Releasing Hidden Talents

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Jim FischerIt is vital to ensure potential talent in your organisation does not go to waste. Jim Fischer discusses the benefits of identifying and releasing talent in the workplace.

One cannot help admire the people who appear on TV shows such as The Apprentice and Dragons Den. They demonstrate up front an enormous range of business talent, coupled with a high degree of self confidence, albeit somewhat misplaced in a few cases.

Yet we should also recognise that there are a great many people at all ages and levels who have business talents which are currently untapped and thus are effectively being wasted.

Some of this waste of talent arises where young graduates and school leavers have not found careers that match their educational achievements and interests. This often happens when people have chosen unsuitable careers and are demoralised and coasting in their job.

Or sometimes it is because experienced and talented individuals are not recognised by their management and are thus underused by their organisation.

Additional resource

Identifying and releasing these talents can provide the business community with significant additional resources and we can and should do something about this.

Although a large proportion of graduates leaving our universities know what career they want to follow, there are many who have absolutely no idea where their interests lie.

Some of them take the first thing that comes along, whilst others are pressurised into taking careers suggested by their parents who have made often partial assessment of their offsprings’ talents and relied on their own , often outdated, experience of what makes for success in business.

"Identifying and releasing these talents can provide the business community with significant additional resources and we can and should do something about this."

Take Richard who left Oxford with a good science degree, but no desire to follow a path into research and was floundering about what to do for a career for many months. His father, who ran a FTSE-listed manufacturing business, persuaded him that training in accountancy would open doors to a successful business career. He joined the trainee programme of a major organisation, but only stuck it for six months before recognising that his interests lay in combining a scientific understanding with caring for others. He is now training as a doctor and looking forward to becoming a top level consultant.

Or Olivia, who made full use of her time at university, involved with music, sports and organising major social events. On leaving university, she had no idea what she wanted to do and took, out of desperation, a sales post which was well paid and involved working with really pleasant people, but had a very limited future. She had not recognised the strong people, leadership and organisational skills she was using at university. When she did, she changed direction and has now joined the management training programme of a leading telecommunications company.

Lack of vision

Young people are not the only group with unfulfilled talents. We have come across many middle mangers that have a considerable amount to offer, but are not given the opportunity because their superiors do not empower them or recognise their talents. The issue here is not so much lack of awareness and confidence amongst middle managers, but a lack of vision by their superiors.

Maurice was a highly skilled engineer working for a major technology company. He revelled in designing new processes and devising innovative solutions to operational problems. Reaching the top of the technology ladder, he was encouraged by his management to take a significant team leadership role because that was the expected route successful performers were expected to follow.

His new role took him away from the technical role that he loved, and his uninspiring performance, coupled with his feelings of frustration and lack of commitment, resulted in him taking stock of his career opportunities, considering early retirement and looking for a career change.

Only when the organisation saw it might loose a skilled resource did the management create a consultancy job for him where he was given the opportunity to trouble shoot a whole range of technical issues, a role which earned him considerable praise in the organisation.

Career satisfaction

How did these people get to uncover and use their true talents? What helped them was gaining a good understanding of their abilities, interests and motivations. They discovered what really excited them and were then able to identify a number of career options in which they were most likely to achieve career satisfaction.

"Whatever methods are used, more people should be encouraged to understand thoroughly what motivates them and then seek out a career that embraces this."

They needed to research these options in detail, drawing on their own experience as well as contacts they had made both in their career and socially. Fortunately, they had the experience and resources to draw on. For some there is a need to actively create opportunities through job watching or temporary or part-time employment.

There are many processes and programmes available, of varying degrees of reliability, which can help people discover their talents. Some are fully computerised whereas others involve a dialogue with a coach or consultant over several weeks, either face-to-face or on the phone.

Whatever methods are used, more people should be encouraged to understand thoroughly what motivates them and then seek out a career that embraces this. A whole new area of talent currently lying buried could then be released.

Jim Fischer is a careers coach with a particular interest in helping young people to realise where they could use their natural talents and motivations and match them with suitable career opportunities. After 35 years of HR experience in BP plc, including 15 years managing the development of highly talented future leaders, Jim now runs his own consultancy 'What Next?' He can be contacted on [email protected]

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