Where Have All the Craftsmen Gone?

Posted on December 28, 2012. Filed under: Work Issues | Tags: , , , |

craftsmanMy husband and I used to have an inside joke: We were going to have 3 children: an electrician, a plumber, and a carpenter (all with business sense!). (As it turns out, we only have one child, a daughter, so we are letting her choose!)

The reason for our joke is that once we became homeowners, like so many others, we quickly discovered just how hard it is to find people who are good at their trades and can handle their businesses well. As a result, we have had to become much more versed in the trades than we really wanted to be. (We’re the type who would rather pay to see it done well [and right], so that we could devote our time to becoming better at our own respective trades.)

In the corporate tech world that our business runs in, we see a similar issue. Companies are all about finding “good talent,” so much so that they say there is a “war for talent.”

And everyone keeps asking, “where is all the talent?”

As an owner of two small businesses, much like hiring a tradesman to work on my home, I can say that finding this talent is tough and seems to be only getting tougher.

Why?

In a recent post, Not a Leader? Then Be a Multiplier, I talked about the obsession corporate America seems to have with everyone becoming a “leader,” and I mentioned that some people are more in love with the idea of developing a craft than they are with training/managing people. Unfortunately, though, in this quest to create an environment full of leaders, what often gets lost are the craftsmen (I’m sorry, but “crafts persons” just does not sound right; you can understand that I am talking inclusively when I say “craftsmen,” right?), people who are dedicated to building a specific skill set and to doing it better than your average person does. Companies say they want more innovation, but then they spend all their time/resources on developing more and more management professionals, not on craftsmen.

Colleges aren’t much help either. Back when I came out of high school, so many of my generation (the 30-heading-into-and maybe-already-into-40 somethings) dutifully marched off to collegiate institutions because, hey, a bachelor’s degree was your ticket to career success. But it left an interesting hole in the idea of developing a craft, not just in the trades, like electricians, plumbers, and carpenters, but in other fields as well. The reason is because the college educations we were receiving were not geared toward preparing us for apprenticeships but more concerned with how well rounded we became. I mean, “diversity” and “well-roundedness” were the buzzwords of our hour. I can remember spending countless college hours studying things that would have virtually nothing to do with my future profession (and I am one of the minority who actually “uses” my major for a living).

Is this all bad? I suppose not. There is an argument for overcoming ignorance, something we all pay for.

But there has to be a line between the quest for well-roundedness and receiving a useful education.

For I certainly became well rounded, so well rounded, in fact, that I wasn’t really prepared for anything specific.

It’s true that sometimes we have to try out a few things first, but it’s more true that the reality is that most of us graduate high school and go to college having very little sense of who we are and what interests we have. So our colleges then spend the next four or more years helping us figure that out by giving us more and more options to “discover” ourselves. In fact, the options are so endless and the “necessity” to choose something so low that we pretty much spend that time just figuring out what we DON’T want to do. (Hey, isn’t necessity the mother of all…invention? If so, why do we spend so much time making sure our kids never know what necessity feels like? But I digress….) So by the time we receive that bachelor’s degree, we realize we’re still not qualified for much. Thus, we go back for another two or three years, this time maybe honing in a little more (and getting in to more debt)…all the while still not really developing a craft, just the theoretical idea of one.

Before we know it, we’re 25 (and probably still living at home), and we’re just drifting, really. And although we may have the aptitude for a particular field, we don’t become “good talent” just because we show up and are interested (and have the paper degrees to prove it). Becoming a craftsman takes time, talent, and dedication. It doesn’t mean you have all the answers, certainly right from the start, but it does mean that you start somewhere and you keep honing in on where your speciality in that area lies. Most importantly, it turns you into a contributor, someone who has a special expertise to offer that not everyone has (in other words, you are no longer a dime a dozen).

I feel badly for my generation who is now reaching middle age and has had to backtrack and scramble to carve out a craft having lost out when we were in our 20s and free from other life cares and obligations. I feel more badly for the next generation who has been told to be more worried about work-life balance and about whether companies offer the most progressive benefits packages than about becoming true specialists. As you can see, they are not fitting the bill in the “war for talent.”

It’s time we get back to what it means to be a “master craftsman” in whatever field we practice and to valuing talent for what it is…talent!

Let’s face it. No one ever wins an award for being well rounded. 🙂

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IT Resume Tips: IT Candidates Need to Highlight Team Experience

Posted on September 12, 2012. Filed under: CIO, Personal Branding, Technology | Tags: , , , , , , , , , |

By Stephen Van Vreede (@ITtechExec)

IT Team Environments

The business landscape has changed dramatically for IT over the past few years. The days of IT folks or departments operating in a vacuum are gone, never to return. Although this is a good development for business as a whole, it has required a change to the way IT works.

IT professionals must have the ability to directly engage business leaders, users, and process owners. This direct interaction is designed to eliminate the gaps in communicating needs and requirements that have plagued the business in the past.

The IT Resume

IT candidates must be able to communicate their ability to work well in collaborative team environments on the resume. Employers and recruiters today expect IT professionals to possess this skill. But simply stating that you’re a “team player” is not good enough. Everyone says that. They want the candidate to prove it in the meat of the resume.

The ITtechExec Way

To arm yourself with more tools in your technical job search arsenal, we offer a free Technical Jobs report & Online Identity Assessment to our followers. We also offer a 10% discount to our followers. Take advantage of our offer just by signing up to follow this blog or go to our website ITtechExec (be sure to indicate in the “How did you hear about us?” box that you found us through our blog).

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The HR Dilemma with IT

Posted on September 4, 2012. Filed under: CIO, Personal Branding, Technology | Tags: , , , , , , , , |

By Stephen Van Vreede (@ITtechExec)

Defining the Role of HR

HR serves many purposes in the corporate world. In most cases, HR helps to set strategy, plan the organizational model, define roles and responsibilities, set compensation levels, manage employee relations, handle orientation (or onboarding as it’s now called), ensure employment compliance, and monitor regulatory and legislative reforms. However, to the business or operating teams, HR is really in place to help them recruit, hire, train, and retain high-quality talent. For IT organizations or departments, the function of attracting, hiring, and keeping technical talent is more specialized than most other operating areas. Thus, IT presents HR with some unique challenges in this regard.

The IT perception of HR

In most corporations, HR is viewed by the IT team as an impediment to achieving their objectives. True or not, this seems to be the prevailing attitude from IT operators about HR. It seems that HR departments, or at least the HR representatives that engage directly with the IT team, are more focused on mitigating liability than anything else. These liabilities include equal employment opportunity (EEO) lawsuits, wrongful firing cases, sexual harassment cases, and the like. Human Resources takes a firm stance that the IT group cannot fire someone without reams of documentation. They are very committed to this. Yet, when it comes time to hire people so that IT can support and enable the business, there seems to be no sense of urgency.

Truth or reality?

So what’s real and what’s perception here? Experience indicates that it’s a bit of both. The real issue stems from the Information Technology Department’s unclear understanding of everything HR must do as well as HR’s unclear picture of what IT truly needs to be effective.

Communication

Really, it all boils down to communication and goal alignment. IT executives must come to the realization that it is one of their primary responsibilities to cultivate a strong working relationship with HR. In this way, HR executives can relate to their team the importance of the manner and expediency with which they recruit and hire for IT. Furthermore, this collaboration between HR and IT must extend to the onboarding and organizational development initiatives as well as compensation. Only by a joint effort will the company be able to generate a strong base of technical talent that is compensated appropriately, well equipped, with a clear sense of purpose and a career direction within the company that impels them to stay and incents them to perform to the utmost of their abilities.

IT executive, start building this kind of relationship with your HR executive today. The fruits of your labor will be rewarding.

The ITtechExec Way

To arm yourself with more tools in your technical job search arsenal, we offer a free Technical Jobs report & Online Identity Assessment to our followers. We also offer a 10% discount to our followers. Take advantage of our offer just by signing up to follow this blog or go to our website ITtechExec (be sure to indicate in the “How did you hear about us?” box that you found us through our blog).

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