On the origin of careers (Hiring for potential, hiring for eco-balance)

Drawing a parallel comparison to Darwin’s Origin of Species, where nothing is stagnant, the same can be said about one’s career and its evolution.

The math tells us that successful evolution is an exception, while millions of species died in the process for a few to survive to modern time.

It is a romantic thought to have that with each new job we take on, we progress and evolve for the better. However, that may not be always the case.

As in Darwin’s observations in the Galápagos Islands, where after a visit of only four islands in five weeks, observed that the creatures differ from island to island, with their adaptations to the different harsh environment of the islands.

Thus coming to a conclusion that the species underwent a natural selection process, which resulted in a transmutation of species.

Looking back at ones career; a similar observation can be form where no two person can have the same career evolution.

There are numerous variants that may affect the course of one’s career evolution; from latent variance such as personality, interest, upbringing, education, cultural, religious and personal beliefs, to more obvious parameters such as the career progression and roles the person undertakes in the course of his/ her career.

Bringing some context to our argument today, how would we put a value to one’s talent at the point of hire? Given that in this move, the new hire would have to undergo certain level of transformation to adapt to the new enviornment.

Thus, shouldn’t we be looking out for evidence of successful adaptations and evolution in similar enviornment? Also, should we not place too much emphysis on one’s failure to adapt to enviornments that differ from the hiring organization’s?

As such, we can be sure that our new hire would be successful in fitting into the existing ecosystem.

Having said that, we also need to make sure that our new addition doesn’t cannabilize the rest of the species.

Ps. Special thanks to Maurice Ling (http://www.linkedin.com/in/mauriceling) for helping me with the Darwin’s analogy. I have to admit that I had a hard time with the 500+ pages of the original book!


Eric Wong


2 thoughts on “On the origin of careers (Hiring for potential, hiring for eco-balance)

  1. It is hard to define successful adaptation in a new organization as there is an imprecise inverse relationship between gene pool (the ability to adapt) and specialization (doing very well in the new environment). Take rice for example, wild rice has high ability to adapt but produces only a few grains of rice per stalk. Agriculture had selected for specialization (highest yield of rice) at the cost of other traits such as disease resistance or drought resistance. As a result, the rice today is very fragile though highly productive.

    What does an organization really want? Many organizations say that they want adaptable people but they only provide the environment and provide incentives for specialization (be in productivity, single-point technical expertise, etc).

  2. Indeed. Thus, as what is required of a specific rice strain’s yield to be “valued”, the “goal” of an individual in an organisation compares to that. Is not “low yielding” rice being eliminated via human intervention, and “high yielding” strain cultivated.

    Morden organisations structure themselves in ways that brings out specific traits of individuals which allows them to flourish and “yield” in specific organisational functions.

    Thus, we don’t see a lot of cross functional movements, and only a few makes it to the top of the food chain.

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