Some time ago I was discussing with a client the importance and value of continuous professional learning and development. Not learning for learning’s sake but for the development of further knowledge and increasing ones awareness of the things that matter most in our respective industries. He agreed with my assertion of the need to be constantly on top of new developments, regulatory changes and we exchanged some ideas on books we had read that influenced us or particular authors who shaped our thinking in some way. As we parted, he threw me a line that “every day’s a school day” and I left that conversation nodding in agreement.

A couple of weeks later that throw away line came back to me when I was asked to assist at my daughter’s School Sports Day. I hadn’t been to one of these events since my own school days over thirty years ago and I was looking forward to reliving my youth and the sense of anticipation of potential glory was something I hadn’t felt since I discarded my school tie. How much could’ve changed in the interim? As it happens not a lot. You still have the same personalities and characters today that stood out in my school playground. You have the sporty kids and the not so sporty kids, the kids who couldn’t care less and the ultra competitive kids who just want to win no matter what. As I observed the classes lining up for that timeless tradition that is the Egg & Spoon race, it brought back great memories of happy times when I was that kid on the start line with the hard boiled egg on spoon with nothing but eyes on the prize (so to speak). I was a competitive animal back then and I had to win at all costs.

The races started with some heats to get them all warmed up (pun unintentional) and then they had a grand final of sorts where the top 3 from each respective heat competed against each other. As the heats got closer to the final, I found myself unconsciously rooting more and more for my daughter to do well and I could see myself becoming that parent on the sideline who shouted louder and louder as the race reached its conclusion. In the end she did well and finished in the top 5 in her final which she was thrilled with and afterwards the teachers rewarded each child with a small treat. This non competitive theme was something new to me and I suppose there are merits in not singling out any individual child, instead rewarding the collective. In this politically correct age we’ve moved away from emphasizing singular achievements in favour of encouraging team participation at all costs. How this prepares future generations for a competitive world is open to argument.

The parents were also encouraged to get involved and we had a mini egg and spoon race of our own – parents and teachers. This turned out to be a much more competitive, yet fun spectacle and it turns out I still got game when it comes to propelling myself towards a finish line with or without an egg and spoon. After a series of activities spread across the schoolyard, with kids from various classes scattered all over, a whistle blew and everyone stopped for refreshments. Over a coffee with another parent, I observed that we were far more involved than I had expected to be and how nice it was to witness our kids being active and learning new skills outside of the classroom. The whole day had a collegiate, friendly and spirited feel about it and I left the schoolyard far happier for being there.

So what you might ask were the key lessons I picked up from School Sports Day that could be applied to the world of recruitment?

  1. It pays to be resilient. Whilst you may not succeed in every race, there is reward in just hanging in there and persevering. There is an important lesson here for anyone on their career/life journey. There are times when it’s easier to quit than to just keep going but your patience and resilience does pay off in the end. I’ve spent 17 years learning my craft and I know that I’ll still be learning something new in 5, 10, 15 years time but I’m ready for that.
  2. Everyone’s a winner. No matter where a child finished in the race, they were all treated equally and rewarded irrespective of merit. Most importantly they had fun participating and it was a good way to encourage every child to get involved. Sporty or not, everyone took part and that’s what counts. In any company, it’s impossible to expect that everyone will get the promotion or pay rise they deserve. However regardless of title or status, there is merit in treating everyone equally and encouraging full participation. Any company that provides their staff with purpose, meaning and a fun environment, that’s a company that people will want to work for. As a recruiter my purpose is to identify who and where those “Best in Class” employers exist and to market them to the best talent available.
  3. Kids excel at different sports and at different paces. As children we are far more accepting of these differences in others, so why does that change when it comes to hiring people? Our unconscious bias filters out candidates that just don’t match the role profile or the cultural fit and some really good talent is often discarded from the recruitment process for spurious reasons. Taking a chance on someone with a difference can sometimes pay off handsomely. Some of the most successful companies globally have a massive diversity of talent and skills. Whilst the temptation is always to hire people we like with whom we share common experiences or perspectives, the real trick is to hire that maverick thinker, that outlier who may bring a more creative solution to your hiring problem.
  4. Teamwork and the ability to cooperate with others is hugely important at every stage in life. Whether you’re running a relay race on School Sports Day or working against a deadline to deliver a project on time, your ability to work with and bring others with you is a key factor in determining your success. The leadership manuals teach us that your ability to motivate others is a key skill but pitching in and helping your team out is just as important. Together everyone achieves more and in recruitment our ability to develop true partnerships with our candidates and clients is fundamental to our success.
  5. In the end everyone will find their own level. Whether you’re the ultra competitive type or just happy to participate, there’s a place for everyone. The candidate that finished bottom of the pile when you were shortlisting for that job will get hired by someone else. The candidate that performed badly in one interview will excel in another and as a recruiter I’m always seeking to influence the recruitment process by identifying that unique candidate that others ignored and work to develop their potential as great employees.

If you’re on a mission to find your next career move or you’re seeking to hire that impossible to find candidate, come and speak with Campbell Rochford. We work with the best candidates and clients, accessing talent others can’t source.

Campbell Rochford – Turning Good To Great

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