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Talent? What Talent?

The other day I walked into the office of a large company and was greeted by a big billboard advertising their recruitment campaign: “We are looking for Talent. Do you have what it takes to join us?”

Talent is in high demand. Every company seems to be searching for talent. Used to be you had a talent – or two – but nowadays you are a talent. I must admit that I am kind of puzzled by it. Because when everybody is a talent, what sets you apart from the rest? What makes you special and one of a kind?

Merriam-Webster defines talent as:
1a: any of several ancient units of weight
1b: a unit of value equal to the value of a talent of gold or silver
2 archaic: a characteristic feature, aptitude, or disposition of a person or animal
3: the natural endowments of a person
4a: a special often athletic, creative, or artistic aptitude
4b: general intelligence or mental power : ability
5: a person of talent or a group of persons of talent in a field or activity

What stands out to me in this definition are the words ‘value’, ‘characteristic’ and ‘special’, all describing distinct features that makes a person unique.

Let’s stop branding everyone as a talent. It’s a lazy usage of a word, in that we don’t have to define the skills we’re actually looking for. ‘Talent’ implies that anyone would do, as we cast a wide net that is applicable to everyone. While in reality, we’re searching for that one particular candidate. You only have to watch one episode of a talent show to realize how true that is.

Instead, let’s go back to seeking out uniquely qualified individuals that add value to our company while they are there. And let’s make sure they each stand out because of their special talent, and not diminish that by grouping them all together.