Let’s review the theory briefly: a “Wandering Butterfly” or career type “transatory” is a professional who changes jobs every 3-4 years “moving rather laterally than upwards” to new and unrelated fields like a butterfly from cherry tree to sunflower to roses. Moving rather laterally means that they are not after becoming an authoritative figure. Their motivations of change are fueled by:
These factors mean that “wandering butterflies” focus on (Source: M&A: Creating Integrative Knowledge by Amy L. Pablo, Mansour Javidan): networking with many new people, fast and novel action, short-term transition teams & projects, travel and quick learning. Consequently, they avoid long-term commitment.
So, what does that mean in practice? Who are those wandering butterflies? It is somebody who e.g. studied archeology, then worked as a bank clerk for 4 years, then got into organizing events at their friend’s company for 3 years, then did a fitness instructor course and tried that while also getting into physiotherapy; after another 4 years… you get the picture. As with the previous category transatory +, one thing rings true: they are consistently inconsistent (though for other reasons and in a different way).
In my opinion, it is imperative to discern which group of wandering butterflies the candidate belongs to:
1) do they change because they have a conflictive personality, can’t adapt or have been fired repeatedly?
2) do they have an inner motivation and drive?
It is my job to screen them out as early as possible. Once I am confident that I am talking to a “good” wandering butterfly, I make sure to conduct an extensive competence-based interview. I have found these candidates to be extremely interesting, as the majority:
– knows several industries quite well
– has a solid educational background, incl. post-graduate studies
– easily adapts to new circumstances
– draws from their various kinds of experience and can therefore come up with new, creative solutions
Corporations are definitely reluctant when it comes to hiring “wandering butterflies”, but I am observing a slowly growing appreciation of them, assuming that they are from the second group. When “wandering butterflies” receive a certain degree of independence and trust, they become happy and productive employees… for three to four years.
Valeria Lebedieva, one of our Career Angels who covers Scandinavia and Russian-speaking markets, adds, “When we talk about the “good” kind of “wandering butterflies” among top executives, we have to remember that there are those who are really good crisis managers; they enjoy solving challenging situations, such as M&A, restructuring, interim projects, etc. while getting bored with they day-to-day monotone operations. I agree with Beata: in my former headhunting practice it’s been really important to differentiate between the two types by conducting extensive competency-based interviews and thorough reference checks.”
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– Subject: Competency-based Interview
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