Lee Group executive search and staffing professional Walt Graham

You know Walt Graham as the President of The Lee Group. But did you know what his first job was? Or the best job advice he ever received? Or the trends he sees in the staffing industry and workforce today?

We sat down with Walt and got his take on all this and more. Enjoy!

What was your first job?

I was a paper boy when I was 13 and 14. I kept working consistently as a teenager and on from there. During summers when I wasn’t in school I worked as a janitor, in a warehouse and as a lifeguard.

What is the best job advice you ever received?

Always make sure that you take time to stop and smell the roses. This might sound odd for job advice but it came to me from a senior executive at a Fortune 500 company at a time when he knew I was working 60 to 70 hour weeks as an auditor for a Big Eight CPA firm.

What is the best job advice you ever gave?

Always take responsibility when you see it. If you want to advance in your career, it is necessary to be someone who takes responsibility and brings solutions – not problems – to those who they work for and with.

What motivated you to go into the staffing field?

I don’t think you will find many people who started out looking to make a career in the staffing industry. It is not a field that is discussed in high school or college as a potential career path. I was a practicing CPA and always took calls from several well-respected headhunters. When I was ready to make a career change I called one of those recruiters and he told me that The Lee Group was looking for a CFO. I interviewed and got the job and the rest is history, as they say. In fact, 20 years of history as of November 2018.

What are the biggest challenges out there for people searching for jobs today?

Getting recognized through the Internet maze. I am guessing better than 90 percent or more of the hiring today requires someone to go “online” and apply for a job.

Navigating this process is one of the biggest challenges. How do you present yourself in a favorable and concise light so that your skills and experience will get you recognized?

Another huge challenge is getting past the resume gate keeper. What I mean is once you are recognized in the application process, there is still a challenge to get yourself considered as a qualified candidate. Then there comes the next challenge – the interview!  

What are the biggest challenges out there for companies looking to hire great team members today?

Finding them. We hear this constantly. Companies get overwhelmed by the number of unqualified people who apply for their positions. So then the hiring process requires a significant amount of time and resources to review, screen, contact, interview and finally on-board an employee.

Then comes the challenge of finding reliable employees. We also hear this a lot from our customers. It just seems to them that people don’t have the same work ethic that existed a generation ago.

Thirdly, I think the ability to assess the skills of an employee is also a huge challenge. It takes more than an interview to assess whether and individual is going to be able to perform at an acceptable level in their jobs. It could take weeks or even months for an individual to become a top performer.

Can you recall a time where you saw the real impact a job, or having the right person working for a company, made in someone’s life?

I have run into many people over the years that ask me where I work. When I say The Lee Group, they tell me that they got their first job or a job through us. I know of a man who started as a temporary production worker and went on to become the vice president of operations. I know of a woman who started as a receptionist and went on to become president of the company.

What trends do you see in today’s job search and hiring world?

A lack of a skilled workforce and adequate numbers of employees to fill jobs. I see less loyalty to companies and less loyalty to workers. I see people losing interpersonal interaction and substituting it with online interaction.

I see opportunity to be a super star employee and have great success in your career when so many others around are mediocre at best. I see opportunity for people to be successful without a college degree and I see people challenged because they are without.

I see less age discrimination and I see more.

I see a lot of frustration on the part of both job seekers and companies in the entire process.

I see the staffing industry becoming even more valuable to the process of companies finding quality employees.   

So…when you aren’t helping companies find qualified people or helping people find good jobs, what do you do for fun?

Hang out on the beach. My family and I are beach people and we spend a lot of time there. Anything on the water I enjoy – kayaking and paddle boarding.

I also enjoy spending quality time with my grandchildren.

What book are your reading right now? OR what book do you most often give people as a gift? Why?

I am usually reading a couple of books at a time and most are geared around self-improvement. Currently I am reading “The Way of the Seal” by Mark Divine. 

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