Running for Office and Talent Acquisition; Two Sides of the Same Coin – My Story

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Background:  I fundamentally believe that for a healthy society, it is imperative to give back to our local neighborhoods and communities.  If each one of us used our time, skills and talents to benefit the spaces that we live in, the world would be a much better place.    So several months ago when I was encouraged to run for a local college board trustee position to represent a growing diverse populous in the college and the community, I felt that it was my duty and responsibility to do so. I was an ideal candidate – a former College alum and employee, an involved community member and mother of two college bound teenage daughters that had a vested interest in the success of the College and the 26 communities that it served.  It was not the best time for me to run for office, but opportunity knocked, and I had to answer.

My Run:  The political/civil service world was familiar to me like the world of the war for talent acquisition.  With the unemployment rate at an all-time low, the hunt for thought and sector leaders in the global corporate market is fierce.  To be successful as a recruiter one must listen, understand and analyze the needs of their clients. Based on those findings, identify and attract the key influencing players in the marketplace suitable for their clients’ unique cultures through strategic research, comprehensive evaluations and honest communication.  Many of these principles also apply in the political world.  I did my research to find out the needs and concerns of the district’s constituents pertaining to public higher education.  This helped to develop a platform in alignment with the immediate concerns of the community.  This is also how I match the needs of my clients with the talents of candidates in the marketplace.  I had to tell my story, brand myself, sell people on my vision, and cast a wide net to target as many voters in the district as possible.  My most successful clients do the same. Their story brand is bold, transparent and consistent across all outreach platforms.   It is expressed in their values and mission statements and they are in relentless pursuit of the implementation of that vision in the global marketplace.

It was a difficult run; I was advised that my diverse name on the ballot would make it an uphill battle.  That I would need to double-down my effort to get to the baseline of that of my competition.   I required an outreach campaign that consisted of canvassing, phone banking, dispersing marketing material, and attending community events for name recognition as that is an important factor in running for office. I ran on a slate with 3 others in one of the most competitive and heated elections in years; 8 people battling for 3 seats.  I faced multiple legal challenges as part of a political strategy meant to knock candidates off the ballot to limit the competition pool. I became increasingly frustrated redirecting my energy and resources to remain on the ballot instead of launching my campaign and connecting to my constituents.  My competition had the backing of a political machine and vast resources.  After winning the first 2 legal challenges and then facing a third, I reached a critical point – do I stay in the fight and draw upon my grassroots network to pull myself to a victory or do I throw in the towel and go for it next time?  I decided win or lose that I wasn’t going to allow bullying political tactics deter me from my goal to represent and serve my community.   So, I stayed in overcoming the third legal challenge and gaining momentum with each passing day, but unfortunately, I fell short of the votes necessary to win the College Trustee seat.

Lessons Learned:  I learned some important lessons during this process.   Politics is not for the faint of heart.  Because it was such a competitive race, it would have served me best to hire a campaign manager- an expert in their field to provide winning strategies using their established processes and practices.  It is advice that I give to my clients – hire the hiring specialists and leave the heavy lifting to us. Why re-invent the wheel?  Capitalize on the industry collateral that my firm has acquired over a 4-decade span to produce the best possible employment placements for long-term talent acquisition and retention.  This ultimately cultivates a corporate culture of productivity, sustainability, creativity and financial success.

I was over-extended with a full-time career, familial, and volunteering responsibilities to successfully run an effective campaign.  Trying to do it mostly on my own cost me a victory.  Next time, I will heed the advice that I give to my clients – hire the experts to become my advocates to empower me with their knowledge and resources to win a seat at the decision-making table of our increasingly competitive world.