Thursday, April 27, 2006

Archetypes are more employable than real people - Be an archetype!

I'm going to change things up a little bit and try writing in paragraph format. Let's all hold hands and do this together.

I've been thinking about public personas lately. I have a theory that employers/clients prefer to hire a persona, or an archetype, rather than a person or a set of skills/experience.

Of course skills are important, and nobody (smart) will hire someone who doesn't have the skills to do a job. These might be technical skills (can use Visio, can talk without spitting) or softer skills (can understand abstract business concepts, isn't creepy).

Experience is obviously important too. Ideally employers want someone who has done a task before, or has done something similar, or sat near the team that did a task, or worked at a company that had done a task years earlier and failed. (Note: when creating your resume these four types of experience are interchangeable.)

So first employers eliminate all the people who don't have the skills/experience to do the job. In software, this includes almost everyone. I did the math on a task that I've done a few times: designing a web-based instant messaging system for mobile phones. There are about 30 people in the world who have been the lead designer on one of these projects. We'll say there are 6,000,000,000 people in the world total. When you do the math, you get 8.3333333333333333333333333333333e-9. I dropped out of college, so I don't know what this means, but I think I've made my point.

After eliminating almost everyone, a potential employer is left with, say, three qualified people. This is where my theory kicks in.

Employers, especially those who work for huge corporations and feel that they've sold their souls, want to be around people who make them feel good. Good about themselves, good about coming to work, good about the world.

If an employer really loves art, but they're too busy to make art, or go to art galleries, or look at art websites, or appreciate art when they do happen to see it, they can hire an employee who is also an artist. The boss is now a patron of the arts. Your persona, the fake concept of a person that you create to make yourself easily pigeon-hole-able, also makes you more hire-able. The boss has a need for a person who can design a mobile instant messaging system and remove the pain of alienated modern existence. You, with your IM experience and alternative artist persona, can fill that need.

The same concept works with open source coding, volunteering with disabled kids, or riding a motorcycle. "Yeah, I don't ride a motorcycle because of my [bad back/domineering spouse/fear of death], but my friend has a Ducati Monster." Notice that you are no longer an employee, you are a friend.

And nobody would fire a friend.


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