the benefits of remaining organized.

Contemplate in Advance the Kind of Information You Seek 

Have a reasonable idea of the type of information you want and need to gather. Such information encompasses news about your industry or profession; notable product and service developments; significant regulations and new legislation; client, customer, or consumer-related information; special applications; intelligence on competitors; and emerging trends and prospects.

Identify the Vital Information Carriers 

Identify the small number of key information sources, including publications, websites, blogs, and hard news sources, that cover what’s occurring in the field. You’ll really only need three to four sources; you’d be surprised at the amount of coverage overlap you’ll see.

Streamline Your Intake Capacity 

Once you recognize the kind of information you require and a handful of the best sources, you need to establish a methodical way of receiving, synthesizing, and applying such information that will benefit you, your team, and your organization.

Staying attuned to your goals and objectives and focusing on the kind of information that supports your efforts gives you the best chance to accomplish what you want. You might consider reducing social networking, depending on your job. Your quest is to maintain a constant inflow of relevant information in as simple a manner as possible. Yes, on occasion you can give attention to peripheral issues. In general, however, focus on the information that will make a difference in your effectiveness.

Beware of Information Crutches 

Many people have a predisposition to collect and retain information that confirms what they already believe or know to be true. They don’t need to save such information; the practice is more like a reflex action. With the vast amounts of information on the Internet today and the power of search engines, it’s not necessary to hang on to much.

More vital is the ability to find what you need in a hurry, which often requires only a few keystrokes. Retaining piles and files of hard copy information is of diminishing value and can impede your effectiveness. Moreover, files and information that you retain for more than 18 months often can be deleted with no detrimental effects.

Establish a Distribution System 

As you rise in your career, don’t spend inordinate amounts of time gathering information. Much of what you seek can be identified, collected, and disseminated to you by junior staff. You can use them as information scouts and as a clipping service of sorts to pre-read for you.

Once freed from the constant task of identifying and assembling information, you’re better able to think conceptually in ways that will help to propel your team, division, or department forward. This is especially true when introducing a new product, service, or delivery system.

Be Thoughtful When Sending Information

Sometimes the staggering amounts of information is due to our lack of organizing guidelines. Such guidelines could otherwise spare us from unnecessary, excessive exposure to information that does not support our current challenges.

Learn to be more discriminating when exchanging information. Eliminate acronyms, abbreviations, and jargon that can lead to misunderstandings, and limit the length of your correspondence with others by including only what is necessary to know. Overwhelming our recipients with information is no more welcome to them than when they overwhelm us. We also must encourage one another to stop CCing and BCCing when it is not necessary, and avoid submitting “FYI” kinds of messages.

Design Responses

Throughout the workweek, you’ll receive many different types of requests. Many are routine, so you can automate your responses by using your email’s signature function. Most email software programs today support at least 20 different signatures. You can create and save signatures by category that enable you to respond promptly and effectively to customers and clients. The signatures that you’ve developed can also be personalized to address the particulars of a specific inquiry.

What kinds of signatures might you create in advance? Rosters, standard letters, product and service descriptions, price lists, team or organizational descriptions, credentials, etc. The more signatures you establish, the quicker and more productively you can answer questions from inquirers.

Do Away With Paper (When Practical) 

A variety of hard copy files and documents will need to be retained. Nevertheless, you can undertake a campaign to reduce the volume of paper you’re retaining, whether it’s in filing cabinets, desk drawers, or storage bins.

Evaluating each document you receive and consider whether it merits saving. Will a scanned version of said document suffice? If so, scan it and recycle the hard copy. Yes, scanning requires extra time and effort, but in the long run the payoff is more than worth it. When you effectively label each of the documents you’ve scanned, you enhance your ability to quickly locate them on your hard drive or online. Finding such e-documents is generally easier than finding the hard copy.

Constantly Review and Update 

Periodically review your documents. Is the information still relevant? Does it need to be combined with something else? Should it be reclassified? Your goal is to keep your holdings to a minimum.

Tackle only a handful of file folders at a time, so you don’t feel overwhelmed. Ask yourself, “What can be deleted? What should be merged? What can be extracted so that the few gems of wisdom crucial to my success can be applied as needed?” Think of this task with a project management hat on and take it step-by-step.

Acknowledge the Benefits of Remaining Organized 

Staying organized might make you anxious. Organizing is certainly not a glamorous task. Yet, in a world that overwhelms us with the volume of information and communication, becoming the master of your files, and maintaining them so they serve you, is more important than ever before. Information overload occurs when we let things pile up. The people who become adept at recognizing, gathering, retrieving, and applying the right information at the right time are valuable to their organizations and their teams.

The future belongs to ultra-productive people who understand the importance of information and communication management. Regardless of the obstacles they face, these adept information managers are capable of pointing their team or organization in the appropriate direction. Why? They have a well-developed ability to identify, assemble, and impart knowledge that they extract from information.

Ultimately they can draw upon their knowledge to lead with wisdom.

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