Recruitment and Selection
Episode 86 - Recruitment, selection, and the theory of evolution: Lessons from the natural world to achieve career success
What can we learn from the natural world to help manage our careers?
Career management is a concept that is lost to many professionals, and that's such a surprise to me. Professionals usually are great at making plans for their children’s education, buying a new house, going on vacations, and organizing special birthdays. But seldom do they plan for how they are going to afford all of the above.
From my coaching, I learned that corporate professionals are under the misapprehension that their career progression is either in the hands of their current and future employers or the hands of fate. I also noticed from working with my clients that it’s easy to focus on the urgent and leave the important plans to be done later. With so much work piling up in the office and at home, making career plans are never high up in people’s to-do list. That is until you lose your job or the current situation at work becomes unbearable. The irony is not lost to my clients when I say, “you have spent decades making revenue-generating and growth plans for your employer, and none for yourself.”
So in this episode of The Job Hunting Made Simple, I discuss a few exciting concepts that contextualize career management, recruitment and selection, and job progression in a new light. My hope is always to make career management and planning more exciting and its importance more pressing.
If you have been following this podcast for a while, you have heard me compare executives to sportsmen and women. But in this episode, we are going in a new direction. We will look at how concepts from evolutionary theory, natural selection, and biology can be adapted to help you succeed in your career.
I enjoy bringing these concepts and others to my coaching sessions. I find it fun, and I enjoy building analogies that help crystalize ideas that may seem too theoretical when first discussed with my clients.
4 Concepts from the natural world to help you succeed in your career:
Repetition: Repetition happens over time in the natural world. It’s about reproduction over time, regularity, and fidelity. In our careers, it is essential to remember that repetition and the consistency of your message of branding, over time, make it so much easier for others to remember you. Find your focus, excellence, and a key area of expertise, and stick to that message. If you decide to change careers and therefore change your message, remember that it takes time for the new message to sink in. Your network will want you to remind them of your change, and you need to give it time before your new career “sticks.”
Patterns: Patterns are widespread. In your career, with some reflection or the help of a coach, you can identify successful patterns and patterns that are not leading you to your desired career outcome. Pattern spotting is something that my clients and I do all the time. For example, we test a resume, review the results, and tweak it to adjust depending on how it’s received. This is an ongoing process or review and selection of the best patterns at every stage of the job-hunting process.
Camouflage: In nature, you will find a caterpillar that looks like a snake or an insect that looks like a leaf. It's an evolutionary phenomenon, and it protects the species, allowing them to live longer and reproduce. When I help clients with interview preparation, I often explain the importance of protecting your career by not showcasing all of your weaknesses at an interview. Many times, I have seen a client start a job interview question by saying something like, “Although I lack the ten years of work experience required for this role, I have….” No! No, no, no. Firstly, if you are a client of mine and you applied for the role, we believe you can do the job. So show why you are ready for the opportunity, and camouflage the criteria you did not meet. We know by now that job descriptions are overrated anyway. Chances are, every other candidate applying will, like you, only meet about 60% of the criteria regardless.
Reciprocal Altruism: In evolutionary biology, reciprocal altruism is a behavior where an animal acts in such a way that reduces that chance of success by helping another animal improve their chance of success. For example, you may have seen birds that clean the teeth of alligators. Sounds crazy, doesn’t it? The truth is we tend to think of ourselves as selfless, but there’s enough research that shows reciprocity is way more common. So when you approach people and ask for their help over and over again to support your career, but you never helped them in any way, chances are they will stop helping you. So, stop asking for help, and start offering to help. Not only will you feel wonderful about it (I guarantee!), you may one day find yourself being helped with having to ask. It’s the most amazing feeling in the world.
Repetition, patterns, camouflage, and reciprocal altruism: Fours concepts from nature that professionals can use in the job hunting journey to be successful in the recruitment and selection process.
Resources mentioned in this episode
Timestamps to guide your listening
03:27 - "Recruitment and selection" and "natural selection"
11:20 - Repetition
14:14 - Patterns
16:58 - Camouflage
21:28 - Reciprocal altruism
Transcript of this episode
Renata: Welcome, everybody, and thank you for joining me once again. I believe this is episode 86: What can we learn from the natural world to help manage our careers? Now you have to be very patient with me if you are a biologist or an expert in Darwinism because this is not my area of expertise, but this is definitely something I'm very curious about. And I like reading and doing my research so that I can use that for the not natural selection, but still a big selection and a big competition that happens when my clients are looking for jobs. So I will go through this episode with you and share with you some of the ideas that I use in my coaching. Before we begin, don't forget to sign up for my newsletter. There's a link to it in the episode show notes. When you sign up for my newsletter, I give you some free resources.
Renata: It's what I give all my clients when they start with me, and I hope that that helps you as well. It's good for both people that are currently in transition, looking for work, and also for those who will be soon looking for work, you know. Tenure at jobs now are so small. They tend to be two to three years, and then we're off looking for another role again. So this is a trend. This is going to continue depending on which sector you are in. It could even be less than two years. So don't forget that career management and job search are skills that you really need to start acquiring and getting good at. You will find a link to my free resources and the signing up for my newsletter in the episode show notes, or you can go to my website, https://www.renatabernarde.com .
Renata: All right, so career management is a concept that is lost to many professionals, and that's such a surprise to me. Every time I talk to people, I get flabbergasted at how professionals avoid making plans and developing strategies that will - A- guarantee them an income in the future. And B - enhanced that income over time, make it better, make it more secure. Make sure that you are going into the next 10, 20 years of your career after acquiring so many skills and experience but still having a great level of control over the outcome of your career. And, you know, sometimes people forget to pay attention to that because they are so focused on the job at hand, the daily grind, rat race, they don't really look forward and are not strategic and don't plan for future outcomes of their career.
Renata: This is even more accentuated in the corporate sector. Since professionals are often making big, bold, revenue-generating, and growth plans for their companies, the companies that they work for but they don't do that for themselves. And they don't think to adapt those learnings to manage their careers and their income and growth generating plans. I say, you know, this is more accentuated in the corporate sector because, let's say, if you're an athlete and you earn an income playing tennis or running marathons, your lifespan as a professional in that field is very short.
Renata: So you have to really think about what's coming next, much sooner than a corporate professional. Also, if you're in a trade, let's say you're a builder. The physical task of that work means that you are making plans of transitioning out of that physicality into something else that will take you for the rest of your career and potentially change what you do over time.
Renata: And this is very important now that we're living longer and we want to live better as we age. And we know that the structure of superannuation and retirement doesn't really suit the lifespans of human beings now since we’re going to be reaching, you know, I hope a hundred very soon, if not more with this new generation and better health management, and vaccines and all the rest, even in the middle of the pandemic. And I'm recording this in the middle of a lockdown as well here in Melbourne. I still have great faith that we will live to very, very old age. And we need to make sure that what we save in our lives can support us for a wonderful time in old age, right? And I think that's something that we often romanticize and dream about, but we don't really plan much.
Renata: Another aspect of coaching that really saddens me is when professionals want to take the entire load of learning and implementing and building strategies by themselves. It's very lonely. It's also a relatively small investment in outsourcing it to a specialist like myself, and that would cut months of guesswork and stress and trying to understand how recruitment and selection works, for example. And many, many years of that rat race are spent just trying to figure out what exactly you need to do. And it could be accelerated by getting help and support, which many people, let’s say, comparing again with athletes, you know, you don't see professional athletes without an entourage of health and support. So using some of your earnings to reinvest in your career is something that corporate professionals don't often do, and they should. The ones that are very successful, I have found, have often found great ways to either identify mentors or have hired coaches or have really reinvested in their careers over time. It really speeds promotion, increases their salaries. It makes their careers, in general, less stressful.
Renata: In the past, I have recorded an episode. I think it was potentially a year ago. And I think I replayed it over the Christmas break about what professionals can learn from sportsmen and women. And I will have a link to that below. I really like to build those bridges and use those analogies to explain concepts to corporate professionals on how coaching can help them and improve their outcomes. And, today I'm bringing a different take on building those connections and bridges of different areas of research and expertise. I will be talking about natural selection and biology and things I have learned from those concepts that I have reused and recycled into my career coaching techniques.
Renata: As a full-time career coach and specialist, I spend a lot of time researching and understanding human behavior and translating those learnings into my practice. And, you know, one of the areas that I have really sort of invested in is really understanding the concepts of natural selection. And you can learn more by reading works from Richard Dawkins or Eric Weinstein. And I'll put a link to some of those below, you know, they're not easy reads, I have to say. But they’re, you know, if you enjoy that sort of reading, then I strongly suggest that you take a look because it can really help you as a leader as well. And, you know, just to sort of, as a hobby could also help you understand all areas of life and not just career management.
Renata: So here's a taste of what I discuss with clients when it comes to understanding the corporate pyramid structure, which they aim to climb and reach the pinnacle of which can relate to Darwinism and, you know, the concept of natural selection.
Renata: Now, it's important to know that not all my clients want to be senior executives and CEOs, and C-level professionals. It's quite the other way around. They have many clients that are at that level, and they don't want to be at that level anymore. Many of them, once we do our self-reflection and investigation into what really is important to them in the long term, decide on different routes, such as a portfolio career, or a different type of career altogether, a complete change of sector, or in fact, establishing themselves as an expert in their field and keeping that course sustainable over time, rather than trying to climb the ladder in the corporate sector. All of these different scenarios benefit from understanding natural selection and adapting some of the concepts that I'll be discussing in this episode to remain relevant as professionals and overcome any competition that may arise over decades and decades of work.
Renata: So, as a professional, you will always be threatened by newcomers and new technologies, environmental pressures, anything that may impact on your ability to position yourself as an expert in your field. So biology experts, please stop listening now if you think you're going to be annoyed by my lack of expertise or listen without passing judgment. I'm sort of, you know, more concerned about you guys than ever because I'm self-conscious about all of this, but I love this area, and I love talking about it. So I thought, why not share with you some of the concepts that I use with my clients, and here, of course, I'm just talking about them in general terms. If I'm talking in a group coaching format or one-on-one with clients, I can then dive in and really adapt it to, you know, tailor to my client's needs.
Renata: So here are four concepts I want to workshop with you today. The first one is repetition. So repetition happens over time in the natural world all the time. It's about reproduction, regularity, the fidelity, and the likeness of having plants or animals be just like each other as we reproduce. And, you know, if you use that concept in the way that we live our careers over spanning many decades, 3, 4, 5, 6 decades, it is important to remember that that repetition and that consistency of your message of a branding over time is so much easier for your network and your connections to remember you by. You build your identity, and that persists over a long period of time. And I often discuss this with my clients and adapt it with them, what it means for them and for their particular needs and their particular career. This is something for you to consider finding your focus, finding the importance of developing that popularity and awareness of who you are and what you do, and what would be the opposite of that, you know, and things that I would remind my clients to be very aware of and potentially stopped doing is, not so much jumping jobs people worry about jumping jobs and moving too much.
Renata: Whereas I think the biggest threat to a sustainable career is jumping from idea to idea to, from career to a different career and, you know, not knowing exactly what you want to do and sharing that insecurity with a lot of people in your network. So you don't know if you want to stay in your job or move to a different job, or if your career is right for you, or if you should, you know, do a completely different career and study again, reskill. You don't know if you want to stay in that job or move out. You say you hate your job, but you also want to be promoted. You know, all of those dissonant messaging over time, over a period that is very long, can be detrimental to your career. For sure.
Renata: So I would ask you to be sensible and consider how that can, you know, affect you over time. Of course, if you're going through a milestone and it's a tipping point in your career, and you really need to reset and reassess, you want to go out into the market and talk to trusted advisors about the fact that you are unhappy with how things are going. But make that a point in time, make that a specific project that you will tackle, and then you will move on and identify the right route for you.
Renata: So that was the topic of repetition. Now, let's talk about patterns. Patterns are very common in nature, and you can see patterns that will, you know, succeed and patterns that do not succeed and how important it is for a natural selection for the successful patterns to be the ones that are reproduced and succeed over time. And that can be adapted when, especially when you are doing job hunting, and you're putting, let's say, a resume out or a pitch, and then you're testing it, and then you're reviewing and adapting it and tweaking it along the way. Not tweaking too much, tweaking it slowly, that's something that my clients and I do all the time. You know, we test a resume, and then we wait a couple of weeks, and we wait for the conversion rates.
Renata: And then we look at what worked and what didn't and why we're very strategic. We don't worry so much about the sample size being too small. We worry about making sure that we are analyzing every single aspect of the job application and understanding every single pattern of success and failure, and making adaptations. So that reinforce, we reinforce over time the patterns of success, and we remove the patterns of failure.
Renata: I love doing that. And once a client understands how that is done, they can do that without my help in the future. And I'm very happy to share that IP with my clients, and it's, you know, very great asset to have and technique to use in the future. And remember that a lot of coincidences are a pattern. Then you have to always look into that. So, for example, if people come to me and say, I apply for a lot of jobs that I think are perfect for me, and I never hear back, I don't even get an interview. Or, you know, I'm doing really well, I go all the way to the end of a race, you know, like recruitment and selection, and I'm at the top two, but I never get chosen. So those stories by themselves tell me a story of patterns that I can read straight away.
Renata: And I know as a coach exactly how I want to start working with that client and tweaking things slowly and surely to identify the patterns that will help them succeed. Good or bad, I believe that patterns need analysis at every point of your career, not just when you're job hunting. So make sure that you use this idea and think about it in your current situation.
Renata: So that was patterns. And now I want to talk to you about camouflage. Camouflage has been very helpful to me over time. So if you think in nature, how we can find examples of that in nature. I think about a caterpillar that looks like a snake or an insect that looks like a leaf or moths and snakes that look like stone or anything like that, that you may have seen in nature that helps camouflage or hide, or make a bird bigger than they are by spreading out their feathers.
Renata: It's an evolutionary phenomenon, and, you know, you're fooling nature in a way, and it protects the species, allowing them to live longer, to reproduce, and to just stay alive. And developing those mechanisms to help your network understand who you are and how you want to progress in your career. We have likened this to fake it until you make it. I don't actually like that concept, but I think it's important for people that have a lack of confidence in their expertise to understand the importance of camouflaging all of their weaknesses or most of their weaknesses and gaps in their career and not highlighting it because reinforcing that, during a recruitment and selection process will exacerbate the negative biases that those reinforcements may result in a frankly rather subjective way of choosing and selecting candidates for jobs, right? So it's very hard to remove bias and subjectivity in the recruitment and selection process.
Renata: And if you have a candidate that's very humble and reminds people that during a selection process, that even though they lack expertise in that sector, that you bring X, Y, and Z, or they will say something like, you know, I've only just started in managing people, but I'm passionate about it. It's the narrative in the language that does not help you. Right? So my, you know, what I love doing with clients is changing that narrative, where they are camouflaging that because if they believe that they can do the job, they should be able to position themselves for that job without any disclaimers at the beginning. Either you believe that you have what it takes to apply for that promotion and their job, or you don't apply. So we make that decision together, the client, and I, do you have 50, 60% of what's in the job description? You're good to go.
Renata: And, you know, job descriptions are usually looking for superman and superwoman, and that's not really how you choose to apply for a job. It's not by ticking all of the boxes, it's by ticking the important boxes. And we identify what those important boxes are that will help you convert to an interview and then convert from interview to actually being offered a job. And when you are in the race, then you camouflage your weaknesses and your gaps, and you highlight your strengths, your passion, your skills, and your experience, and all of the things that you are bringing in and transferring into that organization to help the organization perform better, by employing you and investing in you. So that's what I call camouflaging. If you have an issue with that, let me know. I have no issue with it whatsoever, and I'm very happy to help my clients and support them in building that confidence and talking straight to a selection panel about their experience and their skills and the resources and the tools that they will bring without burning their chances by using negative language that reinforces any gaps and weaknesses that they have in their resume.
Renata: And I have, you know, just as an example, there was a candidate applying for a job, and he did a consultation with me to prepare for an interview. And the first thing he said that he would say in that job was, you know, a highlight of all the things he didn't have, but even though he was still keen to apply, and I'm like, no, you were at the final round. They trust that you can do it. You don't have to be humble about it. Anyway, that's camouflaging.
Renata: Now, the other and final thing that I want to talk to you about is the concept of reciprocal altruism. Now, this is a really serious topic, and I don't want to delve too much into it. And it's not, you know, this is not a philosophical podcast it’s a podcast for you to find jobs. And this is definitely not a podcast about, you know, natural selection and genes and anything like that.
Renata: But it's important to understand reciprocal altruism when I'm talking to clients, especially for those who are unsure about what networking is about. And also, for those that tend to be very transactional in the way that they approach, head hunters, recruiters, and people in their network that may help them find jobs. The truth is people like to be helped as well. And in evolutionary biology, reciprocal altruism is a behavior where an organism or an animal acts in such a way that will reduce their, let's say, fitness or their own success rate by helping another organism's fitness or a success rate in surviving. Right? And we see reciprocal altruism happening everywhere in nature. So, for example, you see birds that groom each other and even mammals that groom each other. So they help clean like a bird helps clean the fish of a crocodile.
Renata: Have you seen that? It's crazy. I've seen that here in Australia, and that's reciprocal altruism. So the crocodile is not gonna eat that bird because the bird is actually helping the crocodile keep their mouth clean. So it just sits there with a mouth wide open, and the bird just comes and feed from whatever is leftover in that crocodile's teeth. It's crazy, but it happens. And in humanity, you know, you can see that happen all the time. We tend not to think about it or rationalize about it. We tend to think of ourselves as selfless, and that's wonderful. And there are lots of wonderful, selfless people out there, but when it comes to recruitment and selection and career management, it's give and take. And you have to be a very wonderful human being that is happy for other people when they get promotions, when they get jobs, remembering that maintaining a positive relationship with your coworkers, your colleagues, your bosses, your friends, and family, and not being jealous of them and not, you know, cutting them out when they lose their jobs or when they have another great opportunity, and they move on, that's not going to help your career. The best possible groups of people that do well in their careers are usually alumni from Ivy League universities.
Renata: They know how to protect each other, for example. And it's a great example of reciprocal altruism, they graduate from the same Alma mater, and they're often helping each other get jobs, and you can see alumni working well when they come out of a school or university. And also when they're in a similar profession. And I remember watching a documentary with Steven Spielberg about his work, and it's such a great documentary because his work is just so unbelievably good over time, so consistent and high quality. But one of the things that I remember from that episode was he has this group of wonderful friends, like George Lucas and other great directors, and they have helped each other over time when one of them had some sort of terrible career failure, a movie that didn't do so well, the other one would come and bring them up and help, you know, help them get themselves back together again.
Renata: And they helped each other over time, and guess what? They all ended up incredibly successful. And I think that we need to have more of that reciprocal altruism, that behavior in the corporate sector. Unfortunately, I haven't seen much of that happening, but I am a true believer that I can instill that into my clients and help them work, to help others in the future, and also to reach out to their network, not just when they need help, but when they are ready to help others.
Renata: If you want to learn more about my coaching services and how I can use some of these concepts and other concepts to help you in your career and advancing in your career, reach out to my website, it's https://www.renatabernarde.com . I do one-on-one coaching, and then Il also do group coaching every semester. So the next one, we'll probably start around August 2021.
Renata: Podcast episodes tend to have a very long tail. So you may be listening to this in the future, just look at the website and see when we're running the Job Hunting Made Simple Group Coaching again, and I hope that I'm still running it twice a year. If not more, that would be wonderful. I would love to do more group coaching in the future, but if you're listening to it in 2021, August is coming, you can register your interest, or you can do one-on-one coaching with me as well. I'd love to hear from you book a time to talk to me, and you will find all those details on my website. All right, everyone, have a wonderful week, and I will see you again next week with another episode. Bye for now.
About the Host
Hello, I’m Renata Bernarde, the Host of The Job Hunting Podcast. I’m also an executive coach, job hunting expert, and career strategist. I teach professionals (corporate, non-profit, and public) the steps and frameworks to help them find great jobs, change, and advance their careers with confidence and less stress.
If you are an ambitious professional who is keen to develop a robust career plan, if you are looking to find your next job or promotion, or if you want to keep a finger on the pulse of the job market so that when you are ready, and an opportunity arises, you can hit the ground running, then this podcast is for you.
In addition to The Job Hunting Podcast, on my website, I have developed a range of courses and services for professionals in career or job transition. And, of course, I also coach private clients.
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