All About Talent

A few days before I sat down to write this editorial, I attended an amazing event. Twice each year—once in New York and once in California—the Gemological Institute of America hosts its Career Fairs. The fairs are traditionally held each July on the Friday before the Jewelers of America show in New York and each October in California. They are all-day affairs that draw huge crowds of jewelers, manufacturers, designers, and career hopefuls to meet peers, learn valuable business lessons, and possibly begin a long and fruitful professional relationship.

A series of seminars and roundtable discussions offer advice about everything from launching a business to managing sudden growth. A large exhibit hall becomes a recruitment center, with dozens of manufacturers, retailers, financial institutions, and other industry-related businesses setting up displays and talking to candidates. And every year, several dozen leading jewelers, manufacturers, designers, and other experts volunteer an afternoon to work as a one-on-one counselor to those seeking careers in the industry. Along with JCK publisher Frank Dallahan and senior gemstone editor Gary Roskin, I have worked as one of those counselors for the past few years.

The experience is both rewarding and enlightening. The pool of available talent is truly staggering—and it makes me wonder about jewelers who complain that they can’t find anybody good. As Sherman Potter, the crusty colonel on M*A*S*H, would say, “That’s horse hockey!”

I think the real issue is not a lack of talent; it’s a lack of talent that’s willing to work for what many jewelers are willing to pay. Let’s face it—retailing is not an easy career. Between grueling hours, lost weekends, and constant pressure to hit sales goals, it takes a very special kind of dedication to make it a career. But according to figures from JCK‘s Annual Salary Survey report last November, the median salary for a gemologist/salesperson ranged from $28,000 to $37,000. Assistant managers ranged from $26,000 to $31,000, and store managers ranged from $30,000 to $35,000.

On the supply side, the old adage of “overnight success that took a decade” is certainly true. The glamour that comes with success is the result of years of sweat, hard work, pounding the pavement, and banging on doors. So one must applaud and admire all the hopeful candidates who attended Career Fair. Whether you choose to recruit or volunteer at a Career Fair, or simply try to find the best and brightest your town has to offer, remember that when something is worth doing, it’s worth doing well. And when someone is worth hiring, they’re worth treating well.

On a separate note, I’d like to take this opportunity to publicly acknowledge the talent we have here at JCK. I frequently receive compliments from retail jewelers, designers, and manufacturers about the magazine and how it has evolved. But the people who should be receiving the accolades are the ones who don’t always get to hear them—our staff. I’d love to talk about each member of the JCK family individually and highlight what makes him or her special, but alas, my comments have to fit in these two columns, not fill up the entire magazine.

There is a special “magic” here at JCK, and I think it comes from the fact that our staff are all confident, secure individuals who will only allow their names to be put on a product they’re proud of. Our workdays are long and exhausting, and most of our staff never get to take all the vacation time they’ve duly earned, but with a few exceptions we’ve had relatively little turnover. The fact that they stay to do what has to be done speaks volumes about their personal standards of dedication, as well as their talents. So please take time to read everyone’s name on our mastheads on pages 14 and 16, and best of luck in finding people like ours!