What is in the work?

One of the key lessons I share with those I coach is that when we were younger and developed our aspirations, we thought of them in the form of how those careers or work aligns or blends with our identities. So there’s a belief that the studious ones can be librarians, the ones who are physically fit can be soldiers, the ones who loves to solve physical, mechanical problems can be engineers and so on. There are these generalisations and they continue to be perpetuated by things like Skills Framework by Skillsfuture.

It is not my intention to say that they are not useful; but we need to see them for what they can do and not expect the sky from tools such as these. The truth is that employers will have a job/work they need people to perform and that is the primary problem they need to solve. But they will develop their own image of the ideal candidate or perfect profile for the job role – this is a derived problem. The truth is they really just need the person who can perform the job without messing up the rest of their organisation. So fitting the ‘ideal profile’ can be seen as a secondary problem.

Too many candidates and organisations look to recruitment as about solving the secondary problem – about finding a match. Yet what they did not realise is, what if the ideal profile they have in mind isn’t actually able to do the job they need get done? As a candidate, it is more important to find out what is in the work, what it entails, what kind of problems it is going to solve and so on. It is more important to solve the primary problem rather than the secondary one.

So don’t just read job descriptions or listings. Talk to people in the company, and ask good questions to the hiring manager during interviews. You’ll need that more than anything else. Make sure you are not just a good fit; but you’re able to deal with what’s in the work.