Hiring the Unhireable

Hiring the unhireable: You’re not so special (Really, you’re not)

Part 6 of 16

We’ve got to quit telling people, especially kids, that they’re special. They’re not.

We tell our kids, “you’re a winner at everything, you’re wonderful. Wow, here’s your trophy for coming in 23rd out of 24 kids in ‘competitive event of choice’.”

That, IMHO, and as research has shown, is over-Helicoptering as parents and as educational professionals who fear lawsuits or the rage of parents who think they’re kids are awesome at everything they do, and obviously, the teachers and schools are mistreating their kids… and then the lawyers get involved. Jeeeez. Some major universities are under massive pressure to dumb-down exams so the $60K/yr. tuition results in a diploma with a 4.0. C’mon, seriously? Failure is part of life.

Hiring the unhireable

I played trumpet and clarinet as a kid. I didn’t suck, but I was nothing special either. In middle school, I sucked at soccer, abhorred the pushing and shoving of scrimmage line football, and my marksmanship was darn close to the bottom of the class. But, I was really good at science.

At 12, I made a scale model of the New York World’s Fair, recorded my voice on audio tape and manually synchronized it to a flashlight on a suspended wire while toggle switches lit up the pavilions at the proper time. But I sucked at so many other things. That didn’t bother me, as I recall. I was really good at some stuff and just miserable at others. I was good with that, and my wife and I hopefully got that same message across to our kids. Be happy to not suck at some things and accept that you do suck at other things.

As a combination of nature and nurture, we are neither created nor do we evolve equally.

What is wrong with a little bit of honesty and constructive feedback? We’re not all good at everything. I’m a decent, but not top-notch skier. I adore skiing, but I’m also quite good with the fact that I’m mediocre. I choose to enjoy what I do. Others choose to bemoan their non-Olympic abilities and will often opt out of doing something if they can’t be excellent. That’s on them.

We need to build up the kids with a dose of the cold, hard facts as to what they’re good at and what they’re not so good at. That allows us, as parents and educators, to prepare kids for the real world; where out of 7-plus billion people, it is incumbent on each of us to find our excellence; be it in one or several areas. It’s not that we shouldn’t try lots of things. It’s not that practicing can’t make us better. It’s just that we all have different aptitudes.

Get over it. We’re not all good at everything. Nurture, identify, support.

Hire the failures. Those who turned failure into practical skills.

Who else can’t we hire?

Part 5: Embrace failure
Part 7: Autistics DO need to apply

Winn Schwartau is the CEO of The Security Awareness Company, the author of Information Warfare, Pearl Harbor Dot Com (Die Hard IV), and the upcoming Analogue Network Security.

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