Imagine it’s 1485. You’re recruiting an artist to paint a mural of the last supper on a monastery wall. A man turns up hoping to get the job. He hands you his business card. It reads Leonardo da Vinci, inventor. You look up from the card to the bearded man in front of you.
“Mister da Vinci, you seem to have misunderstood. I want an artist. If I wanted an inventor I would have asked for one. Good day to you. Please close the door on your way out.”
If business cards existed in da Vinci’s time, what else could Leo put on his?
What would you think of someone whose LinkedIn profile listed all of these skills? Hmm, he can’t be very good. He’s unfocused. A jack of all trades.
We live in a time that celebrates specialisation. We don’t just want a lawyer, we want one that specialises in intellectual property. We don’t want a GP, we want an endocrinologist.
In da Vinci’s time, it was okay to be what we now call a Renaissance man. (Urban Dictionary definition: a person who is enlightened in all subject matter including arts, math, athletics, philosophy, music, history, and any other cultural aspect of society.)
In 2019, a Renaissance man or women doesn’t fit our narrow categorisations. No recruiter will advertise for someone with da Vinci’s broad skills. No recruiter will consider someone like him for the job. “He might be great on quiz shows and at dinner tables, but is not suitable for that leadership role.”
Depending on the job title on your LinkedIn profile or business card, recruiters add you to the list that contains only marketing directors or digital printers or lawyers. And that’s where you stay. You get found by recruiters looking for people with your specialised skill. You’ll be evaluated on your experience in that field. You’ll be evaluated against others with similar experience.
And yet, if a business owner were looking for someone to lead her business into the future, to shake up the sector, to redefine what’s possible, could there be anyone better than a Leonardo da Vinci?
Creativity is the soft skill of the future*. Job briefs are written by people with limited creativity. Recruiters don’t challenge their clients’ briefs. They know what their clients expect of them. “Find me the best aviation engineer to fill this vacancy.” And so they do.
Filling the aviation engineering vacancy will result in business as usual. Business as usual is a recipe for future failure.
Leonardo da Vinci’s wildly creative mind and eclectic interests mightn’t make for a focused LinkedIn profile. It takes a clever and brave recruiter to find and propose the less obvious candidates. The difference, though, could be staggering. The outcome, a revelation.
* World Economic Forum, Sir Ken Robinson and others.