Even though the industry is facing a talent drain, it isn’t a reason to hire employees in roles they aren’t quite yet qualified for, says Georgina Leslie. In fact, doing so could have serious negative ramifications on your agency, and on their career.

One of the biggest issues our industry is facing at the moment is the talent drain. As we slowly return to some semblance of normality at work after two heavily interrupted years due to COVID, we’re discovering that, all of a sudden, some of the best and brightest appear to have disappeared.

Some were part of the ‘great resignation’ and have presumably found bliss living out their new career and lifestyle. Others were people from overseas who went home during the pandemic and have decided not to return to Australia.

Whatever the reason, we are facing a lack of people who have the ability and experience to fill in many of the better-paid, more senior roles in our agencies.

The result has been people being offered substantial increases in money and far higher positions than their experience warrants, which can impact a person’s career in many ways.

Now obviously some of these people are working hard and getting on top of their new roles, which is great to see and I wish them all the best. But, there’s a danger that we will see a lot more sink than swim. And it’s going to have a negative impact on agencies and the individuals themselves.

For an agency, hiring the wrong person can do so much damage. You can be dealing with the legacy they leave for months – even years – after that person has left the role, be it due to the relationships they torch, the people they train incorrectly or the poor systems they may put in place.

However, it’s arguably worse for the individual to take on a role they just are not ready for.

If you can’t perform, it can affect your career and reputation and, in what really is a relatively small industry, people do talk and your reputation does follow you, which may lead some people to leave the industry all together.

Forgetting the professional side of things for a moment, a failure to perform can be really bad for your self-esteem and therefore take a far greater toll on your personal wellbeing.

From a personal perspective, I have been in the industry for 17 years and have seen my own roles follow a natural progression.

During the first six months in my senior role, I have had to draw upon my years of experience countless times, whether it be to help assist with a client challenge, or to resolve an internal issue. But the fact that I had these years of experience to draw upon meant ultimately I have had the confidence to succeed.

However, had I been tasked with this same title and its substantial responsibilities a few short years ago, would I have succeeded? It’s certainly up for debate!

And had I taken a job I wasn’t prepared for, I may have had my reputation damaged, or may have simply quit and walked away. Or I may have seen my mental health adversely affected, and been well on my way to a nervous breakdown.

My advice to both agencies and candidates is not to undervalue experience – you really do learn something new from every situation, and it all informs the decisions you make in your role.

For an agency, if the right person with the requisite amount of experience hasn’t applied for a role, or simply isn’t out there, then do you really want to put the wrong person in the chair simply to have a warm body filling it?

I’d argue that in instances such as these, rather than hire the wrong person who on paper ticks the boxes, get creative with the right people. Is it possible to do a bit of restructuring so as to share an old role among multiple people?

Or are you simply focusing on the wrong part of the job as you look to fill it? Does the right candidate exist within your four walls, it’s just that they lack one or two specific skills that can be taught?

There is often a tendency to overlook soft skills when hiring people, when the reality is that people who have these skills – the ones that are either inherent to a certain personality or can only be gleaned over years of ‘osmosis’ – are the hardest to find. Teaching someone how to use a certain software platform is a piece of cake by comparison!

Is the right person already sitting right under your nose but you’re too busy scanning the horizon to see them?

As for people who are being tempted to step up into a new role, remember that the money and the title are nice, but what about your self-esteem, mental health, work-life balance and desire to stay in the industry long-term?

It may seem counter-intuitive when career progression is supposedly a straight ladder up, but don’t take a job you’re not ready for.

Because the short-term gain can be vastly outweighed by the long-term pain if you don’t have the adequate experience to step up and own the role with confidence.

Article originally published on Mumbrella.


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