Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Getting a foot in the door

A few days ago, I was talking to a bunch of young inspirational players from Saatchi & Saatchi. They were telling me how difficult it was to break into the job market nowadays. First up we talked about how important it was to have a positive, upbeat personality, and to get past that horrific first barrier of a process-driven HR Department. Then we got onto making CV’s more personal, more human, more interesting. How to make them interactive and engaging by using pictures and ideas, not just lists of qualifications. But it struck me that all of this was only half the problem. It also brought to mind what John F. Kennedy said during his inaugural speech...“Ask not what your country can do for you; ask what you can do for your country.” So instead of focusing on what young talent can offer us as businesses, I want to share with you what I think we should offer today’s youth and tomorrow’s leaders. It boils down to four things I believe young people are looking for today:

  • responsibility

  • learning

  • recognition

  • joy
If you fail on any one of these four, they’ll leave you. In a complex and changing world, many companies still put too much value on value hierarchy, continuity, power and pressure, and run their staff through command and control. Well, they are going to miss out on the greatest competitive differentiator of all - talent. Responsibility, learning, recognition and joy are four things we all deserve, and four things we should make sure are part of our days and part of the lives of everyone we employ.


miss mimi said...

I probably don't fall within the demographic of a "young person" but I am young at heart, perhaps that is of equal importance.

At an age where most of my peers are celebrating wedding anniversaries with their spouses and showcasing their second child, I decided to take the plunge, make a career change and move to a different continent.

Byebye decent paying comfy job!

It’s been a huge leap of faith in the universe.

Some people look at me like I'm nuts (usually it's the passport control folks who can't understand why anyone would want to give up a “brilliant” career – everything is “brilliant”), others develop a faraway look of longing (perhaps remembering dreams never realised), and still others tell me that I'm brave to “leave everything behind for NOTHING” (I personally really love it when people stress nothing :) ).

It’s not bravery; it’s the way of my heart. When I am doing what I love, with people whom I adore, it is euphoric. I have been outrageously lucky so far in working for 3 (count ‘em, 3!!) companies with that esprit de corps. Some of my closest friends are still from those 3 places. Whenever we get together as a group, we wax poetic about our time together. For all of these firms, we’d spent as much time as (ok, sometimes maybe more…) with each other than not. Granted, we were not working the whole time.

As for the list of 4, I agree and would add a few more.

Go ahead, call me greedy! :-D

Top of mind, they are as follows:
- a sense of community and collaboration, an emotional connection
- a sense of contributing to a bigger (positive) cause
- a salary where I'd not have to worry about satisfying the first two rungs of Maslow's hierarchy.

So what does this all mean? My $.02, if you happen to hold the reins of a firm, make sure that your employees think of the firm as a Lovemark. Professionally, I’ve seen this type of “internal branding” to be key in employee retention, new customer acquisition, and customer retention. My friends and I still get warm fuzzies thinking about those companies.

For the young 'uns (and the young of heart), follow your dream. Figure out the stuff that excites you and find people who share that enthusiasm, even if the majority of the world may think otherwise. The workplace is a mutually beneficial environment. Choose wisely.


Susan Plunkett said...

I reflect upon this from what my son has expressed to me about his employment. He is on a very good salary but has worked 20 odd days straight so certainly puts in the time and commitment to command the income - however, I observe many young people these days in these positions having such little time for play and perhaps aspects of that joy Kevin speaks of.

This aside, for my son definitely responsibility. He thrives on this to a large extent. Learning is an interesting one. Certainly I believe the ongoing learning potentials offered at interview should be followed through, however I also applaud businesses that allow their workers to pursue postgraduate et al studies also and to provide certain flexibility in working arrangements to accommodate that.

Recognition - tick. I also think a certain critical feedback important but in an embracing fashion and not often treating critique like the person is on an island during those moments. It's an approach and mindset thing.

Joy - to be honest joy for me has often been in the doing and the process/outcome and not with the actual employer so I am a little 'at sea' on this one. In academe I often experienced joy with students but not with the employer per se. And this I suspect hints at lack of recognition.


In switching demographic, what I seek as an older employee (and let's not forget we often need as much assistance as younger people - particularly in a market place that promotes 'youthfulness' as so attractive and sought after) is:

Recognition - for - life/learning knowledge, accumulation of experience, varied background, wanting to try, drive, expert opinion

Opportunity - take a calculated risk.

I suspect that those two alone would lead many older employees to experience joy IF they are in the right place doing the 'things' that lead them to feel both fulfilled and excited. If they've not been forgotten.

Ok, so I'll add....

Potential for excitement! (Joy??)

Flexibility - in where one works and perhaps what times. I know people who thrive on weekend and late night work and who flag early morning. I know people who are the opposite. If tasks can be completed at distance and can potentially serve various time zones, why not allow some room.

It starting a freelance job recently - although I am finishing it from home - I spent one day in an office space where five others sat and they were all at least 15 years younger than me. I loved aspects of their energy and frivolity and they enjoyed my quick wit based on certain experience. I could pick up tips on some technophile issues and they could learn from my research/experiential skills.

I say let's bring back some mixed aged work areas and enjoy what our community in itself is sometimes lacking. In many workplaces there are subtle and soft demarcation lines between age groups and I think we all miss out in prolonging those.

Susan Plunkett said...

A question. Unless you go through a recruiter, how does anyone these days really obtain any feedback on the impression your CV makes - specifically IF that impression is negative?

If I get an interview I am usually told "We were very impressed with your credentials". However, if I don't get an interview you aren't told why and are rarely contacted at all. However I know my CV may come across a little

...I sent one company *she dissembles* the most innovative CV I have ever done. I had it spiral bound and had images through it and sent it to two primary people in that workplace. Well, THE head and then the creative director. I asked for feedback, expressing that they may have no opportunities but I would welcome some informed comments about how my approach could have been improved. Nothing.

I had shown it before hand to a recruiter and they said it was great and really showed my fulsome personality and creative drive.

I have no idea whether it was just lost in the milieu, thought abhorrent, arrived at a bad time..or what?

So whatdayado? I did send a polite request several weeks later asking would they have time to offer me any feedback at all. Nothing.

Do I give up? No..but it's a little like flying blind. So, I sat on the floor and was listening to Kevin, what words filled my ears and mind and spirit (willing to be joy filled)?

Guv'nor is there a closed shop or wha?

Anonymous said...

Wouldn't it be great if S&S rated in the top 10 places to work worldwide.
I know here in NZ and in the UK there are annual awards for the best places to work. It should be something all organisations aspire to.

joller said...

Beautiful! Time for us to walk our talk.

David said...

As a first year law grad based in Auckland, I would agree with KR's big four - responsibility, learning, recognition and joy.

I would, however, add one more key factor to the employment equation – inspiration.

Inspiration comes in the form of a mentor who takes an interest in a young employee. We may be young and inexperienced but we are still hustling to get that urgent task complete, we are still hustling to convince everyone else that we know what we are doing and we are still hustling (in my case) to pay rent every week.

I am inspired when my Boss comes over, sleeves rolled up and nuts out a tricky problem with me occasionally. In this capacity we get to see how our leaders think. Ah ha, life is not one long client lunch or tepid bath massage.

Anyway, cheers for looking at the employment equation from our shoes and remember inspiration is all it takes to make an average employee great.

Dave Insull

Jim Donovan said...

Plus ca change, plus ca meme. The 4 words may have been different, but the intent was the same, when you and I started our careers. I'm therefore astonished (all too often) when I hear today's managers say of their younger staff "They're not ready, they don't have enough experience." Are their own memories so faulty? Have they forgotten when someone first gave them a chance to shine?

My message to managers of younger talent is simple: Train them, coach them, support them, but most importantly, give them a chance to show what they can do. They'll rarely disappoint. And in the looming talent shortage, we'll need every one of them.

Susan Plunkett said...

Oh, and let us not forget that while we may look to receiving or hoping for these qualities, we should be prompted to offer them. Give me a joyous opportunity or responsibility and I should feel motivated to bring joy to you in some manner. If we each adopted such a view of receiving and giving I suspect our world would have a lot more balance and well being.

Piotr Jakubowski said...

I don't think anyone could have said that any better. As someone going into the field quite soon, I believe that I am looking more at the environment and "mantra" of my future employer, rather than other things.

I feel the strongest about responsibility and learning, while recognition and joy are byproducts of the first two.

It's a shame, however, that many companies out there place so much value on the idea of hierarchy. Maybe others can vouch for this, but I don't think a fancy title or position makes anyone better at thinking and problem solving than someone who is just starting out.

Anonymous said...

These four things also play an important part on the fields of France as well as business.
Today's youth and tomorrow's leaders of the All Blacks have bestowed upon them, the responsibility of representing New Zealand at the Rugby World Cup. Learning, through fierce competition, the skills required to strive to win. Receiving recognition from their peers, families, and countryfolk for playing a standard that honours the game of Rugby. Joy, at the final whistle. That journey complete...the next journey about to begin.

Loretta R said...

Can anyone tell me about any success they have had making their CV more interactive, interesting?

I agree that most organizations value hierarchy, continuity, power and pressure more. I believe this value system greatly reduces the opportunity for innovation and growth. Fear is the driver for this value system and for the command and control management style. Many of the employees in leadership positions think or feel that continuing to support this value system and management style keeps them safe from criticism and possible unemployment.

J said...

Hi guys

Great topic!

Such an important subject I believe - getting young people past those 'process driven HR barriers' which have the ability to stop a lot of young people dead in their tracks before they even begin to get going in their career.

(Huge shout out to the Saatchi London HR department though, have nothing but praise for them when I spent my post graduation work experience time with them in London)

Ties into my project I mentioned before in the Lancaster section of this blog, which Im much further down the line with now, and some exciting developments.

Will post some links and loads more details when I can.

Cheers -

Susan Plunkett said...

david.. Your comment reminded me of reading a piece about a CEO in an industrial setting who was walking with some staff through a warehouse section and they came upon a forklift that was in the way of something needing to be done. He had a forklift ticket! and swung up into the seat and moved it in a moment. Hopped down and just continued the dialogue.

People/employees were very inspired by him in this setting because he had kept hold of his tickets and updated them when required and could turn a hand to anything in an emergency. Demonstrating his hands-on experience from the factory floor to the boardroom was pivotal to his credibility and highly important in the settling of any union disputes (of which his business had very few).

Sean said...

Hi Kevin
What a great topic. It reminds me of how and why I came to work at Saatchi & Saatchi. I'm not sure if you'll remember but I actually emailed you directly after seeing you present the keynote address at the first ever Les Mills International summit in Opio, France. I spent two great and challenging years at S&S Sydney under the mentorship of the amazing and I'm sure you'll agree super suave Michael Rebelo which formed the basis for a fun and diverse career. I'm now Strategy Director at a niche agency called Ethnic Communications specialising in multicultural communications and continue to learn everyday. Whilst I'm no longer at S&S, the S&S teachings of Nothing is Impossible, && and Lovemarks are still with me and are applied everyday! I think I'm just waiting til Mike is in NYC and then I'll be back. It is fantastic how inspiration can spread like a virus with the right leadership and how you continue to do this for so many people the way you did for me. Thank you.
Sean Hall
P.S. Go Black!!

Rachel said...

Being new to the advertising industry, I can relate to the content in this article. Successful advertising comes from teamwork, and young and new talents bring lots of new insights about the marketplace...and yes, a higher salary for juniors would really bring out their drive and talent even more because it acts both as an appreciation for the effort one brings which will in the end create better work to represent the agency.

Susan Plunkett said...

sean.. You don't know how much I have just sat here and laughed. *wipes tears away*. You mean it only took you an email? LOL Surely there was more than that? Oh dear.. this means all my CV recipe creating and baking and checking and crimping of the pastry cover etc was just.. *shrug* :)

Oh wait..were you young? *susan gives a look but then laughs*

Good for you though and congratulations on your progress. Nice to hear the Saatchi experience advanced you.

miss mimi said...

It is my belief that many companies based their structure on hierarchy because they have not been shown any other way. Change takes time, and is frequently frightening, especially if it means that some of "middle management" is at risk of losing thier jobs. I have seen this everywhere in American companies. Sometimes when the change isn't supported from a higher level nothing gets done. In other organisations it is highly organic and has to get support from the masses. Ideally it's company wide but I've found that being realist and making lemonade of the situcation goes a long way. Plus, once effective, parts of the organisation follows suit as people realise that each can contribute in a creative vs purely administrative way.

I can't help it, I apply design thinking to everything and I'm a bit of an optimist. :)


Susan Plunkett said...

Well, I'm a natural cynic with an optimistic bent which isn't as mutually exclusive as it sounds.

I do agree that certain levels of management (in particular) resist change and do so to hold on to their positions and the power they 'know'. That issue of 'know' should perhaps not be undersold. Most people crave security and for some a definitive and expected power base is one of them.

Then again, I reject change just for the sake of.. I've seen that happen regularly in the education dept and the rationale for each was often not that strong and went with overseas trends and not research done here.

Perhaps the best evolution comes almost without knowing it. One day you look around and how far we have come and it happened whilst we were so busy :) Is everyone happy? Yes? Let's move into the next 6 tasks and see where that takes us....

Of course goal setting and horizons may be important, however, I suspect that if minds are scholarship are open and important tasks to be done are on the table, evolution simply occurs and to me that is the organic pathway that mimi alluded to.

Kevin Roberts said...

Sean – Glad you’re still up and at ‘em, So is Mike!

Kevin Roberts said...

Jorge – indeed, no place like home. So tell me, are you on RSS now? Spies inform me that you’re not getting the emails anymore.

Kevin Roberts said...

Susan – re your CV, you could ask a mate or an editor or a designer to look at it for you. So much can be gained from a fresh approach to the amount and hierarchy of information offered. There’s a lot to be said for a minimal level of detail in a CV – all you’re trying to do is get them to call you, so if you show all your cards in the first round there’s nothing to win with…that, and mystery, mystery, mystery. I’d also try and approach people via phone for feedback. Emails are so easy to overlook, ignore or postpone especially if they’ve received dozens from other punters.

Kevin Roberts said...

Dave - Good to hear from you...a long way from all, right here in Bali with Danis!

Kevin Roberts said...

Jim Donovan – absolutely. I never thought I would end up in this position at Saatchi & Saatchi. It wouldn’t have happened if I did not have the faith and support of the people I worked with. Nothing beats seeing young people exceed expectations and build on their dreams.

Susan Plunkett said...

Kevin. Hmm.. I actually did have other people look at it first. I had recruiters do that and they usually don't pull punches. They said it was great. However, yes, I could make a phone call. I can tend to be shy - who would have thought that - so, ok, I'll give that a shot. I am actually quite optimistic on this issue despite expressions here.

Susan Plunkett said...

I made my phone call :) I sent two copies via express post however one PA says she has no memory of the document at all and so couldn't help me. I was put through to the second PA and had to leave a message. I have asked if she will call me back and let me know if the copy for HER boss was received. If I am not called I will ring back Monday.

I think Rachel you have to overcome the slight groan you can hear at the end of the phone. Some business receive a LOT of CV approaches and one has to acknowledge that. I try and let the person know I am aware of that and how tedious requests may be but I am sure they would be supportive just the same :)

Susan Plunkett said...

As an update - and this may help Rachel also. It appeared that neither one of my express post CV's turned up at the business. A little odd - even the CEO's PA admitted that. Lesson: Next time register them. I was enabled to forward via email. Very nice overture. Should I have accepted that or gone to the trouble of binding etc again? Something to consider although I took the overture.

In the meantime someone who visits KR was interested to see an example of my writing and in the process I showed them the 'creative' CV I did and asked for their feedback. I did omit an element and that was to inform the business what they would gain by having me on board.

I think that an excellent point. Sometimes we can assume that information is naturally given or understood by way of the CV and that may not be the case.

It would certainly be something I would do on a next round.