Good people are hard to find these days, no matter what industry you’re in.
From marketing and sales to web design, music production, and even middle management, there seems to be an overabundance of bodies and a severe lack of talent entering the workforce.
The Bad News
A 2013 study of new graduates found that only 50% of young alumni felt prepared to hold down a job in their field of study. What’s worse, the same study found that only 39% of hiring managers believed that new graduates were prepared for those same jobs.
This epidemic of incompetence can – and likely will – devastate industries, as these underwhelming new hires make their way into leadership positions they are unable to hold.
The Good News
Young people with genuine, capital-P Potential may as well have a neon sign above their heads. Although the job market is flooded, employers and teachers can spot Potential from a mile away.
Note that I didn’t say talent, which is a fixed attribute that is a function of genetics and predispositions. Potential means room for growth and improvement, combined with the capacity and the drive to make changes and adjustments in order to become better.
Although I don’t claim to be an HR expert, here are some ideas of how Potential (with a capital ‘P’) manifests itself in young people.
Room for Growth & Improvement
People with Potential have an awareness that they are imperfect and have a lot to learn, which leads them to listen as much as possible and ask informed questions. The analogy of a human sponge comes to mind. They also proactively seek out mentors and experts in their fields of interest, and leverage those relationships for advice and connections.
People with Potential are naturally curious. They have a tendency to get to the root of issues and do their own research, not taking anything for granted. In some people, this might manifest itself in a very deep knowledge of one or two subjects, while others might know a lot about many different fields.
Capacity & Drive for Change
People with Potential are not afraid to test their ideas against reality, even (especially) if it means they might fail. Depending on the industry, this could mean developing a prototype of a product, proposing an A/B Split Test for a marketing campaign, debating a idea with a colleague, or volunteering for a special team/project*.
People with Potential take feedback without resentment – especially negative feedback. Furthermore, they are willing to act on that feedback, as they realize (on some conscious or unconscious level) that feedback is a reflection of their actions and not of their core being.
Finally, people with Potential take pride in their work. They have their own Mission, Vision, and Values, which provide them with a clear direction. Although a career/life path is rarely straightforward, and their Mission/Vision/Values change over time, they are in motion and going places.
*Addendum: Coincidentally, many entrepreneurs end up working for themselves because their personal capacity for change is far greater than the organizational flexibility of any company that they could work for. I believe this is also why most entrepreneurs make terrible employees, as they lack the patience to wait for change to eventually happen. This isn’t good or bad; it’s just the way things are.