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November 2011
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The Plight Of The Young Worker: 3-5 Years Of The Wrong Experience.

I'm in the middle of a search for a marketing associate.  I have the good fortune of being both the recruiter and the hiring manager and the actual manager in this position, which means that I'm extra motivated to find the right person.  In this search, I not only get to flex my recruiting muscles and build out a network for my local market, I also get to re-experience what it's like to be a hiring manager. 

So here are my thoughts on that. 

I'm looking for someone with mid-level experience.  You know, 3-5 years of experience.  That's not my normal search pattern.  In fact, I far prefer to make fun of companies looking to hire someone with 3-5 years of experience than actually doing that kind of hiring. 

Let me explain with an old blog post

Every recruiter knows that the number one choice for technical hiring managers is that candidate with 3-5 years of experience.  The perception is that these candidates are still trainable, but able to contribute, and most of all, don't know their value in salary, which means they are cheaper than people with 10 or more years.  The thought, often wrong, is that the best time to capture someone is after their green but before they are too expensive.  With college hiring growing at the fastest pace we've seen since the late 90's, the supply of these intermediate employees is going to explode in the next 2-4 years.

I wrote that in April 2007, in the midst of the media boomlet about hiring Gen Y folks.  Do you know what happened the next year?  Total devastation for that hiring group.  Companies were busy laying off workers, not hiring new ones, which means much of the training that occurs in early years at small companies simply wasn't happening.  Those who had jobs couldn't get second jobs, and they were left to languish at their positions, often leaving and not finding new employment. 

Dallas was a challenge, but it wasn't too bad.  It's worse in other areas of the country.  Finding young workers with a few years of experience was not an easy task, and one of the reasons we moved to Dallas was the job prospects for hiring experienced employees was greater.  It is better down here - using my recruiting background, I've been able to quickly identify some top prospects, but it's not as robust as I would have expected. 

What I see instead is a lot of earnest young men and women with little work experience.  They have lots of internships and short tenures with companies doing work of dubious value.  When you speak and meet with them, you're not speaking the same language.  They just don't understand a workplace, or what it takes to learn.  Instead, you find young folks who drifted through corporations, untrained and unmentored.  And their resumes are easy to spot.  They're all "efficient practictioners of a wide variety of diversified and cost efficient marketing and business processes." That's all well and good until you ask them to send a fax or take notes for a meeting, and it's clear you have a lot of work ahead of you.

It's not dire.  The good news is that most of these young workers  want to be trained.  They want to be challenged.  They want someone to look them in the eye and tell them yes, no, don't do that, and go back and do it again.  Companies that need to hire are going to have to recognize this, and begin hiring in a different manner. 

Everything old is new again.   It's time once again to "hire for attitude, and train for aptitude."  The good news, is you don't have to pay high wages.  The bad news is that if you aren't a likable manager, they'll leave you in six months to a year for a better paying job at a company too inept to train their own employees.  Good luck out there.  I'm off to dust off my training manuals. 

How Can You Build Credibility In A Social World?

Robert Hernandez asks this question about journalism, and it's a great one

I left my comment on the site, but I want to apply it to your career.   It was an answer on how journalists can build credibility, but it applies to you as well.  In a social world, we are all self-publishers.  We can write our opinions, and people like the flowery language, and sometimes they like agreeing with us or being challenged.  That's how you build friendships.  It's how you build readership. 

But credibility?  That's a different story.  Credibility suggests trust built on some aspect of your work.  That could be your employer's brand - it could be your school - it could be your portfolio.  Or it could be your writing. 

Links to your original sources make a difference.  Even if people don't click the link, they know who you're linking. 

Corrections on a page show you're not afraid to admit mistakes.  Remember the old marketing story about the company that deliberately messed up so it could fix problems quickly?  It's told because it illustrates a point that people want the truth more than they want perfection. 

Don't make it all about you.  Even if you have impeccable credentials, the real story isn't about your experience.  It's about what you learned in your career. 

We have Ivy League credentialed elites who couldn't see the 2008 crash coming.  We have brand name executives whose companies crash and burn.  We have venerated institutions whose public  images are tarnished by scandal.  We live in an age that rejects authority - an age when credibility has to be earned, instead of assumed. 

If you want credibility, back up your writing and statements.  Engage in discussions.  Publish data.  Post pictures.  All of this shows that you walk the walk.

Here's an example:

You're an IT manager for a small business with 250 million in revenue.  If you were at a larger company, you would be listed as a Director or a Vice President, but your firm isn't big on titles.  How do you show credibility?  How do you differentiate yourself as more than network tech with two direct reports?  

You talk about budgets.  You upload presentations on enterprise software.  You attend conferences and post photos of your appearances.  You comment in industry publications about budgets and large software purchases and you link to hard data.  In short, you demonstrate your expertise as you live it.  

Another example:

You're a social media manager for a large advertising firm.  You are not allowed to post your work, and you can't discuss your clients.  You're not really even supposed to tell people what you do or where you work.  how do you differentiate yourself from the entry level copywriter who interned one summer at a rival ad agency? 

You talk about other people.  You engage in discussions where your expertise details experience in working with clients, budgets, and co-workers, while discussing landmines and political problems that prevent success.  You link the discussions to your writing. Your link your writing to the discussions.  Your credibility is that you're involved - even if you can't upload your portfolio into slideshare (oh by the way - upload something to slideshare, because it's great SEO and visibility). 

Credibility is earned. So earn it.  More from Quora on the credibility issue, a link I saw in the comments of the original story (and yes, i copied this answer into Quora, to take my own advice). 


hattip:  @PRNewsWire