Many people after losing their career went out and came back in the workforce after a short blip. There were low-pay jobs to be found. Others took out education loans while others took out loans to pay a mortgage or a healthcare bill when insurance ended. For millions of others the lengthy period of adjustment turned into a lifestyle because, as we now understand, the big data, science-knows-all revolution established permanence from the very top to the very bottom of the economy. Bob the Builder now has to demonstrate emotional intelligence. Carla the Coder has to prove her cultural affinity. Charlie the CIO has to engage the organization in disruptive innovation. For college graduates the hiring realm looks no different than their education rigor in that, endless testing cued for memorization was superseded by testing of personality using psychological+neurological benchmarks. They expected wondrous diversity in their workplace. Quickly, young workers began realizing that businesses are nominally diverse, rather, they are mini-cultures comprising people who statistically benchmark alike within pre-determined parameters. Predictable – very predictable.
On the other hand, recycled professional workers have been to the world’s woodshed. They have stared at minimum wage, a foreclosure, the night shift, the paradoxical digital consumer revolution that promises a better life and future while the world becomes increasingly violent. Recycled workers gained experience at overcoming family and financial chaos, are more perceptive of relational complexities, more focused on things that matter like caring for customers’ needs. They don’t need constant affirmation because the Great Recession’s impact tested their character and strength, determination, resolve. It built-in greater humility which breeds empathy.
Human stories about change, adaptation, trials or trauma are neither resume nor social sciences benchmarking issues. Companies can test recycled professionals all they want with their corollary competence models and yet completely miss quality in character. A business willing to look at a recycled individual will more likely find genuineness: grounded, real, stable. What HR needs to do is learn to accept that a great portion of society now have a career blip, the gap, the weird job, the season of repositioning resulting in a stronger personal foundation. If we’re really going to be so digitally connected, so viral, so sensored, so transparent – I want to work connected to people of strong character who have already fought against the mad world. The unpredictable world.