Go ahead! Hire the “NEWBIE”

Millions of professionals around the world are not fortunate to enter an industry that they are passionate about or apt for right out the gates. Millions more never receive the opportunity to transition between industries during the course of their career.

For many reasons, making the transition into a new industry relegates you to a “newbie” status even if you have demonstrated experience in a non-related field. Most organizations are hesitant to invest in an industry “newbie”. They want people who can hit the ground running or deliver results almost immediately. They want to retain a continuous flow of work and achievement. In short, company’s don’t always have the time, resources or inclination to explore the possibility of entertaining an outsider. They are not wrong. It’s perfectly logical and justified to bring in like-minded and experienced candidates who could take hold of the reigns and steer the ship forward with minimum lag. Time is money remember? And this is a business after all.

Most organizations are hesitant to invest in an industry “newbie”

Now I am not debating the fact that certain roles or times warrant a risk averse approach. What I am questioning though, are those instances where it could be afforded, if not beneficial. Instances where it could lift the team to greater heights, infuse creativity in thought, challenge the status quo, inject a bit of competitive spirit or spur a disruptive change. For the record, I’m not implying that one should drive down to the nearest gas station and pick up their next visionary leader, nor am I insinuating you instill better communication in the office by hiring a talented mime. I am simply saying that with all other things being equal, an experienced industry outsider isn’t always a bad idea.

Great teams deliver great results when they bring with them varied experiences and a wealth of ideas and knowledge.When you bring like-minded and similarly experienced people together in a team, you could limit the pool of ideas. You could constrain the amount of ‘out of the box’ thinking. Seeing things through one line of sight for a prolonged period can restrict creative new angles of approaching the same situation. Newbie’s act, react and process differently than industry insiders for a time frame wherein creative thought can be invaluable and prove to be an opportunity for positive disruption.

Industries get disrupted when we challenge the very foundation on which they are built. Not by building further on that foundation.

Industries get disrupted when we challenge the very foundation on which they are built, not by building further on that foundation. That’s regular business. Look at Apple, Facebook, Uber, LinkedIn. They brought disruptive change with them. They upset what most considered a norm. So is HR really limiting a company’s performance when it simply ‘fills a vacancy’ rather than thinks strategically about how teams could benefit from a fresh infusion of an outsider?

Deviating a bit, I do feel this has a lot to do with learning. Learning is defined as the acquisition of skills and knowledge through study, instruction or experience. If study and instruction are held constant, experience is limited to what we are exposed to. In other words, our learning’s are constrained by our exposure to a given industry. So is it safe to say, “we are not essentially growing intellectually if the industry isn’t dynamic enough?”. Conventional thought say’s being in an industry for an extended period of time, makes you some sort of expert and that you have attained vast knowledge in the field. I accept. But I also think it restricts creativity of thought and action to bring about real disruption.

Newbie’s are immediately challenged, anxious of failure, feel the need to prove their worth and work harder to bridge the learning gap.

What I appreciate most in industry ‘newbies’ is the fact that they are not pre-wired for the industry. They begin by questioning things; the very same things insiders take for granted. That’s because its all new to them. Newbies challenge the status quo. They look at situations very differently. They are applying past accumulated learning’s to present circumstance and find difficulty accepting norms easily without provoking some amount of thought. While no two industries are alike, learning’s in one could be advantageous to another. It could reduce costs, turnaround times, defects or streamline processes, improve product aesthetics, shed new light on packaging designs, supply-chains, sales channels etc etc…

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For such an initiative to be successful, it needs to be carefully planned through rigorous internal evaluations and discussions not just within human resources but also with the collaboration and support of other functions. Timelines, learning curves, if/then scenarios, alternative recourse, team dynamics, internal politics etc. need to be planned for, as should mechanisms for monitoring, appraisal, alteration and reinforcement of the process.

It’s imperative that when considering experience as the key criteria, companies also evaluate the candidates learning’s accumulated through continuous or on-going study and instruction during the course of their career. It shows that they haven’t allowed experience to be the sole contributor to their value as professionals and that they continue to grow intellectually so that they may be positively disruptive someday.