"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. For example, 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, and so much more. Jack Butler evolves. He endures. Jack Butler teaches. Jack Butler is willing to be taught. Jack Butler teaches us that it is OK to change1 . His story is full of lessons showing that changes are inevitable, and that they must be approached with an open mind. He learned 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. But the lesson here is simple. It is a lesson that is tried and true. Learning to give up the woobie is a perfect metaphor to describe a number of my goals as a recruiter, consultant, 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 a dependence 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. 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 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 this world, the Woobie is a mental block that impedes talent pursuit. This represents a huge weakness and threat within the currently competitive talent landscape. 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 I recently stumbled upon the infamous "Woobie Speech" and had a true "Aha" moment. I saw my future. Not just in recruiting, but in life. I internalized the notion that each of our futures hinge on our abilities to embrace change, accept new challenges and learn from the experience of others. This 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)