People can get so tripped up by feeling that it’s too late to make a change, maybe they’ve stayed in a job for too long, or they’ve missed the boat to try something new.
As a part of my HR Strategy Series, I’m talking to top experts in the field to teach prospects what hiring managers are actually looking for, while also supporting business leaders in their hiring and retention strategies. Today I had the pleasure of talking with Lindsay Gordon.
Lindsay helps people get clarity about what’s right for them in a job and why, confident about their skills and abilities, and able to communicate that to interviewers, managers, and colleagues. She was previously at Google doing career development before starting her own business. Lindsay holds a Bachelor’s degree from Olin College of Engineering and loves applying her engineering brain to helping people find careers that fit baking complicated pastries, and barbershop singing.
Thank you so much for doing this with us! First, please tell us what brought you to this specific career path?
Like any good career transition, I completely fell into it! I started my career as an engineer before falling into technical support at Google. In that role I took over onboarding and training the new hires on our team and soon found out that everyone was stressed about their job. I listened and tried to support them, and it came to the point that enough people had told me that I would be a good coach that I had to test it out. I took one class, loved it, and ended up enrolling in a coaching program with the hope of moving to a more career-focused role at Google.
I had no plans to run my own business at the beginning but people started asking me if I was ready to take clients or if they could send me referrals. Luckily I said yes and that started my accidental side business which became full-time about a year after that. I absolutely love getting to help people feel less pressure about their career and make decisions with confidence that work for them.
Can you share the most interesting or funny story that happened to you since you started this career and what lesson you learned from that?
In the beginning, I didn’t know how to explain that I was a career coach with an engineering degree so I tried to hide that fact. Because I was insecure about it, I would often lead with “I’m a career coach with an engineering degree, I know it’s weird”, and you can guess how effective that was.
So many people are worried that they have a career path that looks chaotic and nonlinear and they do everything they can to camouflage or mitigate the perceived downside. What I learned is that my engineering degree is what makes me incredibly unique in the field and actually provides my biggest value. Applying my engineering background to creating career frameworks and exercises is what draws analytically minded people to my work. So I love getting to work with people who have all kinds of different experiences and careers and helping them see how that is part of their unique value.
Wonderful. Now let’s jump into the main focus of our series. Hiring can be very time consuming and difficult. Can you share 5 techniques that you use to identify the talent that would be best suited for the job you want to fill?
From my perspective as a career coach, here are 5 techniques I recommend:
1. Encourage a two way-street in interviews. As an employer, you should be assessing them for the role and fit and they should also be assessing you regarding fit. My clients share that it’s so easy for a job to immediately look appealing and for them to put a positive spin on anything. It’s harder to step back and use the interview as a time to evaluate how the position matches what they’re looking for in a job.
2. Look for clarity. Look for people who are able to clearly articulate what’s important to them and why this job is a good fit. Clients can often get stuck saying whatever they think you want to hear to convince you that it’s a good fit. If they’re not clear about why they’re excited and think this job would be a good fit, that lack of clarity can cause dissatisfaction later on.
3. Share your company’s commitment to developing your people. Ideally, you want to connect with people who are excited to grow and learn and appreciate a commitment to career development.
4. Ask them to tell stories. Stories can paint a much more vivid picture of who they are and what they’ll bring to the company. It can help show, rather than just tell, about their strengths.
5. Think about their unique value. Think about how their past experience may provide unique value even if it’s not the traditional path you expect. A client had been a professional chef for many years and was looking to get into a sports-related role. We found that there was a lot of overlap in those two fields and were able to translate the skills and experiences from the kitchen to a sports team setting.
With so much noise and competition out there, what are your top 3 ways to attract and engage the best talent in an industry when they haven’t already reached out to you?
To stand out, I would aim to be known as a company that is:
1. Committed to developing its employees. No one wants to be at a company where it’s hard to grow, move around internally, or move onto the next opportunity when it’s the right time. You engage people when you help them understand what’s important to them so they can grow in those areas and find the place where they fit best within the company. And then when the time is right, you help them find their next opportunity.
2. Realistic about balancing work and life. Not everyone finds all their passion and purpose from work and wants to spend the majority of their life at work. Many clients that are parents worry about moving to a company that won’t have the flexibility they need to take care of and spend time with their children. Others want time to spend on hobbies or personal projects. Create a culture that prioritizes engagement when you’re at work and the option to fully disconnect when you’re not at work.
3. Interested in people with non-traditional paths. As I mentioned earlier, so many people are stressed about their non-traditional career path and worried that it means they’re not hireable. Be the company that understands how their past experience contributes to their unique value and can make them an asset.
If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be?
I would get everyone incredibly clear about what they’re looking for in their career so that we can all have much more effective conversations about getting people into the right job. We have so many big challenges to tackle and we need people making the contribution that they want to in life, whether that’s at work or not. Too many people are in situations that don’t fit or don’t allow them to make their big contribution because of a lack of clarity or external pressure about what work should mean.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote” and how that was relevant to you in your life?
I love the proverb that “The best time to plant a tree was 20 years ago. The second best time is now.” People can get so tripped up by feeling that it’s too late to make a change, maybe they’ve stayed in a job for too long, or they’ve missed the boat to try something new.
I’m on my third career so far and I look forward to having many more. I’m always looking out for interesting opportunities, I’m open to serendipity, and I approach my career and life as a winding path where I get to grow, learn, change my mind, and adventure. I don’t want anyone to ever feel like it’s too late to do something.
That really is a great quote! We are very blessed to have some of the biggest names in Business, VC, Sports, and Entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world whom you would love to have a private lunch with, and why?
It would be an absolute pleasure to have lunch with Bill Nye to thank him for his epic contribution to getting kids interested in science or to lunch with Lori Greiner to thank her for being an incredibly inspirational role model for women in business.
Thank you so much for these fantastic insights!