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Leopards and Chameleons March 5, 2012

Posted by Tim Rodgers in job search.
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A leopard can’t change it’s spots, according to Jeremiah 13:23 . Some chameleons can change their skin color for social signaling or camouflage. At a fundamental level we are who we are: a collection of talents and innate abilities practiced over a career of assignments and responsibilities. But isn’t adaptability also a talent? What is the value of adaptability in an employee or job applicant? What is the right balance between adaptability and dedicated focus?

As a hiring manager I’ve always believed that the goodness-of-fit between the published job description and a candidate’s qualifications is a temporary thing. The job description and performance objectives will almost surely change as the needs of the business change. Is it important to hire someone who can fill an urgent gap and make an immediate contribution? Or, is it better to find someone who has more generalized skills and the ability to wear multiple hats depending on the evolving needs of the business? The answer depends on the situation. It seems to me that start-ups and early stage companies need a selective mix of specialists with deep domain expertise and generalists who can contribute in multiple functional areas.

It’s tempting to think that adaptable employees have greater job security because they provide more options, but again that really depends on the short-term needs of the business and whether the business can afford to keep people in order to meet future needs that may never be fully realized. I guess in my case I’ve enjoyed the challenge and learning that comes with working in a variety of functions and environments, even though it’s not clear whether that’s provided me with more job security in the past or makes me a more attractive (or retainable) employee in the future.

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1. Generalized Experience vs. Domain Expertise « Managing in the 2000s - June 10, 2012

[…] skills, if they can’t have both. I’ve written about this a couple of times before (See Leopards and Chameleons and Job Search Paradox), but recent events have inspired me to re-visit the […]


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