Looking at the current state of recruitment and the problems of getting a job without the required experience
(While this post can be applied to all areas of employment, I will be talking specifically from a design perspective.)
In today’s world of recruitment, it takes a lot more than a fancy CV and bangin’ cover letter to get that coveted job you’ve had your eye on for a while. Often, one has to jump through a series of hoops to be able to get a foot in the door, and with the rate of technological development ever increasing, it is understandable that recruiters want to get the right person for the job.
Companies enter new territory all the time to keep up with trends of technology or to revamp their image to stay ‘down with the kids’ (if that’s still a thing — I clearly need an image revamp). Keeping up with the rapid pace of development in recruitment means there is a raft of new jobs that need to be advertised and recruited for. This all sounds familiar, right? It doesn’t sound very ‘paradoxical’ as the title suggests, does it?
Here’s the sinker; these new roles very often need experienced people to come in and do the job, which is fine. But with so many new skills and roles being taken up, there will undoubtedly be people that naturally have the skills, but not the experience. Here comes the paradox:
How can people without experience get a job to be able to gain experience to do the job?
It’s a conundrum that has been around for ages and has spawned a number of ‘How to get a job without experience’ posts that offer suggestions like ‘do some volunteering!’ and ‘create your own job!’, ‘start at the bottom!’ or ‘get a degree in your field!’. These might be credible suggestions, but do they work? Speaking from the ‘I’ (thanks Hyper Island), the problem I have found — and this is the paradox of the paradox — is that regardless of what your CV or super-personalised-to-the-company-you’re-applying-for cover letter says, if you don’t have the required number of years of experience, it is very likely you’ll be receiving an email that tells you as much, while thanking you for your application and to keep an eye out for other jobs (that you’re probably not experienced enough for). The tips that apparently help people to overcome this paradox still don’t appear to help people overcome the paradox.
Has there been a shift in recruitment that means the people being employed for certain job roles must be the finished article? It would appear in this age of instant gratification that there is little faith in allowing people to grow into a role and unlocking their potential. The old saying of ‘you can’t teach an old dog new tricks’ enters my head here and I think there’s something to be said for it. An experienced employee might be able to come in and do the task at hand based on the habits and responsibilities of their previous jobs, but who’s to say that those habits are still in date? In their book Creative Confidence, IDEO’s David and Tom Kelley say;
“Sometimes the youngest colleagues or members of your team offer a new point of view that can advance a project. Seeking a younger “reverse mentor” can be a great way for an experienced executive with years on the job to continue to grow, flourish and stay abreast of new cultural trends in an area of mutual interest.”
Tackling a problem from a new, inexperienced angle might unlock a groundbreaking innovation that completely changes the world and makes the company bajillions of pounds/dollars/euros/bitcoins. Then again, it might not.
But then, how would we know unless we gave the apparently ‘inexperienced people’ a go? Imagine if Wayne Rooney didn’t play his first game until he was ‘more experienced’ or if Jimi Hendrix had been told he needed more experience in playing live gigs before being signed up. Vincent van Gogh only sold one of his paintings to a friend for a nominal fee and wasn’t very successful in life. The world would have missed out on those rough diamonds. Consequently, Wayne Rooney went on to be England’s all-time top goalscorer, Jimi Hendrix is widely known as “one of the most influential electric guitarists in the history of popular music” and van Gogh’s paintings are now worth millions of dollars.
I know there are internships available but even they don’t guarantee a full-time job at the end of it. A lot of internships are either underpaid or unpaid while requiring the same amount of effort, responsibilities and commitment as a full-time employee. The lure of an internship very often means having to relocate or live in very expensive cities. And as has been argued for years, exposure doesn’t pay the bills. Even internships can fall foul of the experience paradox, where, speaking from experience (ha!), I have been declined the opportunity to be taken on in an intern role because of my lack of experience.
There is also a skills gap that is getting wider. The Design Council say that fewer GCSE students are taking Design and Technology and between 2000 and 2017, saw those numbers drop by 61%. Additionally, between 2011/12 and 2015/16 there was a 7% drop in the number of students leaving higher education with undergraduate and postgraduate qualifications in creative arts. “These subjects are pathways for the current crop of designers that are contributing so valuably to the economy, so this trend is cause for concern,” the Design Council said. Seeing as nearly all companies and businesses need some element of design to thrive, can they really afford to be so picky with the number of years of experience a designer has?
Completing a Master’s in design hasn’t afforded me any further luck in my job search thus far, and while I’m not suggesting that I — or everyone else in a similar situation — should walk into every job I/we apply for, it would be beneficial to be afforded an opportunity beyond the initial application for recruiters to get to know the real me/us. Perhaps space for candidates to send in a 1-minute video recording of who they are or an alternative way of screening candidates that takes other factors into account (like a ‘potential scoring system’ or something) as just a couple of ideas off the top of my head. Or even a football style ‘loan system’ where employers take on multiple ‘inexperienced’ people and place them in an environment that allows them to gain the experience they vitally need like on a project-by-project basis (that isn’t an internship — clearly this needs fleshing out more). Companies could hire small teams of inexperienced designers which are then lead by a more experienced designer and provide them with the opportunity to work on real live projects to give them that much-needed experience.
Whatever the answer is, I believe there needs to be a change in mindset that moves away from the instant gratification era we seem to be in at the moment and take more risks. If the UK is to avoid a skills crisis in one of the “most productive and valuable parts of the economy”, more needs to be done to help the newer or less experienced designers get on to the employment ladder. Of course, it’s easy for me to say that; it’s not my business I’m putting on the line. However, Kevin Kelly, founder of Wired, once said that we should not be afraid of embracing new technology. We should not think less but have a better idea. This kind of attitude can enable us to realise our potential, to retune how we look at problems and how we can fix those problems. Apply this mindset to the employment of those without as much experience as those people getting the jobs, take a risk on the lesser experienced people and you never know — they might just make you a bajillion pounds.
I’ve written an open application with the intention of allowing people to get to know a little bit more about me beyond the CV. You can view that here.