We’ve all been told since we started school in pre-school or kindergarten (grade 1 if you’re outside the U.S.) that if we worked really, really hard we could become anything we wanted to be. A doctor, a lawyer, even President of the United States! Okay, not you foreign-born folks, you can’t be President! But, you understand where I’m coming from—dream big kid and work hard.
There was a story out recently by an ex-collegiate football player who was highly successful trying to make it the NFL. The NFL has about 2,000 job openings to be a professional football player. There are roughly one million amateur football players in the world playing American-style football at some level. One million candidates for 2,000 job openings.
Not really a candidate-driven market? Or is it?
Darien Harris was a starting linebacker on a Rose Bowl winning team. Led the team in tackles, had great stats and did some great things on the field. Off the field, he was a model citizen. Never in trouble, great grades, great work ethic, praise from coaches and community. He worked hard to do everything right, the way his parents raised him. He came from a good family that valued education and hard work and demanded it out of their kids.
Sounds like the perfect scenario for an NFL team to draft this kid, but it didn’t happen. You see, what ‘we’ value in society isn’t necessarily what we value on our sports teams. We like to believe we wouldn’t back bad people, but when they run like a deer and catch a million touchdown passes it becomes a heck of a lot easier to ignore some pretty awful stuff. Sad, but mostly true.
Darien isn’t sulking, he’s still working to make his dream come true, but don’t think he’s questioning what it all means. He’s a young man and connecting these dots of doing all the right things and not having it work out is a huge gut punch to take when you’re that age.
The reality is, not every job is obtainable.
Darien is a bit undersized and slow for an NFL linebacker, even though he was one of the top linebackers at the highest level of college athletics. We see this at every level of a sport. Your kid was the best soccer player on his team at 12U, but couldn’t even play on his high school team. He hit .500 in high school, but couldn’t hit .100 in college. Each level jumps up in skill, speed, and competition not one step, but many times a thousand steps!
You will always run into someone who is better than you. Always. It’s just a matter of time and space. You’re the best one day, but eventually the day will come when someone else will be better. So, just because you worked harder than everyone else doesn’t guarantee you anything. Skill and talent can still beat hard work every day of the week. It’s not something mommy and daddy told you because it sucks, but it’s 100% true.
It’s the paradox we face as talent acquisition professionals. We are the ones who are begging you to come work for our organizations. We are also the ones who are usually telling people “you’re not good enough” to work here and that really sucks. NFL teams work really hard to recruit the best players to their organizations, many times only to have to cut them from the roster because while they were ‘good’, they weren’t good enough.
It’s a great reminder as we are all out there searching for talent. To have a bit of empathy for all those candidates who worked really hard to get to this point in their career only to find out the job they always wanted probably just isn’t obtainable for them. That’s a tough pill to swallow.
FOT Note: We here at FOT like to think we get talent and HR at a different level. At the very least, we are probably going to have a different take than the norm. So it made perfect sense to ask SmashFly to be an annual sponsor at FOT, where they’ll sponsor posts like this one, allowing FOT contributors to write, without restriction, on all things related to recruitment marketing and how it helps organizations find, attract, engage, nurture and convert talent. Learn how you can proactively protect your organization from the talent crunch by building pipelines of engaged talent in our Talent Pipelines Solution Guide.