The end of the year generally brings about a certain amount of navel gazing. The review of the year just gone, the striking conversations or experiences that have stayed with you, the things that went brilliantly and those that didn’t…. I wrote the blog below a few months ago and sat on it, wondering whether I wanted to put my feeling ‘out there’. I’ve decided ‘yes’!
I was recently part of a conversation where an experienced and knowledgeable HR professional who I’d never met before, was emphatic about not engaging a consultant like myself, as I didn’t have x number of years under my belt. At that moment, I got it, or thought I did. His job was to sell experience. His clients saw experience and a consultant’s back-story as value. I’ve reflected on this a lot since. Probably more than I care to disclose.
My reflections took me back to the good old (well, not so old) Equality Act 2010, and in particular, the guidance and good practice around recruitment, and focus on the best person to do the job. Now that doesn’t mean that you don’t have to have experience – there are many professions where it’s absolutely necessary, but we’re talking about specifying actual numbers of years here. Those legal eagles out there will know that this in itself requires objective justification etc etc… What I passionately believe in is that the focus should shift to what someone can bring. Their skills and actual experience, not the number of years under their belt. Does someone with 15 or 20 years necessarily have more rounded skills and experience than someone with 11 years for example? Maybe. Maybe not. What about their life before their current profession? What value can that bring to an organisation? Don’t even get me started on sector specific prejudices… That’s another blog.
I’m then drawn to a recent conversation I had at a social gathering with one of my clients. It was a ‘guess the age’ type of thing. When it came to me, I got guesses between 6 and 10 years younger than I am. It’s always been the same, and whilst extremely flattering (and as I get older I cling onto it as much as possible!!), what role might this play around credibility and perceived experience I wonder? How will this impact on how I’m viewed by potential clients and even people I meet? At a recent christmas party I was told by someone that when they met me, they wondered how someone younger than them could be in the position I was in, guiding them on what they needed to be doing as a manager. “I thought ‘what does she know?'”. I’m 7 years older than him.
So what? Well. I’ll keep slapping on the moisturiser every day but I might also start paying a little more attention to the topic of personal branding – in sales terms, my USP. There are things I, and everyone else, can do to take control of their life. I consciously do this all the time, but in 2016, perhaps that personal branding piece should be a little higher on the agenda for me. If you google ‘personal branding’ you’ll get a raft of ‘top tips’ and ‘how to’, but instead of the cookbook method, I like some of the principles set out here. My age, my appearance, they don’t matter. I’m a blank silhouette who can bring something to organisations. ‘Stand for something meaningful and the rest will fall into place’.