Leonardos Need Not Apply

As unemployment figures continue to loom large and my job search continues, I often contemplate career tracks.

As unemployment figures continue to loom large and my job search continues, I often contemplate career tracks. So many people choose a line of work and set to it, climbing the proverbial ladder to the top of their profession. Maybe some of them will eventually hop over to a different industry or another career track altogether, but there’s a clear progression listed on their curricula vitæ.

Yeah, I don’t have that. I mean, not really. And that’s a problem when going head-to-head on paper for a specific position. Although I may, in actuality, be wonderfully qualified to do the tasks which need be done, a recruiter would have to surmise that for themselves and, despite my best efforts at evocation via the written word, they aren’t that insightful.

I guess I can’t blame these poor human resource wonks who must cull through hundreds, if not thousands, of résumés for every job opening for their inability to pick up on the nuances of my experience. Charming as I can be in an email, I can’t expect them to trust me at my word, either.

Gone is the era of the Renaissance man, the Jack of all trades, the gal Friday. Once the Industrial Age took hold, specialization was the order of the day and workers were forced into little boxes. The problem with that – aside from leaving guys like me high and dry in a recession – is that the bigger picture gets lost.

If you’re building a house, the guy in charge needs to understand the order of operations and how all of the working parts go together. Otherwise, he’s going to lay the foundation before he maps out the plumbing. Or, say, you need a repairman. Wouldn’t you rather have someone who can fix anything that’s broken rather than having to find someone different for each item?

If a team of any kind is only comprised of specialists, they are each going to believe they are the center of the universe and not have a grasp of larger scenario. And what happens if one of those specialists goes down? A good utility player knows the ropes all the way around and can step on up.

What would we have done if Leonardo da Vinci had only painted? The world would have been short one genius sculptor, architect, musician, scientist, mathematician, engineer, inventor, anatomist, geologist, cartographer, botanist, and writer. The ultimate, archetypal Renaissance man, da Vinci and his multitude of contributions would likely not be valued the same way were he alive today. And that’s a crying shame.

When I was let go as part of a major downsizing a few years ago, I questioned the boss’s understanding of my abilities to work in a number of different areas. My logic went something like, if a company is being forced to do more with less, wouldn’t it want to have a whole slew of utility players who could jump in wherever help was needed. His response was that the personnel cuts weren’t based on skills. That seemed a foolish strategy to me. Personally, I’d rather have five Leonardos than 10 Picassos.

But such is the way of the world, where foolish, short-sighted men (and women) make foolish, short-sighted choices. Luckily for me, I may have actually stumbled into a fellow with some vision. So far, he seems to admire my pluck and, having fallen for my charm, is giving me a chance to show that I got some game. Hopefully, that will work its way into a job in which my nuanced experience can shine.