When you’re looking for the perfect job candidate, do you take into account the person’s background or societal standing? Perhaps you require a college degree? Or a degree in a certain discipline? Or maybe you look for the candidate to have work experience that comes from a particular type or size of company? In short, does the pedigree of the candidate matter?
I think it helps you know what you have, but it doesn’t determine what the person is capable of achieving.
Yes, some schools are better than others. And certain work experiences yield greater opportunities for learning. The skills we’ve gained in the past will impact what we can do in the present and future.
But that doesn’t exclude the possibility that anyone who lacks a particular skill will necessarily fail.
Take Grace as an example. I know — she’s a dog and no matter how sensational I think she is, she won’t be filling out any job applications anytime soon. However, she offers us yet another important lesson.
For Christmas, one of the gifts from my husband was a DNA test for Grace. I thought this was a brilliant idea, not because I cared about her blood lines (I did adopt a street dog, after all). But because I’ve always been curious about who she really is, so to speak.
People ask us all the time, “What breed is she?” My response is, “A mutt.” I like mutts. I think they are interesting and they aren’t usually plagued with many of the breed-specific quirks and health issues.
I add to my response that I think she has whippet in her, because she’s so lean, agile, fast — things that seem like a whippet to me. Other people have said they think she might have some Italian greyhound, terrier, or dachshund in her. But of course, we didn’t know. These were guesses, based on our impressions and limited knowledge about each of these breeds.
With my DNA swab kit in hand, I was filled with curiosity about what we would find out. We fully expected to receive a report with “inconclusive results” as we were certain she had untold number of breeds that had been mixing it up on the streets of Puerto Rico.
Imagine our surprise when we found out that 50% of her ancestry was 100% chihuahua! “Is that the Taco Bell dog?” I asked my husband. (Yes.)
When I looked at the chart, which included a small graphic representation of parents, grandparents, and great-grandparents, I’ve never seen so many little chihuahuas in one place! It was comical to me; here I was thinking she had a deep mix of breeds in her; instead I began to speculate that if her one chihuahua parent had hooked up with another chihuahua, Grace would be a purebred!
Her other side was 50% dachshund and 50% mixed breed. Of that “mixed breed” portion, there were five options, ranked with probability of each: Golden Retriever (14.63%), Tibetan Spaniel (4.61%), Weimaraner (4.05%), Shetland Sheepdog (3.32%), and Labrador Retriever (3.12%).
They included descriptive lists of traits for the breeds and chihuahuas and dachshunds shared two in common. Interestingly, they couldn’t describe her any more accurately:
• Alert, active, and often playful.
• May be suspicious or fearful of strangers.
Seeing this, I realized that it’s possible that some of her ongoing fear issues are related to her genes versus her start on the streets. In addition, chihuahuas respond well to reward-based training using treats (totally true for Grace) and the dachshund has a hunting background and therefore prone to barking (yup).
Does any of this matter?
Whether Grace is half-chihuahua or not, it doesn’t preclude her from doing things that any normal dog would do, like taking up more than her share of the sofa or chasing the cats away from her bone.
But knowing more of who she is and what her experiences have been help us develop a higher level of success in the things we work with her on. It doesn’t mean she can’t accomplish success in things we ask her to do. Yet we have to keep in mind her needs if we want results. That’s an excellent thing to keep in mind when managing people, too.
So whether you are hiring or being a mentor to someone in their career, look for potential, rather than limitations.