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Character Versus Skill – What Should An Organisation Hire For?

Character

Someone I know once dated a guy – a great guy of character, or so I thought. Suddenly I heard she’d broken up with him. Of course, I wanted to know why, because as far as I could tell the guy was every woman’s ideal man – tall, good-looking, well-spoken, and so on.

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Well. The saying “you cannot judge a book by its cover” is still very much true.

Start Your Business in 30 Days Even If You Don't Have An Idea
Start Your Business in 30 Days Even If You Don’t Have An Idea

So it turns out Mr. Perfect was anything but. He was a fraud, a liar, a shyster. Almost everything that could be wrong with a person was wrong with him. He swindled my friend and tried to swindle her friends, and when things got ugly he became uglier. He would yell and insult her and call her all sorts of names. She realised then she was in a dangerous relationship, so she ended it. I couldn’t fault her logic – not after I heard the story.

Sometimes, I wonder what we look for in relationships. I can assume most of us – at least the single ones – have a list we check off every time we meet someone new, a potential mate. Qualities like good looking, tall, well-dressed, well-spoken, sense of humour, God-fearing, so-and-so income level, car/house owner all feature in such a list. But do we ever stop to think if these things are actually what really matters?

The same can be said of a company looking to employ new staff. What exactly do they look for – what do they emphasise? If you look at the vacancy section of any newspaper/website, you’ll probably see requirements along the lines of a BSC in Applied Sciences, eight years’ experience, knowledge of laboratory equipment, comfortable around bodily fluid samples, and so on. A candidate applies, he is given the relevant tests, and based on performance, he/she is employed or not.

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How about character? How about discipline and interpersonal relationships? The thing about skills is that most can be taught. Anyone can learn anything that has to do with skill acquisition and memory. But how easy is it to teach character?

In the last two places I worked, I had/have a reputation for being always the first to get to work. I will be the first to tell you that what time one arrives at work really doesn’t mean anything. It’s the work one puts into the hours that makes any difference. But I am yet to meet a boss who doesn’t care what time his employees arrive at the office.

And that may also be marked down as paying attention to unimportant things. But I digress.

The point I’m making is this: I arrive early at appointments because whenever I have one, that’s usually the only thing on my mind when the day arrives. I don’t allow myself to be distracted by anything. I prepare early enough and if it’s not in the morning, I’m just looking for things to do and counting down the hours. As soon as I can, I leave.

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Waking up early is second nature too; second nature because I have a father who used to insist on it. Right from my primary school days into the university ones, he made sure we were never asleep after five in the morning. And while that might have been tough going for kids who were still in their primary school, it’s a major asset now – one I cannot even quantify in terms of value.

Character cannot be taught as easily as skills can. I’m sure you’ve seen several tutorials on YouTube, inviting people to learn a skill – guitar playing, running, etc. There’s a gist about a Kenyan who won Gold in the Javelin event at the Olympics. He reportedly said he’d learned how to throw via YouTube.

Imagine that.

But have you ever come across a YouTube tutorial asking you to come learn how to always tell the truth? How to be disciplined and dedicated to your dream? Even if you have come across any of those, it will be a discussion for another day.

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