When ‘Super Mario’ Balotelli was signed at Liverpool, his legacy preceded him. Raw talent, a solid track record, volatile and unpredictable behaviour, the best thing since sliced bread: he had it all, and after a reported €20m transfer fee, expectations were high. He had employability. Yet to date, his performance has failed to measure up.
Employability is a hot topic on the recruitment circuit but despite the theories, there’s no single attribute which marks the ‘X factor’ that makes someone “employable.” In the sales sphere, the argument is weighted heavily on experience and proven ability. Someone who has done the time and delivered the numbers. For some, it may be a degree background, a steady stint of being employed since graduation, even type speed.
Whatever skill set you’re after, Balotelli’s example is a red flag for assuming past achievement is a precedent for future success. Yet it’s exactly this ‘evidence’ that has the graduate community whipping itself into a frenzy of extracurriculars, signing up for presidency of the Comic Book Society or treasurer of the Ultimate Frisbee club. Stockpiling small plastic trophies to demonstrate those sought-after ‘employability’ skills like being a ‘team player’ or showing competency in rounding up this years subs.
I’d argue those ‘employability’ skills are no more relevant to my business than the ability to suture a wound would be to a plumber. The value of each is measurable only when translated into the culture and market of my business. Sure, Balotelli showed excellence in his previous endeavours, but this means little until he adapts to his new terrain (and maybe not even then).
So what does constitute employability? I won’t dismiss the past completely; but I’d be tempted to go for the candidate who shows adaptive behaviour, rather than a steady history of achievement. Even if someone can prove to me they brought in £1.5m for a competitor, it’s far from a given that they’d deliver the same for me.
In the future, a regular job-hopper will stand for someone with the ability to adapt to different environments and a hunger for challenges. The real winners in the employability race will be those who put their hand to everything and anything, win or fail, rather than focusing on excelling in one place, only to fall short at the next.