Wednesday, 18 April 2012

You Live. You Learn.

About a year and a half ago, I was introduced to a fascinating young man named Michael, who I ended up hiring to do some very niche creative work for Global Learning. He would say he was fortunate that I was able to understand the value in his diverse experience; however, his innovative work for Global Learning would prove that good fortune was also mine.  

Michael is one of those people that, when you meet, you just know there is something different about them. He is the type of person that embraces the world from his own angle, all the while staying eager to understanding the views of others. A great sign of an involved team player and potential leader.

When he was younger, Michael’s uniqueness led him to pursue a career as an actor. He has elite training from prestigious, historic institutions, and a performance resume which boldly represents that education.  

When he wasn’t performing, he could be found taking on any number of other theater-related responsibilities: everything from directing, to teaching, to casting. He even spent some time working as part of the casting team for a list of Broadway productions and feature films.

He had worked in the professional entertainment industry from the time he was 11, until about the time he was 27, when unforeseeable circumstances caught his life off guard. His priorities had to change, and he now felt obligated to seek out what others would deem as “conventional work”.

Until we crossed paths, by his own retelling, he wasn’t having the easiest of time getting his foot in the door, even for interviews. He says that many employers he would speak with just didn’t quite understand him, and they would be dismissive because of his alternative experience. He felt they didn’t understand the responsibilities involved with the theatrical positions he was listing on his resume.      

When I first met Michael and took a look at his resume, I would say he only had one or two traditional working positions that, on paper, could correlate to the business world. But because of similar backgrounds he and I shared, and the fact that I took the time to really listen to his story, I was able to read the language his resume was speaking.

Ballet is where my passion led me for many years before joining the corporate ranks. I know firsthand the vigor, passion, willpower, stamina, loyalty, and dedication it takes to survive in the professional performing arts. Performance artists have a real understanding of knowing what their responsibility is, within the greater organizational picture. Another sign of an involved team player and potential leader.

I knew that Michael had the potential to be one of Global Learning’s superstar employees.

I asked him why he thought employers or recruiters may not see him for his true worth, and I found his response to be very interesting.

“For the generations before me, like my parents and grandparents, options were limited and obligations concrete. I think because of this sense of containment they were raised in, they sought to teach my generation that our options were boundless, and we had an obligation to follow our passion, whatever the cost.”

He explained how he has come across countless people from his generation who found a passion when they were younger, spent a large portion of time and dedication to developing their skills regarding that passion, and – due to life’s uncertainty – have found themselves with noteworthy achievements, yet limited traditional business experience.

Imaginative, innovative and passionate people with powerful unique skills are available to employers, and the pool is large. These potential employees are being abruptly ignored because, at first glance, those skill sets don’t readily align with traditional best business practices.  

Michael handled his Global Learning responsibilities so exceptionally; he was quickly being sought by other companies to do similar work. Instead of taking the best offer, he harnessed his skill that he had developed here at Global Learning, and then created his own company, devoted to his now-developed expertise. This gave him the opportunity to take on the offers he received from potential employers, and turned them into potential clients. Fortunately for me, Global Learning is one of his primary accounts. With the launch of his own endeavors, at the age of 31 he is now thriving, confidant, self-reliant, and trusting of his own acquired wisdom.

Leaders and employers must keep their eyes wide open and their ears perked for people like Michael. We have the skilled workers we have been looking for right in front of us and their skills are rather incredible. Perhaps they just need to be refined to your organization’s needs.

“Do you know what you are? You are a marvel. You are unique. In all the years that have passed, there has never been another child like you. Your legs, your arms, your clever fingers, the way you move. You may become a Shakespeare, a Michelangelo, a Beethoven. You have the capacity for anything.”
- Henry David Thoreau

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