Monday, July 21, 2014

Taking a Chance on the Unknown

Have you ever hired someone even though they did not meet all the job description requirements, but you just KNEW that they had the potential to be a great fit for the job?

Think about it for a moment. Who gave you your first big break, and were you truly qualified for the position? I know I wasn't.

Over the last 30 years, I can point to at least three instances where someone was promoted or hired, and the current staff shook their collective heads and asked why. And yet, each and every time the answer became apparent as time moved on. In each case, the hiring official saw something in that applicant that was not reflected in their resume or obvious to others.

They took a chance on the unknown.


Over the weekend, I watched several programs about the Apollo 11 moon landing 45 years ago. Having watched it take off from the Cape live on the shores of eastern Florida as a child, I was curious about the back story I could now better understand as an adult. The most interesting comment to me was the fact that the crew had determined that they only had a 60% chance of succeeding, and a 40% chance of dying in the attempt.

Talk about taking a chance on the unknown!

This chance, however, began taking shape in 1914, when R.H. Goddard from Massachusetts received two patents for rockets, one based on liquid fuel and one for a multi-stage rocket. Like the hiring official who hires or promotes someone who seems unqualified for the job, Goddard was ridiculed for his absurd notions, and yet, he is now seen as the father of the space age.

Leonardo da Vinci also developed a few ideas that were “out there,” such as designs for machines that eerily resemble modern tanks and helicopters, just to name a few. The only challenge he didn't overcome for these machines was identifying a power system to enable them to operate (Encyclopedia Britannica).

The bottom line for all of these examples is that someone (or a group of people), saw something that others could not – or would not – and took a chance on the unknown that paid off.

This is not to say that you should hire every unqualified person who applies for all of your open positions. As we all know, the success of finding a job these days is found more often than not in networking; having someone you know introduce you to someone they know and provide an outstanding reference, while asking them to consider this new person for a position. In a sense, they are asking their friend or colleague to take a chance on the unknown – another friend or colleague for whom they will vouch.

I saw this happen recently, and while my friend wasn't qualified for the position as it was listed in the job description, once hired, he thrived in the environment, and has just received a promotion simply because someone took a chance him - they took a chance on the unknown.

Granted, in business you have to be careful and weigh the risks against the possible rewards of embracing the unknown before making a decision. But consider where we would be today in terms of scientific discovery and modernization if people like da Vinci and Goddard had not taken those chances on the unknown.


Just suppose the person you are asked to consider doesn't have the 2 years of experience in that particular position, but has offered to take a lower-paying salary until they can reach specific goals you set together. Is your only hesitation that they don’t have that experience, but they have great references who support their ability to handle the job?

If that’s your only hesitation, go on; take a chance on the unknown today, hire them, and then let me know what happens! My money is on them exceeding your expectations.

 Editor’s Note: This post also appears on LinkedIn.


Before founding her own consulting firm, Dawn Gannon served as a respected project management and administrative operations professional in the military, higher education, and healthcare fields for 25 years. As a Lean/Six Sigma Green Belt, Dawn’s commitment and personal mission to improve the lives of others through service to the community focuses on providing administrative and volunteer management, consumer education, public outreach, event planning, relationship-building efforts, and strategic planning. She is a contributor on LinkedIn, the author of the Management in Motion blog, and has written a number of articles for RESOLVE: The National Infertility Association on the topic of childfree living.