Photo by Desi on Flickr.
There are two ways to look at a potential new hire: you can look at what she has done already, or at what she is still going to do in her life. Simply put, you can hire for their past, or hire for your future.
Certainly, there are positions where a long and prosperous career is an advantage. President of the board, for instance. For others, a decent degree might be useful, such as brain surgeon or passenger plane pilot.
Most of the time, however, a curriculum with ten straight years of working experience in a relevant field preceded by five straight years of relevant higher education only means your potential new hire is extremely good at avoiding change and being predictable.
That is hardly the kind of skill and attitude the 21st century asks for, even in a conservative sector such as culture. Then why, I wonder (because this is a rant), do I see so many unconventionally talented and young people around me struggling to find a position in the cultural sector in the Netherlands? It is not as if we are not in a desperate need for change…
When I came back to the Netherlands after spending some years abroad in the spring of 2009, my curriculum was a hotchpotch of freelance jobs, voluntary work, extracurricular courses and one-year appointments. I’ve heard it being called a mess. My CEO at the Museum of National History thought differently, and did so with many of my colleagues. Young and ambitious people who compensated a lack of experience with a double amount of enthusiasm and ideas. It’s the best team I’ve ever worked with, and we regularly pulled tricks considered impossible by all the highly trained, highly experienced people in other institutions.
These brilliant young people brought with them fresh ideas, optimism, experience from elsewhere than behind a museum desk, passion and a hunger to be successful. They developed themselves quickly to be exceptionally great at the work they were actually doing. They became superstars together with the museum.
These people, and so many others around me, don’t need ten years of relevant work experience, or even a relevant degree. That is because these people are passionate and ambitious and curious and open to new things. No education and no job can teach people to be like that.
You can hire new people to be safe and predictable, or take your chances to innovate and do things differently. You can hire to continue as ever, or to maybe become something special. The first approach suits the organisation that knows of no trouble, faces a bright future, and regardless of what happens will still be there in 100 years. The second, everybody else.
So, what’s it going to be? Will your next hire be predictable and boring, or unconventionally and passionately work towards a great future for your organisation?