I like to reminisce. I find it therapeutic to reflect on the defining moments of my career every now and again. These reflections are also good for a laugh, which is equally as important.
One of my favorite things to reflect on is the learning curve that accompanied the early stages of my career in Talent Management.
What follows is a simple to apply, yet foolproof training program. The execution of this program hinges solely on one’s ability to acknowledge the cause and effect relationship of a two dependent variables. This is the Charles De Mar Corollary.
As seen in the lecture above, there are only 2 required steps to follow. To achieve ultimate success, it is imperative that they be followed in the correct order.
1 – Go that way. Really fast.
2 – If something gets in your way…..Turn.
My first weeks as a recruiter made me a believer in this theory. I did not grasp it immediately, but I quickly realized the importance of De Mar’s teachings, as you will learn from reading on.
In 2002, I rolled the dice, pushed my chips to the middle of the table and resigned from my role as a Major Accounts Executive within the Telecom industry to start a contingency recruiting firm with some business partners. My new colleagues ensured me that this field did not require the brainpower of say, Stephen Hawking. Rather, it was the type of field where the simple investment of sweat equity served as the basic building block for success. What's more, my partners both came from a search background and provided ample reassurance regarding the risk/reward nature of this endeavor.
I knew a number of people who began their professional careers as recruiters straight out of college. They seemed to enjoy their chosen field, as evidenced by the fact that I never found them alone in a corner, sucking their thumbs while rocking back and forth in a fetal position after a day in the office. Using this sound rationale as a springboard, I thought to myself, why not?
I remember my thought process very clearly. I thought to myself, “How hard could it be? Everybody wants a new job. This was not Amway or door to door Encyclopedia sales. I had the opportunity to sell hope, stability, and maybe even prosperity. My product would enable people to pursue the American Dream.” In short, I had it in my mind that I was in this position to make the world a better place. To improve lives. Fortunately, I still do.
Armed with this philanthropic mindset and an understanding of recruiting lying about 3 clicks below sea level, I was confident that a career in the search industry was going to be a snap.
Such was the confidence represented by my first recruiting workflow. I drew up a very well thought out roadmap. It looked pristine on my brand new whiteboard. Sure, it was an ambitious if not arrogant approach. But again, I felt confident. I was going to go fast. It looked something like this:
The concept seemed straight forward. In keeping with the skiing metaphor, all I had to do was point my skis in one direction, and glide down the mountain on smooth snow that was the same color as my whiteboard. Simply put, I was going to pick up the phone. I was going to do it really fast. I was going to do it again and again. The key emphasis was always on speed, going faster and faster still.
I let my enthusiasm cloud my ability to anticipate the moguls hidden in the terrain of the metaphorical recruiting mountain.
My background was in sales. I made deals. I dealt with adversity. I overcame objections. I talked to strangers for a living, and would simply continue to do so in this role. I had knocked on many a door, treated “no-soliciting” signs with the respect they deserve, and found myself in countless situations where there was an unpleasant surprise waiting for me behind door #1.
This was no big deal. I was used to doing things really fast, and this would be no different. I figured that I could turn if I needed to, but why would I? Recruiting was going to be easy.
Anyone who has ever been skiing can relate to the emotional maelstrom that accompanied my first week as a recruiter. My mind, body and spirit quickly morphed into the emotional and physical equivalent of an out of shape, first-time skier going down the bunny slope with a minor head of steam. It is easy to picture this person frantically trying to implement the “wedge” in order to stop before crashing in to the base of a ski lift. Forget turning – this is about stopping the madness. Restoring my sense of safety.
As I continued my trial run through the double black diamonds that make up the world of contingency-fee healthcare recruiting, I realized the importance of anticipating obstacles and hazards scattered about the horizon. Things were going to get in my way. I had better be ready to turn, but I did not know how.
The art of getting past a surly Radiology receptionist turned out to be much more difficult than winning over an entire office by bringing donuts and ball-point pens adorned with a company logo as a business enticement. In short, this was rejection in its purest form. I had never dealt with this. Adjustments, detours and obstacle avoidance were not in my repertoire. I had never been forced to change path before I hit a tree or mowed over one of those incredibly resilient 3 year old skiers. I had to learn how to turn.
My first lesson in turning came as I began to adjust my approach in a way that blended more effectively with my target audience. I needed to learn and adapt to the delightfully unique nuances of my talent pool. For example, I was recruiting within a population of individuals who had very formalized training within their field. I quickly found out that there is instant credibility to be gained and benefits coincide with addressing said candidates with the appropriate title.* Of course, I learned this while receiving rather substantial dressing-down by a potential candidate, but it slowed me down just enough to help me change my direction.
I began doing everything in my power to point my skis together, wedge up and take the hill from side to side. It was time for this little buckaroo to slow down.
I had to learn this skill. Things were getting in my way. Time to turn.
Hindsight can be a fickle friend if you think about it. Everything was right there in front of me. Had I applied the second half of the Charles De Mar Corollary to my approach from the outset, my ego would have sustained fewer metaphorical bruises, and there is no telling how much stronger of an impact I could have had on our early progress. As it was, I was way too focused on the straight line connecting point A and point B. I did not see the obstacles because I thought I did not have time to slow down and work around them. I did not recognize that there is more to this than simply possessing the ability to just go fast.
I never reached a point where I yearned for a return to expense accounts and golf outings (at least not too much), but I did find myself reevaluating my attitude and methods. My lack of training and flawed technique was preventing me from getting to the bottom of the hill unscathed. I could still go fast, but the desired outcome of success required the ability to do more than that.
Fortunately I had that moment of clarity that we often hear about. I opened my eyes and finally saw the obstacles. I recognized them. I related to them. I understood them. I used them to my advantage.
How did I do this?
I learned how to turn.
For me, turning was asking questions instead of broadcasting statements. When I learned to turn, it was as though I had lived my entire life with no peripheral vision. Turning represented the ability to see a big picture and not just the task at hand.
And with that, the Charles De Mar Corollary went from test hypothesis to proven fact. Trust me when I say it works.
Take a second to think about your last few weeks at work and the approach you took. Did you go fast? I would assume the answer to that question to be yes. Did you turn? I hope so, otherwise, you might be reading this in great discomfort from the bruises acquired from multiple falls and avoidable collisions.
Biography: Charles De Mar, heroically portrayed by the great Curtis Armstrong, was a misunderstood man living in the wrong place and time. Hindered by this, he was delayed greatly from pursuing his true passions. De Mar toiled witlessly in high school for 7 years before stealing away with the cast-off lover of the fallen downhill skiing legend Roy Stalin. His story can be seen in the “Savage” Steve Holland classic, “Better off Dead” – available on DVD in a store near you.