The Career Scavenger Hunt

The Career Scavenger Hunt

Decoding How to Recruit and Retain Top Talent

Early in my career as a recruitment specialist, we talked a lot about career ladders. 

The idea was that a career path could be understood as a ladder that you climb, rung by rung, from an entry-level role to the C-suite. The skills needed to advance to the next level were clearly defined, and the expectation was that, with enough hard work and enough time, you could move steadily up within an organization from promotion to promotion.

I certainly subscribed to that belief at the beginning of my working life. I planned to graduate from college, get a job with a big organization, and stay there forever.

But today’s top talent have very different expectations for their career path. Their professional progression doesn’t involve a career ladder. It involves a career scavenger hunt.

According to LinkedIn’s Workforce Confidence Index Survey, nearly half of all employees in 10 key industries indicated that they planned to look for a new job this year. When we focus in on the top talent that can elevate any organization, the scavenger hunt approach they’re using to shape a meaningful career becomes especially impactful. These are contributors who move from organization to organization, and even industry to industry, shaping their career around roles that give them increasing opportunities to do work that leverages their unique talents and skills, work that they love. 

What’s fascinating about this approach is the curiosity and drive that fuels a scavenger hunt career. There isn’t a single path forward, with a single target. Instead, candidates are inspired to build their knowledge and capabilities over time, seeking out the opportunities that will best position them to be challenged and to grow.

It’s an innate curiosity that’s propelling these candidates forward. They’re focused less on the logical next step up a ladder and instead seeking out opportunities that leverage their skills and provide opportunities to expand their capacities and explore new growth experiences. 

The highly skilled individuals that immediately deliver value to an organization can do so because they’ve accumulated expertise and knowledge within different roles, different departments, and even different industries. This scavenger hunt might take a contributor from an entry-level role in customer relations to a managerial position in data analytics to a senior leadership role in marketing operations, from retail to healthcare to manufacturing. That’s the kind of broad expertise that can make a great C-suite leader.

The old reliance on roles and titles doesn’t work in this new match-up between candidates and open roles. That’s why I encourage my clients to set aside outdated expectations and industry-specific experience in order to access great talent.

Soft skills are the key to identifying strong contributors. Look for candidates with unique professional experience and knowledge who have demonstrated leadership, critical thinking, and problem solving in their previous roles. We’re increasingly focusing on soft skills in job descriptions and using skill-based interviewing to make sure that we’re not overlooking talented individuals who may be excelling in a different field.

It’s also vital to make sure that you’re creating opportunities within your organization for ongoing career development that will allow your top talent to move easily within departments that might once have been siloed. Consider how to facilitate training and skill-building and open up access to roles with greater responsibility and visibility in different areas of your organization.

The scavenger hunt approach means that candidates are looking beyond titles and industries to find a role where they can shine. Smart organizations will make sure that they recognize the opportunity, and respond strategically.