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Employment: passion, experience or any old job?

A recent update on a friend’s Facebook page: “hey guys got a mate looking for a job really needs one asap please let me know if you know of any openings”

Is this really viable? From this job seeker’s perspective (let’s call him Sam) all the things that make up the employer brand—the work, the environment, the team—are unimportant. All he wants is to snare a job that will pay a salary at the end of each month. Who cares what it is? Of course, it may be Sam’s mother who is desperate—in that case, it’s not even the money; it’s just to get Sam out of the house.

But in this day and age, when it’s all about employee engagement and the needs of Generation Y, which we are told, doesn’t expect permanence, doesn’t engage for long, but does want meaningful work, where does Sam fit in?

The point is Sam is desperate. And there are thousands, no, millions like him. They haven’t read the literature; they don’t know about meaningful work or Generation X, Y or Z’s needs; they just want a job.

But not many organisations have the sort of entry-level position suitable for Sam. We need experience; we want our new hires to “hit the ground running”. And few of us want to hire someone with an “any job will do” attitude. “Where do you want to be in five years’ time?” is a favourite interview question. But it’s quite meaningless to Sam, who will nevertheless tell you he wants to move up the corporate ladder and be a manager.

Sam (or his mother) will complain of course. How is he expected to get experience if we only hire people with experience? But what Sam must understand is that it’s not mere experience we want, it’s passion. And that is what is missing from this Sam-needs-a-job plea.

In an age where differentiation and productivity are keys to success, or even to mere survival, passion is critical. We used to think loyalty was critical, and perhaps it was in a bygone age. But that was when managers (and only senior ones at that) were expected to do all the thinking and to generate ideas. Mere employees were only expected to do as they were told, no more and no less.

An employee with too much passion was a bit of a nuisance. He or she would likely be told, “Hey, don’t get carried away. Just do your job, that’s all.”

Today, an enterprise needs every employee to bring brains and heart to the party. We cannot afford the luxury of hiring someone who is merely looking for a job.

Compare Sam’s generic Facebook request with this passionate appeal I received in response to an advert for a part-time receptionist position:

“To work as a receptionist is not a dream which was born out of poverty, but a passion and love of working with people embedded in my soul.”

Sorry, Sam, when such passion is available (with or without experience), the choice is, as your generation would put it, a no-brainer.

(This article was first published in The Witness on Friday, 19 July 2013)

Ian Webster

From Methodist minister to Customer Relations manager in a computer bureau to HR Manager in a newspaper printing and publishing company. Now focussing on training and developing people, people-management consulting and writing and editing.

1 Comment

  1. […] written about a Facebook update that read, ‘Sam needs a job, asap. Any openings?’ (see Employment: passion, experience or any old job?) Even if Sam found a job that paid him what he needed, reality would soon set in. An extended […]

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