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Pekarsky Stein January 2015 Mid-Month Newsletter – All the World is a Stage

January 15, 2015

Dear Friends and Colleagues,

Welcome to 2015. The year is off to a heckuva start, isn’t it? It really does say something when you’d rather watch all five seasons of Breaking Bad as a cheerier alternative to the evening news. Having only recently discovered the magical, sleep-depriving yet healing powers of Netflix over the holiday break (yes, just…hey, no one sent me a fax telling me about it!) there is a certain comfort in the escapism offered by the likes of Jesse Pinkman and Walter White as compared to reading the Business section or, worse, watching the evening news. Sadly, Oscar Wilde was right; life does imitate art far more than art imitates life; at least that seems to be the case so far this year.

Wilde also once said “when I was young I thought that money was the most important thing in life; now that I’m old, I know that it is.”   Those of you reading this in Alberta will likely have a bit less of it today than you used to, but someone also once said “what goes down, must go up.”   Okay, I said that, but the important thing is to do like the hipster t-shirts say and keep calm and carry on or chive on or call Batman or whatever.    The other important thing is to read Jane’s article and not all the ones we’ve attached underneath it.

Yes, for this month’s edition of the Pekarsky Stein mid-month newsletter, we offer you a theatrical diversion of our own.   Jane Voloboeva, our Edmonton Associate and author of an undergraduate honours thesis on Russian Theatre, offers an answer to the oft-asked question:  How are you going to get a job with that degree?   Next month we’ll try to tackle Political Science and English majors but, keep in mind, we’re only human.



The Theatrics of Search

Voloboeva, Jane cropped copy

Anyone with an Arts degree, especially with a Theatre specialization like mine, can relate to the constant overuse of the phrase “How are you going to get a job with that degree?” Yet in reality, my fine arts background had actually prepared me for my career in search prior to my knowing of its existence. It is indeed remarkable how useful my theatre background has been in the first few months as an executive recruiter; explained with the term that is coined ‘transferable skills’ in today’s marketplace. It is not without due cause that Senator Joseph McCarthy issued a poster in the mid-50s that read: “Beware of artists; they will mix with all classes of society and are therefore the most dangerous.” Let me demonstrate what I mean in more detail with the following takeaways from my degree.

1) Effective Communication:

Albeit true that I was introduced to this concept standing in a lamaze-like stance, flailing my arms and yelling into the farthest corner of the room through the top of my head (yes, I have just described a real warm-up exercise), I have never forgotten the value of being able to relay one’s ideas and thoughts. The notion seems so basic that it is easily dismissed; yet it is the absence of those skills that often stands out like an unmarked truck parked at the side of a highway. You can meet the most brilliant person in the world and not know it if they cannot relay their ideas to you in an effective manner. It is important to know your audience and how you need to alter your method of delivery.  As recruiters, we interact constantly and often are the bridge between candidates and clients. Making those contacts concise as well as engaging increases the likelihood of a repeat interaction. I can only imagine the game of Broken Telephone – Executive Search Edition that would ensue should those communication skills be missing.

2) Understanding the ‘characters’:

(I promise that this subheading does not refer to my colleagues). After spending an entire 4 years analyzing characters and making meaning of actions where perhaps there is none, theatre graduates develop a knack for reading people.  We often partook in exercises where one particular behavioral trait was exaggerated to the point of mockery and then toned back down to a more everyday level. By way of this exercise, we were trained to notice emotions and behaviors in any denomination in which they were present. Learning to notice the subtleties increases your awareness of social situations and body language alike. This skill becomes extremely useful when assessing a candidate’s fit for a particular role. The corporate world is changing rapidly as employers put an equal amount of worth on the individual’s ability to fit into their specific corporate culture as they do on their qualifications. It takes quick thinking and extensive awareness to keep track of the complex interactions happening on the stage, which is not too different from an interview or meeting setting. Of course, the notion of authenticity arises as first time encounters such as interviews or auditions may not always reveal the entirety of one’s personality and aptitude. A great mentor and colleague, Rick Vogel, told me that everyone is a combination of potential and pedigree. So paired with my super-sleuth people-reading training, this great piece of advice makes for a very productive interview. It yields an accurate depiction of the candidate, which then is translated in a detailed and perceptive manner to the client.

3) Creative Problem Resolution:

Nothing is ever permanent in the world of live theatre. The fundamental principle of live theatre (as opposed to film, painting or any other form of art) is the immediacy of the experience. No two performances are alike as the energy of both performers and audience change each time. Constantly, there is need for resolving issues at hand pertaining to anything from the artistic direction of a show to the colour of a particular costume. The reality of not searching for that ‘one correct answer’ and instead having to collaborate with your fellow artists has fostered my ability to think creatively and ‘out of the box’. Theatre majors are no strangers to the art of improvisation so when something goes off-course, we do not see red and start to shut down mentally; instead we smile wickedly and continue down the path of the unknown. In fact, it is much more surprising when everything does indeed go according to plan. Although some professions would clearly suffer from the lack of concrete instructions on implementation – can you imagine the engineers excluding half of their building material because they have chosen to go with the minimalist approach or doctors adding their creative touch by leaving their initials on their work after an operation? – I have been able to see how having an open mind and being flexible at the notion of an alternate solution to the original are beneficial attributes in a search. The various backgrounds of my colleagues foster individually unique styles, and I have found myself taking a little bit from each one and creating a hybrid as a basis for my style.  It is important to learn the basics of our trade but the amount of ‘creative freedom’ that follows is quite exhilarating. There are lessons to be learned and best practices to be mastered but essentially, no definite way to get the job done.

4) Doing what you love:

Us artistic folk are definitely motivated by passion and genuine interest because, as I may have mentioned before, there is little money to be had and a lifetime of 2-3 simultaneous part–time jobs guaranteed.

‘Do what you love’ is, of course, a very cliché yet pertinent saying taken straight out of the Parenting 101 handbook. I am still unsure of how I made it through my younger, more-impressionable years without succumbing to the notion that money dictates all. As long as you are enjoying what you are doing, you can always excel at it. I found it astonishing that many of my cohorts in other disciplines at the university were complaining about hating their classes. How is it possible to receive good grades let alone spend an entire career doing what you couldn’t even bear for the 4 years of your undergraduate? Clearly, I should have been a philosophy major with this kind of discourse. But in all seriousness, if you are driven by the love of your work, you can create opportunities for yourself. The same can be said for the workplace; a job only becomes a career when there is motivation and passion involved. We know that we have done a great job with a search when after several months into the role, both the client and candidate are even more excited than when the placement was originally made. It is that satisfaction in knowing that we presented a life-changing opportunity to someone that lights the passion for me in the search industry.

So perhaps this article can be seen as a beacon of hope for those with an ominous future after graduation. Or better yet, an affirmation of the relevance of your skills as long as you make them relevant to your profession of choice. The skills that our Pekarsky Stein team brings to the table as individuals are varied and diverse. Just looking at our backgrounds at a glance, makes it clear that the search industry is the king of all industries when it comes to using those transferable skills. To quote William Shakespeare “all the world’s a stage and all the men and women simply players”,” and we too have a stage to perform on. In our case, we are search artists and have a taste for the dramatically different.

Jane Voloboeva is Pekarsky Stein’s newest Associate. Prior to embarking on her journey in the search industry, Jane was involved in the non-profit sector and continues to be an active member of the theatre community in Edmonton through volunteering. You can take the girl out of the theatre but you can’t take the theatre out of the girl.


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