Calling all mentors to look for what is not obvious. It is easy to spot someone who is already on a high potential list or finds the right forum to showcase their talent. It is much more difficult to find the person who is still under the radar.

Penelope Trunk’s post, Career Lessons from Susan Boyle, talks about an individual’s responsibility to showcase their talent. She’s right that once a mentor finds you, the joy of helping to shape another person’s career is exhilarating.

Let’s take the Susan Boyle case. Her singing capabilities are astounding, and anyone with a brain is stepping in the line to mentor or sponsor her. She took the initiative to share her talent, for whatever reason. I have to think though – what about the people who are not as willing to take the risk?

As I watch her first performance, what is so appealing about her is she did not realize her level of talent. Here is a frumpy older woman who lives modestly at best, with her unkempt wild hair and an amazing voice. As she begins to walk off the stage after her stellar performance, the judges clamor for her to return center stage. The tentative look in her face is telling- oh no, what are they going to tell me now. The raw innocence is apparent. Her talent is not obvious to her.

The transformation she makes with outside mentors is clearly evident. The semi-finalist performance, shows Susan’s rough edges are now smoother. They are have not over done it, see her make over here.  Her appearance is not what you take notice of…the focus is on her gift. We are also not in a juxtaposition…. the shock factor is gone. If she were to walk into a meeting, we’d readily accept her and listen to her.

Mentors who latch on to the obvious are missing the opportunity to discover raw talent. Companies often focus on who’s coming in the door, especially new recruits out of college. They are willing to accept the unknown rather than the known. They forget to look in their own backyard – current employees they have in their workforce.

Not everyone has the confidence to showcase their talents. Or sometimes, they have the talent, and they just don’t dress the part or may be a little rough around the edges. Management may have already labeled the individual as not high potential – because of “surface” flaws. It in effect, severely limits their efforts to shepard and grow talent from within.