Bring More than Your Lunch to Work

By Peter Weddle, www.weddles.com

If you believe the educational system and reality television, only a select few of us have talent. They are the exceptional kids placed in the Gifted and Talented programs at school and the singers, acrobats and dancers on America's Got Talent. The rest of us are out of luck. At least, that's what the conventional wisdom would have us think. But, don't. It's wrong.

You see, talent is not a test score or an extraordinary skill. It is the capacity for excellence. Talent is the ability to practice perfection.

And, that capacity is an attribute of our species. Every human being - you, your spouse and your kids - all of you have talent. It is a gift with which every single one of us has been endowed.

Why, then, is there so much mediocrity in the world today? Why is average the term used to describe the vast majority of people?

There are at least several reasons for this phenomenon:

  • Our culture has brainwashed us to think that talent is the realm of exceptional people who perform exceptional deeds. According to this perverse notion, professional baseball players and Hollywood actors have talent, but cooks and bus drivers, accountants and sales people don't. Baloney!
  • Second, our school system has brainwashed us to think that talent can be realized only through higher education. Kids who are selected for the college track in high school are taught that they have it made, while those who go into a vocation are led to believe they have less (or no) opportunity to excel. Baloney!
  • And third, we've allowed ourselves to stay brainwashed with this elitism of talent. We've drunk the Kool Aid and, as a result, we sell ourselves short. We don't push to be the best we can be because we don't think we can. We accept the Me in mediocrity and ignore the I in superior. And, that's baloney too!

What does this situation have to do with a job search? Only this: the frustration, the disrespect, the despair that so many of us are currently enduring in our job search efforts is undoubtedly real, but it is not inevitable. We don't have to accept this second class status because we have the power - the talent - to change it.

Reclaiming Your First Class Status

Many of us focus our resume and job search campaign on proving that we can do a job. We look at each position's requirements and responsibilities, and we do everything we can to convince the employer we are a perfect match.

Unfortunately, however, employers are looking for something else. These days, what they really want - even if they don't say so - is not someone who can do the work, but rather, someone who can and will excel at performing it. To put it another way, they want to hire talent, not a worker.

But, here's the rub. In today's constantly changing global economy, talent quickly grows out of date. Superior can become mediocre in the blink of an eye. So, employers not only want to hire talent, they want that talent to prove they will stay that way. Employers are looking for people who are committed to refreshing their capacity for excellence all of the time.

So, what should you do?

Reframe yourself as a "person of talent" by behaving that way. Show employers that you recognize both the power and the fragility of talent.

How? By taking the following four steps:

First, give yourself a candid personal performance review. Have you been performing at your peak on-the-job or have you been coasting? Is your resume filled with accomplishments and achievements or does it describe someone who does enough to get by and no more?

Second, pinpoint the gaps. Determine which of your skills and areas of knowledge are in need of upgrading. If you believe you're at the state-of-the-art in your field, look for ancillary skills and knowledge that would enable you to use your core expertise in a greater range of work situations.

Third, go back to school right now. Even as you're looking for a job. Enroll in a training program or academic course and get to work on upgrading your talent. Yes, that's an onerous undertaking when you're in transition, but think of it as an investment, a down payment on your future.

Fourth, strut your stuff. You're a person of talent but it's up to you to make sure employers understand that. Add your ongoing development to your resume so employers see you as someone who respects their talent and accepts personal responsibility for continuously refreshing it.

Many of us now find ourselves shackled by discouragement in today's unforgiving job market. Employers don't seem to recognize or value our abilities, leaving us unsure of how to break out of our situation. Happily, however, there is a way to escape our predicament, and we don't have to rely on the government or the global economy to pull it off.

Regardless of our line of work, we can reset ourselves as persons of talent. We can shuck off our second class status by practicing perfection. We can claim our right to first class treatment by being the best we can be. Admittedly, that's easier said than done, but the prospects for success are real. Why? Because every one of us has the latent power and promise of excellence within us. All we have to do is bring it to work with us every single day.

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