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There Are Only Four Jobs in the World World - Are You in the Right One?

Posted By APSO, Wednesday, 04 June 2014
Updated: Friday, 16 May 2014

There Are Only Four Jobs in the Whole World – Are You in the Right One?
By: Lou Adler

For the past 30 years my company has been involved in creating over 2,500 different performance-based job descriptions that define the actual work a person needs to do to be considered successful. Based on preparing these performance-based job descriptions for jobs like camp counsellors at the YMCA, accountants and engineers, from staff to VPs, mid- and senior-level executives in industries ranging from automotive and aerospace to construction and consumer products, I can conclude that there are only four different jobs in the whole world.

Everything starts with an idea. This is the first of the four jobs – the Thinkers. Builders convert these ideas into reality. This the second job. Improvers make this reality better. This is the third job. Producers do the work over and over again, delivering quality goods and services to the company’s customers in a repeatable manner. This is the fourth job. And then the process begins again with new ideas and new ways of doing business being developed as the old ones become stale.

As a company grows and reaches maturity, more of the work gets done by the Producers and Improvers. However, without a culture of consistent improvement, the Producers soon take over and implementing change becomes slower and slower until it stops. Long before this the Thinkers and Builders have left for some new venture. Improvers soon follow to join their former co-workers and hire new Producers to add some order to the newly created chaos. The old Producers who aren’t continually evolving, learning new skills and processes, are left behind to fend for themselves. Maintaining balance across all four work types is a constant, but necessary, struggle for a company to continue to grow, adapt, and survive.

Every job has a mix of all four work types depending on the actual work involved, the scope and scale of the role, and the company’s growth rate. To ensure balance and flexibility, all four work types should be taken into account when preparing any new performance-based job description. Here’s how:

Producers: these people execute or maintain a repeatable process. This can range from simple things like working on an inbound help desk and handling some transactional process, to something more complex, like auditing the performance of a big system, writing code, or producing the monthly financial reports. Producers typically require training or advanced skills to be in a position to execute the process. To determine the appropriate Producer performance objectives, ask the hiring manager to define how any required skill is used on the job and how its success would be measured, e.g., “contact 15 new customers per week and have five agree to an onsite demonstration.“ This is a lot better than saying “the person must have 3-5 years of sales experience selling to sophisticated buyers of electro-mechanical control valves.”

Improvers: these people upgrade, change or make a repeatable process better. Managers are generally required to continually monitor and improve a process under their responsibility. Building, training and developing the team to implement a process is part of an Improver’s role. Improvers can be individual contributors or managers of teams and projects; the key is the focus on improving an existing system, business or process. A performance objective for an Improver could be “conduct a comprehensive process review of the wafer fabrication process to determine what it would take to improve end-to-end yield by 10%.”

Builders: these people take an idea from scratch and convert it into something tangible. This could be creating a new business, designing a complex new product, or developing a new process. Entrepreneurs, inventors, turn-around executives, those in R&D, and project managers are typical jobs that emphasise the Builder component. Ask the hiring manager what big changes, new developments, big problems or major projects the person in the new job would need to address to determine the Builder component. An example might be, “lead the implementation of the new SAP supply change system over every business unit including international.” This is a lot better than saying “must have five years international logistics background and strong expertise in SAP."

Thinkers: these people are the visionaries, strategists, intellects, and creators of the world, and every new idea starts with them. Their work covers new products, new business ideas, and different ways of doing everyday things. Ask hiring managers where the job requires thinking out-of-the-box or major problems to solve to develop the Thinker performance objectives. “Develop a totally new approach for reducing water usage by 50%,” is a lot better than saying “Must have 5-10 years of environmental engineering background including 3-5 years of wastewater management with a knack for creative solutions."

Recognise that every job requires some mix of each work type. As you select people for new roles it’s important to understand the full requirements of the position, who else is on the team, and the primary objective of the department, group or company. In the rush to get work done, it’s easy to lose sight of this bigger picture, emphasising skills and experience over performance. This is how Builders get hired instead of Improvers and Thinkers get hired when Producers are required. While there are only four work types, hiring the wrong one is often how the wrong work gets done.

Lou Adler (@LouA) is the Amazon best-selling author of Hire With Your Head (Wiley, 2007) and the award-winning Nightingale-Conant audio programme, Talent Rules! His latest book, The Essential Guide for Hiring & Getting Hired, is now available on Amazon


Tags:  APSO  APSOgram  builder  four jobs  improver  job descriptions  jobs  producer  successful candidates  thinker 

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PROfusion Magazine - Complimentary copy of Feb/Mar 2014 edition

Posted By APSO, Thursday, 20 February 2014

APSO is a proud partner of PROfusion and provides content for the job/work section of this bi-monthly digital magazine aimed at 18 - 30 year olds.
The jobs section appears on pages 26 - 30

Please click here  or on the magazine image below if you'd like to access your complimentary copy.



Tags:  culture  hobbies  jobs  lifestyle  news  socialising  sport  travel 

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What's in name?

Posted By Natalie Singer, Thursday, 06 June 2013
Updated: Thursday, 06 June 2013

Plenty; especially if you’re considering making a career move.

For the majority of skilled individuals, choosing a potential employer is a critical decision that could make – or break – your future career. For many people however, it is accepted as the "norm” that recruiters don’t divulge the name of the client until an interview with the client has been set up. This is not correct and flies in the face, not only of the APSO Code of Ethical & Professional Practice, but international best practice too.

Consider for a moment, the amount of personal information that is contained within your CV and the potential for disaster should it become widely known that you’re seeking alternative employment. Wouldn’t you rather know exactly where your CV is going, to whom, and for what?

The South African job market is in fact rather small, particularly for those individuals who have chosen to specialise and offer their skills within a niche market. It is critical therefore that you choose to engage with a professional recruiter who understands that you need all of the information, most importantly who the client is, to make a decision on whether to consider the job opportunity on offer.

As an individual who engages regularly with recruiters, I’ve heard all the excuses under the sun for not divulging the client’s name, from "my client doesn’t want their name bandied about in the market” to "what if the candidate goes behind my back direct to the client?” Each time, I gently remind these recruiters that candidates have a right to know where their personal information is being sent and that, if they offer the level of professional service we expect, they should not have any concerns about the integrity of their clients or candidates.

At this point, it should be remembered that the recruiter is also obliged to offer their client a measure of confidentiality. In maintaining this balancing act, the recruiter is only required to divulge the name of the client to a candidate who they have shortlisted and wish to send to the client for consideration. Simply put, this means that the recruiter does not have to tell every candidate who applies to them who the client is, only those who they plan to represent at the specific client for the specific vacancy.

For too long, candidates have simply accepted that recruiters are "in charge” and whilst they do wield a great deal of power within the recruitment cycle, individuals should know their rights and be unafraid to stand up for them. After all, your reputation could be at stake if your chosen representative (recruiter) does a shoddy job.In an extreme case, a candidate of mine (when I still ran a recruitment desk) was horrified by recruiters and refused to even consider working with me. After many conversations and the promise of a simple "cup of coffee and no strings” I finally discovered the reason for his apprehension. It turned out that a recruiter, who shall remain nameless, had sent his CV – without his permission – to a client that was actually a division of his existing employer. Needless to say, he was hard-pressed to explain himself when his boss called him in to ask why he thought it necessary to put his CV on the market. A completely idiotic mistake that should never have happened, had the recruiter done her homework; but definitely wouldn’t have occurred if the candidate was told the name of the potential employer at the outset. He would quickly have advised the recruiter of the link between the two companies and his CV would never have been sent.

Contrary to popular belief, it is never a good idea to have your CV out all over the place, especially if you’re currently employed or have a skill set that is in high demand. Potential employers are likely to be wary of someone who appears to be uncalculated in their career development process. What would you think if you heard that the candidate you were considering had sent their CV to every company in the sector simultaneously? Wouldn’t you question their motives or their ability?

Hedging their bets

Some individuals, in their eagerness to secure employment with a particular company, choose to give permission to more than one recruiter to submit their application to the same position, believing that this gives them a better chance of securing the interview, and ultimately the job. Whether this is because they doubt the ability of the recruiter, or think that if their CV arrives from two different sources, the HR person will automatically short-list them believing them perfect for the job, I’ll never know for sure.

What I can say for sure is that the opposite is more likely to happen. In many engagements with HR practitioners, I have heard the same thing over and over, "if a CV arrives more than once, I’m likely to avoid the candidate, worrying about the possible fee dispute that could ensue between the two recruitment agencies” or "unless the candidate was a needle in a haystack, I’d probably not choose to interview to avoid any unnecessary arguments”.

In one particular instance, an HR practitioner told me the story of their epic struggle to find a specialised technician. They’d been looking for nearly 6 months when the perfect candidate turned up... eight times, through eight different agencies! Despite their need to fill the vacancy the HR committee took the decision not to consider the applicant because they were concerned at his lack of control, planning and decision-making in respect to engaging the services of a recruiter, qualities they believed were critical for the role they were trying to recruit,

Whilst it often happens that an individual’s CV arrives more than once because they were unaware of it being sent in the first place, this can be boiled down to two simple situations. One, an unscrupulous ‘recruiter’ has simply lifted the CV from a job portal and submitted it to the client without ever engaging with the individual, or two, one or both of the recruiters has failed to divulge the name of the client to the candidate during their usual recruitment process.This situation could simply be avoided by ensuring that each time you engage with a recruiter, you make it clear that you wish to have all of the information, including the name of the client, before you consider being submitted as an applicant for the role. At the end of the day, you are providing the recruiter with permission to represent you in the particular recruitment instance, and they are not permitted to send your personal details without your express permission.

Protect your reputation

Understanding your rights will lead to a more constructive recruitment process and should ensure that your reputation, within the sector you’ve chosen to work in, is maintained. Always choose to work with a recruiter, ideally one who belongs to a professional body like APSO, who is committed to building a long-term relationship with you that is characterised by trust, integrity, open communication channels and above all, honesty.

By choosing to deal with an APSO member company, you know that their recruiters are bound by the Code of Ethical & Professional Practice that clearly outlines the minimum service levels expected to be given to candidates. Included therein is the obligation to complete a thorough recruitment process, including a formal interview; to understand your career requirements; to ensure that your current employment is not jeopardised; to gain your express permission to represent you at a specific client for a specific vacancy; and not to charge you for any of these services. And, if you feel that you have not received the required service, you have the opportunity for recourse via the APSO Ethics process, at no cost to you.

For more information, and to see the full APSO Code, visit

Tags:  candidate rights  employer  employment opportunity  job details  jobs  recruiter 

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