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  • Annette Corbett

Viva la Verb



Stephen Fry tells us “we are not nouns, we are verbs. I am not a thing - an actor, a writer - I am a person who does things - I write, I act - and I never know what I'm going to do next. I think you can be imprisoned if you think of yourself as a noun”.

In the same vein, when Dakota Johnson presented SNL last weekend - to huge plaudits - no one suggested she was unqualified to present as an actress (albeit I didn't consult the critics over on X for potentially negative consensus).


Here, I must also mention my coach, though, not part of the glitterati, knows that verbs rock. I'd confided the challenge I was having in marketing myself as a digital workplace consultant, apparently imprisoned by my own set of nouns. Because while information and knowledge management are my passion, my core skills aren't limited to that practice alone. He suggested applying the “cookbook” approach to my job search. Treat a role as a recipe and my skills as ingredients, asking, do I have what I need to pull off this dish?


Interestingly, the consulting team at Habanero take a similar, action-based view to skills, describing the role of a digital workplace consultant as someone ”who understands collaboration and communications needs, a solutions specialist who understands how to create strategy and configure solutions that will help drive great experiences.”


Essentially, a series of actions contributing to a set of prescribed outcomes.

By its very nature, the digital workplace is a diverse, generalist space incorporating specialisms such as change, project management, adoption, communications, development and more besides. Dwell here for long enough and you'll find yourself picking up many of these skills, to complement the noun you are defined by.

Next week I start a short term contract, my first in almost three months. I hardly need to comment on what a tough market it is right now but for those of us multidisciplinary, digital workplace types there is an additional obstacle. Because the recruitment process treats you as a noun. And if your nouns not down, you aren't coming in.


We're nobbled by a system - and hiring attitudes - that haven't shifted in decades (sounds familiar though - taxi for the remote workers).


My (rather protracted) point is, are the systems responsible for candidate selection really effective? An experience of mine suggests not.


I recently discussed a role with a recruiter that I was a great fit for. We chatted on a Friday afternoon, after which my resume was submitted to the client. On Saturday, LinkedIn sent me a notification on behalf of the recruiter telling me I'd been unsuccessful (can we also please do something about the timing of these dammed messages?!).


I followed up with the recruiter and he tole me it was a system glitch; they were trying new tools and if you don't match one of a set criteria, your resume doesn't even reach the team. It was only because I’d messaged him first that I'd surfaced on his radar at all. And in case you're wondering, I got the job, but no thanks to technology.


So, candidates, if you have the right ingredients for a recipe but you're wearing clown shoes instead of Oxford brogues, skip the traditional application process. Go direct to the source and tell them you're a verb, and verbs trump nouns. Get on their radar. Remember, nobody puts baby in the corner….


To hiring managers I ask, please be open to left field recruitment and someone who has made the effort to contact you outside the usual channels with a pitch (notwithstanding those messages that simply say “interested”).


As for the underlying technology? Maybe AI will fix it.

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