We Were Wrong

Once upon a time, we had a very nice stalker. (Editor’s note: we don’t usually respond well to this. This should not read as encouragement). He was a senior in college and emailed us constantly about his love of the brand and why he wanted to work for theSkimm. There was something about his notes we liked, so we had our assistant meet him when he was coming to NYC in the spring. She came back and said, “I don’t know what he would do but he is very smart.”

Other founders had always told us to be opportunistic for talent. We hadn’t been very good at that in the past and had hired based off of our current needs. But we knew we were getting ready to make a social media hire. So we gave him a homework assignment and hired him. He moved to NYC a few days after college graduation.

And then we realized we made a mistake. The work wasn’t clicking where it needed to be. He was trying and we were trying and after 30 plus days, we knew we had to make a change. There’s no better way to say this: it sucked for all of us.

But then we told an advisor about the situation and she asked, ‘Is this person a culture fit?’ The answer was yes. ‘Would you like to see this person work out?’ Definitely, we said. ‘Well is this person in the right role?’

…Oh.

Well, Captain Obvious threw us for a loop with that question. So we started giving it some thought and having our managers give him different homework assignments to narrow down his strengths.

We sat him down and said very honestly ‘you’re in the wrong role. Be flexible with us and we will try to find you the right role.’ To his credit, he listened and trusted us. And six months later, he is flourishing in a totally different role on our team, with a brand new skill set under his belt. He has always been driven and a great culture add — but now he is actually helping us expand a part of our company.

This was a pivotal moment for us as managers. We were always advised to ‘hire slowly, fire quickly’ when you know someone is not working out. But what we almost had to learn the hard way is that sometimes you hire people for the wrong role, and the right role may be in front of you. Now we are constantly assessing whether everyone on our team is in the right role and for this lesson, we will always be grateful to this employee for happily proving us wrong.

New Entrepreneur Lesson of the Day: When a job isn’t working out, think about why. Is it culture? The skill set needed? Or the wrong role? And don’t be afraid to change things up.

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