The Right Job And Gardening; Not What You Think


In my backyard I have an assortment of flowers, vegetables shrubs and trees. Some of these are perennial and come back year after year, and a few are annuals, producing one year only and then dying away. All have their function and have been placed where they not only thrive best, but also where they compliment rather than compete with the other plants around them. I have just summarized exactly what an employer is doing when they are conducting interviews as part of the hiring process.

Everyone learns differently and if you like analogies and the world of plants and greenery, I think this piece is meant for you. Read on.

Have you seen a Poplar tree before up close? The one I planted a few years ago is now about 25 feet tall. It’s a fast growing tree whose branches don’t grow wide like a Maple tree, but rather the tree is tall and lean. The leaves are glossy dark green, and in the slightest breeze they rustle and shimmer together. Held on by a thin stem, they nonetheless hang on in the stiffest winds. At the base of the Poplar I’ve planted 7 Dogwood plants which have variegated green and white leaves; and while they fill in quickly, the bushes grow much lower to the ground and provide a point of interest as you enter the garden and they draw your eyes to the extreme rear of the property.

Now one Poplar tree is a good focal point, but one Dogwood only would look odd by comparison. It takes a group of them to capture what I wanted.

I’ll tell you as well that I’ve got a couple of Pear trees in the middle of the yard; two because they are of a strand where more than one is required for them to cross-pollinate in order to produce fruit. And in the garden bed they adorn, there are Black-eyed Susan’s, plants various shades of green and some yellow and pinks for colour. Nothing is planted by accident, and the overall presentation works in harmony. In short, my wife and I like the combinations we’ve selected. The chosen plants don’t compete for root space or sunlight, because what they need to survive and thrive has been carefully thought out.

Okay, so what’s my backyard landscaping skills possibly have to do with getting a job? Good question and about time you asked. Well every employer at some point needs people to perform functions in the workplace. They set about making job descriptions that detail exactly what the job entails and the skills required. This is just like the grower putting a label on a plant you’d pick up at a nursery where it says, “needs a mixture of sun and shade, plant 6″ apart from other plants” etc.

But then the employer does something that’s not going to go in ANY job description EVER. The person at the nursery might tell you that a plant or tree will or will not grow well if certain other plants are nearby. Some plants will spread rapidly and literally choke out others, while some like Morning Glories require ground cover like Hens and Chickens at their base to shade their tender roots. You’re never going to see an employer put in a job description something like: “Will perform best if suited to working beside cantankerous old codger”, or “must be able to endure self-absorbed, gossiping Narcissist in adjoining pod”.

You see in addition to any hard skills required for the job, the employer has to take into consideration the surroundings in which the vacancy falls. Who sits nearby? What team will the new person be on? What style will work best with the Supervisor in that department? What’s the chemistry of the people on that team or on that shift?

Just as you are thinking and weighing the pros and cons of a company, a job, the location, (which are all part of finding the right fit), the employer is weighing many factors to find the right person to fill the job too. Yes it’s fair, and yes it’s done with every single hire. Have you not heard of employers, “weeding” out the “bad apples”?

Like each living thing in my backyard, you’ve got your pros and cons. You’ll do well in certain environments and you won’t in others. You’re not a good fit everywhere – no one is. So if you’re looking for, “anything”, you’re advertising that you don’t really know where you’ll thrive best. You should figure this out with help if you can’t do it alone.

It is for this reason that employers sometimes ask, “What value will you bring to the organization?” They want to know what you’re all about in order to determine if you are a good fit. Your strengths and weaknesses are just like the descriptions on a plant tag where it says, “Grows 15 feet high and 3 – 4 feet wide”. A good gardener takes into consideration not just what they are planting today, but looks down the road and envisions the mature plant. So too does a good hiring team. They envision what the workplace will be like after injecting you and your personality into a team. How will you affect positively or negatively on what already exists?

And this is why people want to know how well you know yourself, and how well you can express it. Happy gardening.

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