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Ideas. Insights. Inspiration.

Unemployed, not Unimportant

I sent a message to a very accomplished industry professional some time ago asking if she would consider being a guest in my Retail Marketing Strategies class.

I often invite guest speakers into my class because I believe a good course combines strong theory with practical application, and I like it when my students see how the theory I'm teaching them applies to "the real world".

I was horrified when my guest's reply included these three sentences:

My role was eliminated from (Company) last month so I’m looking for my next role. If you think my [point of view] is still relevant, I am happy to come to your class. If you are looking for people in industry, I understand.

It's a shame this talented individual felt I might think she was "less than" because she wasn't actively employed. Still, I can't blame her for feeling this way: it's the way many recruiters, talent acquisition professionals, and hiring managers too often treat people who are in transition between roles.

I wasn't about to contribute to that misguided notion, though, and quickly replied as follows:

I don't invite my guests because of their current titles, I invite them because they have (imho) a wealth of relevant experience to share. You are no less valuable a professional today than you were last month... If you're available and interested, I'd love to have you join my class.

Layoffs and restructuring. Changes in corporate priorities or mandates. Changes in a company's financial situation. Toxic work environments. The need to care for family members. Changes in company policies that prove incompatible with a home situation. Temporary health issues. The desire for greater professional growth opportunities. The need for a change of pace or scenery...

There are any number of reasons why a person can be unemployed that have absolutely nothing to do with either their character or ability to perform excellent work.

This may be an unpopular opinion, but one I deeply believe: people who believe people suddenly and automatically become less talented or qualified the moment they aren't actively employed don't deserve to be actively employed themselves.

When you evaluate candidates for a role, do so based on what their education, experience, talent, and passion can contribute to your business...

... not on whether they're currently contributing any of these things to someone else's.

A woman holding up a blank business card.


Bruno Solby
Bruno Solby
Dec 18, 2023

This resonates- everything that you have contributed to doesn't get ‘ wiped out’ because of a change….


Absolutely correct! People are laid off, quit, freelance for a wide variety of completely legitimate reasons. I take the same attitude when selecting advisors to round out a team for a client project. Some are from big firms, some boutique, some operating out of a spare bedroom/Starbucks. You are engaging expertise and experience. Where they are answering the phone/email is completely irrelevant.


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