The summer before college, I took a temporary job with my dad’s company. I was part of their summer student program and was assigned to support the marketing department. I was so excited to spend the summer learning about corporate marketing and deciding whether this was a career path I would consider pursuing. When I arrived the first morning, my new boss took me to a work room in her department and showed me the largest ball of twine I’d ever seen. She proceeded to unwind about 6 inches worth of twine from the roll, cut it off, and staple the piece of rope to a half-sheet of paper sitting on the table next to it. She put the piece of paper into an envelope, sealed the envelope, and put a mailing label onto the envelope. She turned to me and said, “Think you can do this?” I said, “Sure!” And I did exactly what she had done. 120,000 times.
Doing that 120,000 piece mailing gave me lots of time to think. Among the decisions I made were that (1) myths about the dangers of over-exposure to the glue on the back of envelopes are well founded, (2) I wasn’t meant to be a marketer, and (3) there had to be a way to add this project to my resume with a little extra pop. I believe I settled on two bullets under that summer work. The first “fastening engineer,” as I stapled the rope to the paper and the two became one. The second “nationwide materials distribution specialist,” since I sent those letters all over the nation.
I’m not convinced that tagging myself a “fastening engineer” and a “nationwide materials placement specialist” opened up any new doors for me professionally, but I also knew it would be inauthentic to promote myself as having any real marketing experience.
So many of the job ads I scan detail “experience wanted.” The expression appears across a wide range of jobs: “waitressing experience required,” “experience in a union environment required,” “experience with community college teaching required,” and even “experience putting lego kits together on the first try required.” So, I may have made that last one up, but you get the picture.
Why do we pursue team members with experience? Sure, it gives them credibility and allows them to get up to speed with a shorter learning curve. However, these individuals often bring with them the baggage and scars associated with having done this work before, also. Maybe we’d be better served on occasion to post our recruitments with different language. Maybe we could try, “Innovative thinker with limited experience in this area wanted, with a willingness to learn quickly and ask important questions to help challenge established ways of thinking and push us to be better?” An approach like this might help us bring aboard the intentional disruptors to our team who help us get where we wish to be.
As you fill your team, are you being “urgent” or “intentional?” Are you hiring for someone who will take off and hit the ground running, or someone who will need to learn how to excel in their role? If you look at the job requirements you’ve listed, why are they there? Is it the way you’ve always recruited, or do those skills actually make a difference that can’t be compensated for in a different way?
Share your thoughts in the comments below.