6 lessons on TA (and life) from the “duck’s nuts”

I had a truly educational and interesting chat with a random fellow passenger in the Qantas lounge recently.
It is the old story, planes running late and cancelled, crowded lounge, few spare seats and grumpy late passengers scrambling for food and space. I am sure you can visualise this scene.
Looking for an empty spot I eventually sat down at a spare seat at a table. I noted the bag opposite me but thought hey let’s have a cup of tea, sandwich and a read of the paper.
Along comes a big bloke and my soon-to-be-my-cobber and I say politely, “Do you mind me sitting here?”
His reply was classic, “Well you already bloody have!” Mmm, so I did.

Lesson 1 – Be less assumptive, I did not expect the person to say anything else other than “no, I do not mind”. On reflection I should have asked “would you like me to move?” Many times, in speaking to hiring managers and candidates I use my influencing skills to get desired outcomes. This is perfectly acceptable but being totally open and empathetic with no agenda is something I need to also practice if I want to improve.

Seeing I was sitting there, my new cobber started to engage me in conversation. I was not prepared to chat as I was looking forward to some quiet time, read the paper and enjoy my Earl Grey Tea.

Lesson 2 – Be prepared to engage in conversation if you have created an opportunity (knowingly or not). I cannot tell you how many times I have had candidates engage with me who are not sufficiently qualified for role I was recruiting. My default modus operandi is to try and add some incremental value and pay it forward. However, I do not always do this if I am busy. This is no excuse, I know.

Bob is his name and he works as an underground miner doing fly in fly out between Launceston and northern WA. He is proud to be the only person in his company on a “two weeks on two weeks off night shift” roster that he has volunteered for, instead of the usual week on week off schedule his colleagues are on.
Why night shift? I asked, feeling curious. Bob said that the bosses and young engineers are not around then so he can “work digging stone uninterrupted”.  I suspect he can also relax and do what he wants.

Lesson 3 – Do what others do not enjoy to gain freedom. Leading teams in Talent Acquisition and at the ATC, I cannot remember the number of times I have heard someone start a sentence with “I do not mind” when asked to perform tasks. This always tells me the person is doing the work grudgingly. Everyone has somethings that they enjoy doing more than others but imagine if we did our best to take joy from every task and did this with our best efforts. Imagine the freedom we would gain?

Bob was going for the boss’s ticket. He felt a bit nervous as he said he was sh*t at school. I said to him, “But you are good at learning stuff, right?”
He smiled.
Bob has a mate who is a boss, and who had summarised the big book of instructions to pass the exam to become a boss. He is going to get his mate to go through the notes and put them into real work situations for him.
He also organised two other mates to take the exams with him, so that he can share the notes and split the cost of paying the mate who will be going through the notes and putting them into real work situations for them. He would then do the two 3-hour exams till he passed. When he does eventually pass, he will become “the duck’s nuts and get a job anywhere”.
Really smart ways to learn, why not get more people to do stuff like this?

Lesson 4 – Face your fears and structure your learning to suit you in real life situations to gain options and flexibility in work. I am surrounded by the need to learn about innovation in TA. Staying up with the latest trends in TA and how I can contextualise and prioritise these are a struggle and joy. Bob reminded me of the importance of continuous learning and improvement. 

Life outside of work is great and Bob has a wife who is a very successful real estate agent.  She owns 3 businesses and has a rent role of over 500 properties he told be proudly. He kept saying she is loads smarter than him. He has two young girls and when he is home, he plays with the kids, rides his Harley Davidson and eats great Tassy steak from the local butcher.
He jokingly said he loves the bike more than his wife and he also mentioned he is going on a 10-day Harley ride in the US soon. His wife will be riding on the back, begrudgingly. The Yanks will love this guy, his wife must do too.

Lesson 5 – This was a big one for me, balance work and home life to find contentment and treasure life. I do have a motto in all things TA – Gain a desired outcome and reward yourself. The successful TA Managers that I have met all have balanced work and home lives that keep them refreshed and vital. 

Lastly, I take a lot of vitamins each day. There would be at least 10 pills. The pursuit of health and youth is a long vain journey :).
Bob sees the pills and asks, “Brother, what are you f**king doing?” I was slightly embarrassed and was expecting this response but was also curious to see his reaction.
I explained the purpose of each pill and he smiled shook his head and asked if I could just “get one f**king pill that would do all of that?” Smart! Bob just invented multi-vitamins.

Lesson 6 – Be brave and be yourself no matter what. I do my very best recruitment work when I can be myself and I am not trying to be someone others want me to be. I know this sounds strange, but I am the most creative and effective when I am myself and I can just trust and let things flow.

So, I finally left Bob. We shook hands when my flight was called but we did not exchange contact details. I can’t imagine if he would never want to exchange emails, speak on the phone, drink wine and eat vegetarian food.
The meeting reminded me of a poem “Clancy of the Overflow” by Banjo Patterson. Clancy leads a free life out of the city and is totally content. The last line of the poem reads:
“And I somehow rather fancy that I’d like to change with Clancy,
Like to take a turn at droving where the seasons come and go,
While he faced the round eternal of the cash-book and the journal —
But I doubt he’d suit the office, Clancy, of ‘The Overflow’.”
 I have learned much, and could learn more, from Bob.
Cover image: Shutterstock

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