The HR Lottery: Maybe You Have Already Won and Just Don’t Know It

You know what’s funny (well, I think it’s funny anyway)? I refuse to play the lottery.

That means any of the games – Powerball, Mega Millions, SuperLotto, etc.– until they get above $100 million. Once they get above $100 million, I’m all in.

Here’s the funny part: I get how stupid the whole thing is. I know I’m more likely to get hit by lightening, while running with scissors, next to Kevin Bacon.

I get the odds. I get that I’m actually making my chances of winning even less by only playing when the numbers are higher. To me that’s funny, so why in the world do I still do it when I understand the odds I’m facing?

The Job Lottery vs. the Real Lottery

First, the lottery is really the last American Dream. It used to be get a great job, marry, buy a house, etc. Not anymore; all we have left is the lottery, baby.

So, if I’m really going to live the American Dream, I don’t want to “just” win $5, $10 or even $50 million. I mean, can you imagine actually winning the lottery and only winning $1 million? You can’t retire and quit your job on $1 million after taxes – you would still have to work – but not only that, you would probably have to work even harder because you would be all ghetto rich and go buy a house and other stuff you can’t afford.

If I’m winning, I’m winning the Big One — or nothing. It’s my dream. Go get your own.

And what does the lottery have to do with HR? It’s the concept that only a very small number are going to win, and most people are going to be living the “real” American Dream of living paycheck to paycheck, in an average work environment, with average leadership, and being just plain average.

But for a slight few, they win the job lottery (even some in HR win the job lottery). I used to think, there was no such thing as the job lottery, that the people working for those “Great” companies, getting those “crazy” benefits, and “outstanding” quality of life, well, they were just the tops in their field and the recruiting departments of those teams searched the entire universe to find the best. Right?

I mean don’t tell me it could be right place, right time, that I stumbled into a 7/11 looking for a hot dog and Slurpee and the clerk talked me into spending $1 more dollar on a ticket, and now, I’m the richest guy in my trailer park. It couldn’t be that…could it?

I believe in every great company there are great people employed doing great things to keep their companies on top. I also believe, in the worst companies, you will find great people doing great things just trying to keep their companies afloat.

In fact, those great ones at the worst companies might be even a little better than their counterparts at the best companies.

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Sometimes it’s right place, right time

I also believe that every company, even the great ones, have “pretenders” – people who live off the reputation of the company they work for – and they try and pin their company’s reputation on their chest as their own. I know this because I run into many of the “pretenders” professionally, and within minutes of having a real conversation with them, it’s painfully obvious they are not their companies.

That’s how the lottery works – it doesn’t discriminate, it doesn’t show favorites, it doesn’t force you to play – it just does.

Don’t believe me? Then you must be at a great company and I must be wrong!

Check out your demographics. I’ll bet 75 percent plus of your workforce comes from within 50 miles of your location. So, what you’re telling me is you live in some “freak” community where 75 percent plus of the people just happen to be the top in their field? No you don’t. You just happen to have one very common trait with many of your co-workers – you all were in the right place, at the right time. You all won the job lottery!

Don’t be defensive — there isn’t any need – because I’m not going to be defensive when I win the $100 million and someone says, “you’re only rich and powerful and wear polka-dot shoes because you won the lottery!” For which I’ll say , “Yes, yes I did. Now get back to work ironing my underwear.”

Embrace your good fortune, my HR brethren. I’ll even celebrate your good fortune with you,  but please don’t act like your God’s gift to HR because you were lucky enough to be in the right place at the right time.

This post was originally published on Tim Sackett’s blog, The Tim Sackett Project.

Tim Sackett, MS, SPHR is executive vice president of HRU Technical Resources, a contingent staffing firm in Lansing, MI. Tim has 20 years of HR and talent background split evenly between corporate HR gigs among the Fortune 500 and the HR vendor community ? so he gets it from both sides of the desk. A frequent contributor to the talent blog Fistful of Talent, Tim also speaks at many HR conferences and events. Contact him here.

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