My Future in Recruiting as Defined by The Tao of Jack Butler
"I understand that you little guys start out with your woobies and you think they're great... and they are, they are terrific. But pretty soon, a woobie isn't enough. You're out on the street trying to score an electric blanket, or maybe a quilt. And the next thing you know, you're strung out on bedspreads Ken. That's serious."
- Jack Butler (Michael Keaton in Mr. Mom, 1983)
What could an early 1980's Dramedy possibly have to do with my future in the recruiting/talent industry?
Short answer: Everything.
One of the intrinsic benefits derived from reading a good book, or watching a movie is the subtle education we receive as a byproduct. I am quite drawn to fables. There is an incredible beauty in their metaphorical simplicity. Take Aesop for example. He uses a simple story like "The Fox and the Grapes" to teach lessons about the complexities of cognitive dissonance. Fables, anecdotes, books, movies, songs, and poems all have the ability to teach, entertain and oftentimes, enlighten.
The character arc for Jack Butler does this in an amazing, entertaining way. As the movie progresses, Jack Butler evolves. He endures. Jack Butler teaches and is willing to be taught. Jack Butler teaches us that it is OK to change1 . His story is full of lessons showing the inevitability of change, and that it must be approached with an open mind. He learns the value of change by making mistakes, picking himself up and working diligently to prevent any repetitive failure.
Jack Butler teaches us all that we can convince anybody to "put down the woobie".
I am fairly confident that you are scratching your head at this. It is a lesson that is tried and true; steeped in simplicity. Learning to give up the woobie is a perfect metaphor to describe a number of my goals as a recruiter, consultant, manager and business partner. I also employ this mantra as a student, husband, teammate and father. Rare is the opportunity to apply such a unique commonality across the intersecting components of our lives. This is such a case.
My woobie used to be the standard issue job boards. It was all I knew. As I evolved, my eyes opened to the many talent resources available beyond Monster or CareerBuilder.
Our constituents are dependent on woobies of all makes and models. For a hiring manager, a woobie could be the reliance on an interview template designed by a psychiatrist during the Eisenhower Administration. It could be the repetitive use of a single staffing agency solely because they bring donuts by on Fridays. The hiring manager's woobie dependence could be so severe that they disappear for days at a time, not answering calls, not providing feedback and unknowingly tarnishing the image of their company as a career destination. The effects of woobie dependence are far reaching, but they are not impervious to some good old fashioned discussion and reasoning.
At its core, the child's woobie serves as a metaphorical symbol for everything that is wrong with the old adage, "if it ain't broke, don't fix it"2.
Many recruiters, HR executives, project and hiring managers are the same way. The difference is that in their world, the woobie is a mental block that impedes the pursuit of talent. This represents a huge weakness and threat within the currently competitive talent market. It is a roadblock to suggestion; a frayed view of the hiring process; a hindrance to professional evolution, and a visceral representation of indifference towards the changing hiring landscape and evolution of talent acquisition.
The idea to write this came to me upon a recent viewing of the infamous "Woobie Speech" . I immediately had a true "Aha" moment. I saw my future. Not just in recruiting, but in life. I internalized the notion that of our future hinges on our ability to embrace change, accept new challenges and learn from the experience of others. Teaching myself and others to give up the woobie is my future in recruiting.
1 Rocky Balboa also teaches lessons on perseverance and change - See the victory speech from Rocky IV
2 Mark Cuban once made a great point regarding this mantra. Read it here (last paragraph)
Chris, congrats on winning the contest, but even heartier congrats on such a great post. As a movie buff, a Keaton fan (Buster, Michael and Alex P.) and some one who very recently played the Mr. Mom role for 5 months in between gigs I totally relate to this on so many levels. A parallel you don't draw here is also how well Jack Butler's experiences as he learns to run the household so very much exemplify your reference to the Marc Cuban speech as well. As I recall he learns of new ways to clean the house using innovative ideas that Teri Garr never dreamed of. Not always with the best results, but he learns though his attempts to optimize.
I truly appreciate the kind words of the community and the generosity of this contest's benefactor.
I thought it would be interesting to share a brief back-story on how the piece evolved.
My son was in the hospital the week before the contest ended. My wife was staying with him during the day, and I would come up there straight from work so she could go home, see our daughter and prepare his food and sundries for the following day.
Recruiting via social media has been a hot topic around the proverbial water cooler lately, so I took advantage of my down time while he was in the hospital. I spent the majority of the week teaching myself the ins and outs of Web 2.0 functionality. I used my son as a guinea pig, and actually built him a website, blog and twitter account. He's a cool guy - you can find him at: http://SuperGroverT.com
Once I worked out the basic plan of this social media phenomenon, I turned my sights on my professional endeavors. I found my way to Recruiting Blogs and was reminded about the contest. I had yet to find a true inspiration for anything to write about, but a trip to the hospital's "movie cart" changed that. Hidden in the back, in a tattered VHS case was a well-used copy of Mr. Mom. Easily a top-5 movie on my all time list. Side note - even my college intramural basketball team was named "The Jack Butler Method". It was a no brainer to pop it in the VCR (once I remembered how to work one).
The inspiration I needed came in a flash, and my essay was outlined within the first 5 minutes of the movie. Suffice to say it was very fun to write and provided me with some much needed levity in an otherwise stressful time.
Ironically, I was also working on a presentation for a recruiter training session for the following week. Somehow I metaphorically inserted more of Jack Butler's teachings in to a meaningful discussion on process improvement and value creation. I think it was well received - and again I found it a fun challenge. If anything, I hope it gave the group something to chew on that was entertaining and insightful.
The irony that I saw you the other day and then I randomly clicked on your blog! Congratulations on the win! But I tip my hat to your dedication to continuous englightenment. I was having this conversation with my recruitment manager on Monday. I had to share the blog at work.
Awesome "scoop" to the making of your remarkable essay!