The past is a story, the future is a fantasy, this moment is all there is
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 Somi Arian.
Somi is the co-founder of Career Drive, an online platform that uses entertainment to teach emotional intelligence, and an investor and advisory board member of NuroKor Bioelectronics, an exciting wearable technology startup.
Thank you so much for doing this with us! First, please tell us what brought you to this specific career path?
I grew up in the Middle East in an underprivileged background. Since a young age I became fascinated with philosophy, and science, and technology. My interest in philosophy was due to an incessant need to understand what life was all about, why I was here, and what it meant to be a human. My interest in science and technology grew as I realized that they could perhaps help me find the answers to my philosophical and existential questions. At first, I didn’t think that it could be possible to make my pursuit into a career and it remained a passion and side hustle for a long time, while I worked in the diplomatic circles followed by a career in film and media. But eventually, I found myself where I truly belonged and my diverse background became my strength. Now, I work as a consultant, I write, give talks, and make films about the impact of technology on society and the future of work. My book, Career Fear (and how to beat it), looks specifically at the key human skills needed to thrive through technological disruption, and my documentary “The Millennial Disruption” won multiple international awards for exploring the future of the business landscape and the millennial generation.
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?
First, you need to remember you are now recruiting your ideal workforce for the age of Artificial Intelligence, so, ask yourself “Are you making sure to bring in people whose skills and abilities match the Fourth Industrial Revolution?”. Shift the focus from technical skills to human skills. In my book, I go over what 5 key skills are needed in this era and they are mostly right-brain skills: Emotional Intelligence, Critical Thinking, Contextual Creativity, and Mindfulness or attentiveness. These skills are crucial to prepare your team for disruptive technologies, so looking for candidates that have them will mean you’re already “future robusting” your team.
Second, considering how AI will overpower the technical side of jobs, we need more creative people to enter the workforce. So, analyze whether a potential candidate is the right fit based on how creative they are. Individuals that have this skill are good at synthesizing data and connecting the dots. They can read the context of a situation and see the bigger picture. They may not always be great at analyzing details, but they can complement machines, which take care of a lot of detailed and analytical work.
Third, and incredibly important, evaluate candidates based on their emotional intelligence. Now, feelings and emotions have not really been ingrained in the corporate culture for the past decades. The founding fathers of the corporate culture and the scientific management theory were mechanical engineers, such as Fredrick Taylor and Henry Ford. Emotions were not exactly high on their agenda.
Emotional intelligence and creative qualities are less tangible and less quantifiable than logical and analytical aspects of human input, which is why they have traditionally been dismissed in many business environments. But, they are of utmost importance for the present and future business landscape.
Fourth, define your WHY and make sure that everyone on your team connects with it. Don’t just put up a mission statement or your company values on the wall and forget about them. Your WHY needs to be deeply aligned with your identity and company culture. Once you’re clear on this, hire candidates that align with your WHY And are in tune with your big picture.
Fifth, when looking for new candidates, consider building a genuinely diverse culture that accommodates people from all backgrounds and with different styles of learning and working. The native digital generations have different sets of values and habits, take this into account when looking for fresh talent.
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?
My number one way to attract and engage with top talent would be to build your team leader’s personal brands! So many established corporations are uncomfortable with allowing their leaders to have a voice on social media. This is partly due to their strict hierarchical nature. But, giving your company a face (or a group of faces for that matter) is a way for you to stand out as a business. Having the company leaders represent you online is a way to humanize your firms and make working for you relatable to younger audiences.
Not to mention how it will help your company leaders feel ownership and commitment as well. It is an all-around positive initiative that will open the door to new ways of communicating with your current and future talent.
My second way is build your company’s online presence through engaging video content. LinkedIn is a top platform to do this. Showcase your team members, tell your origin story, share your values and what you are currently working on. This not only elevates brand awareness but will allow your firm to elevate perception and position itself as a top place to work.
My third way would be to actively participate in initiatives like think tanks, incubators, and tech funds. This will help you engage with new talent that perhaps has yet to become familiar with your business. They may have access to specialists in the industry you need, and this will keep you in the loop for what’s new.
Above all, elevating your company’s thought leadership is the ideal way to have potential recruits knocking at your door, trying to find a way in!
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote” and how that was relevant to you in your life?
“The past is a story, the future is a fantasy, this moment is all there is.”
It’s not by any particular person, it’s ancient wisdom in many cultures. I think we all spend too much time worrying about the future and contemplating what we did wrong in the past. I have found a whole new level of peace and freedom since I truly adopted this philosophy in life. It has liberated me to pursue my passion but not stress about the outcome. I’m enjoying the journey. This doesn’t mean that one doesn’t play to win, it means one is able to operate in a state of flow and an undercurrent of peace. In my book, I talk about mindfulness as the foundation of human skills that we need more than ever in the age of technology. This quote is the gist of what it means to live mindfully.
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?
I’m inspired by a lot of people. I would love to have lunch with Ray Dalio, who has had a lot of impact on my thinking. Gary Vaynerchuk, in terms of marketing. Oprah, as she’s a woman that has overcome adversity, coming from a diverse background. I secretly imagine that Ray Dalio is my dad and Oprah is my mom, so they’ve adopted me (laughs).
Too funny! Thank you so much for these fantastic insights!