Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Skills Path is the New Career Path

Stop worrying about a candidate’s career path. For certain types of positions (and that number is growing) there really is no need to be overly concerned about where a candidate worked and how long he/she worked there. In the new employee economy it is all about Skill Path, not Career Path.

What is Skill Path? Skill Path is the development of an increasing set of capabilities and/or a deepening level of expertise: regardless of where you worked. How have you advanced as a software developer, a health care provider, a manager or leader? Are those skills relevant to the challenge my company faces? Skill Path, especially for specialized skill areas, is far more relevant to getting the job done than career path. In fact working in a lot of different places probably makes you more prepared to succeed than working your whole career at a single company.  

Why is Skill Path Better than Career Path? Many companies today are struggling to be more inventive, more entrepreneurial, more nimble, but they still use decades-old strategies for evaluating the right people to hire. Is it really important that everyone you hire have a track record of 8 to 10 years with previous employers? Is it really important that they work for one of the other “big names” in the industry? I would argue that if you really want a team that can get the job done, you have to mix it up a bit. By “mix it up” I mean that while you do need to have some key jobs filled with an employee who has a long term commitment to the company, or who adds consistency to the process, you also need some people who bring world-class skills to the game. What’s wrong with hiring someone who is really jazzed to work at your company because you are doing something cutting edge, but doesn't really care about your company? Evaluating (and hiring) based on Skill Path allows you to find the best talent when you need it and helps you focus more narrowly on what to hire for rather than worry about long term fit.

Here are the top three reasons Skill Path is the new career path:
  • Flexibility: Both employees and companies talk about wanting to be more flexible. Focusing on skills development rather than career development avoids the ruts.
  • Interchangeability: Getting something done usually means a standard “position set” but not a standard skill set. In other words you may need software developers, project managers, process analysts, etc. But it is rare these days that any project that the skills you needed for last year’s project are exactly the ones you need for this year’s project. Skill path allows you to focus on structure, while allowing positions to be interchangeable with skill set.
  • Incredibility: Too many companies try and force new, innovative projects onto people who lack the skills to make the project incredible. Focusing on Skill Set helps you achieve incredible results by breaking the boundary of hiring everyone to be a traditional employee, and instead, focusing on finding talent that can really push the envelope.

I don’t know about you – but a decade of working at most any of the traditional Big Names doesn't mean what it used to. Most of those people have deep ruts in their brain that make breaking patterns very hard to do. My dad used to tell me that he hated hiring MBA's because you always had to re-teach them. To me, the same can be said for people who hang out in the same old big company for too long!