Monday, April 12, 2010

The importance of being earnest

Recently, I was invited to chat with students at both the University of Queensland (UQ) 'Careers and Cocktails Night' (run by the UQ Economic Society), and the Queensland University of Technology (QUT) 'Town and Gown Evening' (run by the QUT Economics and Finance Society). The events are very similar in nature - a chance for students in the latter years of university to meet some potential employers to show off their wares.

Both evenings were enjoyable. I like getting together with students for a beer - at heart, I'm still a student boozer. I miss how how simple life was at Uni.

The same trends came up in many of my conversations at the evenings.

Students stand there and listen to me tell them... 'be yourself, and be honest about your capability and personality' (I feel so old when I say things like that). And recruiters/employers stand there and tell me that all they are after the best fit person for the job.

And yet, no one is honest in interviews. Everyone stretches the truth a little (or a lot) to make themselves look like the right person for the job, or the right workplace for the person. and what does it mean? Employers hire the wrong people and employees end up in jobs that aren't right for them.

I think employees and employers are equally at fault in this arena. When sitting in an interview, potential employees all too often skirt around areas of inadequacy and pump up areas of relative competency. Similarly, employers talk of fun and relaxed corporate atmospheres and refer to policies that proffer work/life balance, but that haven't been adhered to since their inception.

What I ended up telling the students was that they had to be assertive about their particular skills, open about skills that they don't have, and cautious about the promises that are made to them.

This approach has, at least, done me well in the past.