More on Typecasting

29Apr13

I’ve written before about typecasting in the workplace outside of Hollywood, but recently I’ve seen a couple more examples of the impact that typecasting can have:

Job Applications

I had my first turn on the other side of the interview table recently. Before interviewing the final three candidates, the rest of the search committee and I conducted telephone interviews with six candidates. To get the field of 60 down to six, we had to screen the applications, which was an exercise in typecasting.

The first thing that we were asked to look for was demonstrated experience with specific qualifications. We had some flexibility in our interpretation of how their experience met their qualifications (in fact, the successful candidate was someone who didn’t score the highest and had some exceptional qualifying experience), but someone who clearly stated that they had recent and extensive experience with Microsoft Excel (for example) would score higher on that qualification than someone who just said they had experience with Microsoft Office. And scoring did matter: it determined the ‘long list’ of candidates that we discussed interviewing.

Even though I’m confident that our final choice was an outstanding candidate, with both experience and talent in the field we were recruiting for, I was struck by the possibility that we may have been screening out talented candidates whose career path had not allowed them to nurture those gifts. That experience has led me to think about the common job-search advice that job seekers mirror the posting’s language in their application. In my applications, I will certainly be mirroring postings’ language in my applications more than I had been. It also gives me pause to wonder about how much talent our economy misses out on because people don’t get a start in a field in which they have the greatest talent or ability early enough for their skills to be noticed.

Self Image

The other recent example has been my mounting dissatisfaction with my position and myself, while I struggle through a career that for the last twelve years has consisted of jobs that are not a natural fit for my talents (to under-state it). I have found it harder and harder to remember where my talents lie and what my goals are.

In response to being forwarded this link about contacting your dream employer, I wrote this:

I’m not sure it applies to me. I feel like I’ve given up on the idea of a ‘dream employer’ as well as a ‘dream job’. At this point, my dream is to have a job that enables me to pay my bills each month and where I’m not already dreading Monday morning by Friday afternoon — and even that seems unattainable.

And when a college friend posted on Facebook a story about her realizing that her artistic ability is actually an uncommon talent and asked for similar stories, I responded:

There are days when I think my story is the opposite — that I was told (by parents and teachers) when I was young that I had lots of talents, only to discover in my 30s that I didn’t.

I don’t mention this out of a desire for sympathy or pity. It’s not as though I’m a journalist or lumberjack (two jobs that topped a recent ‘worst jobs’ survey — though the people I have known in those ‘worst’ careers have loved their work). I only hold myself up as an example of talent that gets lost when people are typecast outside of their native talents and skill set — talent that is lost even to the people who have it.

So, what does that mean if you need to pay the bills, but aren’t finding a position that reflects your talents and skills? Well, it’s not easy. First, you may need to accept a job that doesn’t fit your talents and skills. However, to fulfill your passion and talents, you will need to find a way to continue to use your talents and skills, whether through a hobby, volunteering, a second job, or starting a business. To take myself as an example again, one thing I have realized is that writing is one thing that I cannot keep from doing, making this blog a part of my attempt to continue to use any talents and skills I might have.

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