People transition in their careers all the time, but often for different reasons. Recently I experienced this, and also had the opportunity to hear the stories of others who have undergone a career transition. If I had to summarize the reasons why they occur, they tend to fall into two buckets of reasons: “Running from” and “Running to” reasons. Having done both in my career, I can personally attest, there is a huge difference between the two.
A candidate with a “running from” story typically focuses on the negative aspects of the past. During an interview they will use phrases such as, “if only” and “should have”. They will shower their former coworkers and managers with damning platitudes. There is always an excuse for any bad outcome and it is never their fault. You get the picture, they are constantly looking at the negative aspects of the past to explain their current circumstances and what they are running away from. If you hire them, then they will bring this luggage and that attitude with them. It can be difficult to manage around this, because frequently they are being hired for their technical skills and not for their people skills or attitude. The best candidates are “running to” candidates with both technical and people skills.
A candidate with a “running to” story focuses on the present and what they are bringing to it. An interview with this candidate sounds completely different. The past is used to demonstrate current skills and behavior. They will talk about the past with pride and even humility. This is what our team did, this is what our team learned, and this is how I would apply it to new challenges with a new team. They find no utility in slamming past employers, managers and coworkers. They are in the present and look forward to the future. They are the exact opposite of a “running from” candidate. “Running from” candidates tend to be disengaged , whereas “running to” candidates are engaged and intend to stay that way.
Not every “running from” candidate remains that way. Many, myself included, learned the hard way it is much better to be “running to” our next opportunity. Mainly because it’s more gratifying when you finally arrive there. “Running from” is based on fear, anxiety, anger and distrust. “Running to” is based on confidence, optimism, enthusiasm and a sense of purpose. When interviewing your next candidate for hire, who would you rather have on your team? Look for that one thing, the “running to” attribute. It can make the difference between hiring someone who is engaged vs. someone who is not engaged. Why is that important? Not only are engaged employees funner, research shows they are also better for the bottom line.