It’s 8:30am on Friday 3rd January 2020, I am eating porridge in line with my new year Joe Wicks-inspired routine when my mobile phone rings with the ‘private number’ caller ID. I answer, thinking that it might be BBC Radio Nottingham as all my calls from them are listed this way. But it’s not, it’s the lovely Candice calling from BBC Radio London, where they also have my details on file.
Candice asks me if I have heard about the blog post that Dominic Cummings, Special Adviser to Boris Johnson, PM, has just shared. I tell her that I have seen it, but not read it in full.
In short, Cummings has stated on his personal blog that 10 Downing Street want to ‘hire an unusual set of people with different skills and backgrounds’ that he labels in a variety of ways, including ‘weirdos and misfits’. He also asks for a ‘sort of personal assistant’ to work alongside him for a year, and he goes on to explain that the role will ‘involve a mix of very interesting work and lots of uninteresting trivia that makes my life easier which you won’t enjoy. You will not have weekday date nights, you will sacrifice many weekends — frankly it will hard having a boy/girlfriend at all. It will be exhausting but interesting and if you cut it you will be involved in things at the age of ~21 that most people never see. I don’t want confident public school bluffers. I want people who are much brighter than me who can work in an extreme environment. If you play office politics, you will be discovered and immediately binned.’
After a quick chat, Candice appears happy with my comments / recruitment knowledge and viewpoint, and asks if I would be willing to talk live on air to Petrie Hosken, who was sitting in for Vanessa Feltz that morning, and discuss the subject further.
As any of my friends will attest to, I need no encouragement to jump on the airwaves and confirmed instantly that I was happy to talk to Petrie.
I had ten minutes before the call back, so quickly finished my breakfast and brushed my teeth (clean breath being essential for radio!) I then carried out a quick search on Google to find out a bit more / prepare. If you want to read the full 3000-word job ad on his personal blog, this is the link https://dominiccummings.com/
Just after 9am, I was live on air talking to Petrie. I absolutely loved our discussion as I was able to draw upon my 32 years of recruitment experience / knowledge, integrate my philosophical viewpoint and weave in some spirituality too – with a quick mention of the Law of Attraction.
It was certainly a lively, upbeat and fast-moving discussion, and Petrie asked me some very interesting questions and for my views on the political correctness of his request.
In short, when recruiting and placing advertisements for vacancies, you cannot specify age or stipulate whether you want a male or female (or any other gender) unless there are very special circumstances. Now, whilst I’m not an HR expert, I do have to comply with the law, and if Dominic were placing an advert in the press rather than writing a blog post, he would not have been allowed to suggest that he was looking for someone ~21. Equally so, we must be very careful in our descriptions of the personal attributes that are required.
We also discussed the matter of the ‘weirdos and misfits’. As I said to Petrie, we are all unique, we are all different in our own way, and labels ought not to be needed.
To me ‘misfit’ suggests someone different – a person who thinks differently, ‘out of the box’, if you like, and challenges the norm. As such, I am happy to be called a misfit, despite the otherwise negative connotation attached to the word, as opposed to being deemed ‘normal’. When you look up the word ‘normal’ in the dictionary, it suggests someone who ‘conforms to a standard; usual, typical, or expected’. However, that is just another label and we really need to accept that we are all different. We are all unique as a result of our experiences and how we view the world. It’s about working with each other, and accepting and embracing our differences without judgement.
Labels, in my opinion, can cause so much damage, as whilst they can be useful to help diagnose ailments and the like, they categorise – and when we categorise, we differentiate and opinions become formed based on stereotypes. All too often to a negative effect, rather than focusing on the positives that these ‘labelled’ attributes bring to the world.
As already mentioned, every single one of us is unique, and whilst we have many commonalities with others and gravitate towards those that ‘get us’ / understand who we are, even within those tribes we are still different. Our values, beliefs, viewpoints have been created though our own experiences to date and based upon how we view the world though our senses: sight (visual), hearing (auditory), taste (gustatory), smell (olfactory), touch and movement (kinaesthetic) also plays a great part in addition to our internal drivers. We also learn in different ways depending on whether we are an Activist, Pragmatist, Theorist or Reflector in learning style.
So, you can see how different we all are – in fact, everyone reading this post will have a different response. Some may like it, and some may not – everyone is entitled to their opinion. The key is to be understanding, appreciating and learning from our differences rather than fighting against them and giving labels out that can then be used negatively. It’s not to say that we have to become bosom buddies with people whose values and opinions are different; we all have choices, just refrain from labelling and name calling.
Interestingly, I think that it is also very damaging to individuals when they do adopt labels that they feel describe them as they can manifest more of the attributes that the label is defined by and become someone that they are not.
In fact, none of us are our behaviour, we can, with some input and effort, make changes to how we behave if we see fit to do so. If you think about new year’s resolutions – they are indicative of people wanting to make changes to their lives – again content for another blog post!
I’ve digressed! In short, we all like to be around a tribe of people that we fit in with and trying put a round peg in a square hole is never going to fit unless that is of course the requirement.
I understand what Dominic Cummings was attempting to say and his reasons for doing so, however, it would not be given space as a job ad under specific job pages. Petrie asked me if I would like the opportunity to write a really honest ad for a role. My response was that in the 1980s, when I first started in recruitment, we were able to be more honest, however I have now become conditioned to the way I have to write an ad and the clients that I recruit for are very open minded when it comes to age. Although I didn’t state it at the time, our clients look for a ‘can do’ and solution-focused approach to work to ensure that new employees fit in with existing team members.
It really is a political minefield out there when you look at the detail and there will always be an employer who wants a specific person and people who want certain roles. And in my opinion, it’s important that there are opportunities for all however, it’s about taking responsibility for yourself and following your flow.
I firmly believe that there are jobs for everyone if only people were encouraged from an early age to connect with their talents and passions and find a career that is in alignment so that they will be able to find their purpose and fulfil their potential. I digress again, however, this is actually the theme of my next book, following on from my first book, Shining a Light on You – How to Manifest Your Dream Job that I wrote and published in 2017.
Back to my radio appearance – this is the link to the recording, however, you will need to access it via your mobile and login / register with BBC Sounds to hear it https://www.bbc.co.uk/sounds/play/p07xn2gs
I must share with you at this point the most wonderful feedback I received from a really great friend and fellow coach, Caroline Gibbs (aka Gibbzy) https://www.caroline-gibbs.com/
“Well done! I thought your talk was very lively and flowed a treat. Well done you on political correctness as well. I loved the fact that you managed to slip in the The Law of Attraction. Very cautious and political at the end when you were asked if you would like to be more honest in your job adverts. And, ending with a very good piece of advice: common sense and balance – it’s just a bit of a minefield out there. Absolutely loved it! You and Abram (Liz Abram – SAS Who Dares Wins, fab friend and fellow coach – https://www.lizabram.co.uk/) and your radio appearances have been an inspiration to me.”
I am honoured that she left me such a wonderfully supportive message and am so lucky to have such amazing friends.
To sum up, I loved this opportunity to speak on BBC Radio London and have my opinion valued; I plan to build upon this and undertake more media work of this kind over the coming months.