Tuesday, April 24, 2012

The Experience Gap

Helping out on New Business work has made me more aware than ever before about the Experience Gap, and just how damaging and silly it can be. This is something that I find a worrying number of tenders are including, and also something that agencies as employers can too often do themselves.

It starts with that moment where someone raises their hand and says "Whoever we pick probably should have worked for a company like us in the last few years". Cue a few nods and a clause in the tender.

Except what happens when everybody does it? You end up in a situation where agencies are trapped out of working on a particular sector by lack of experience, with no way of gaining that experience. I have literally seen in two years, 5 tenders in one sector ALL of which mandate recent experience. It turned out to be a sector we had done some great work on, but because it was a little too old it didn't count.

How ridiculous.

There must be a small  circle of agencies solely working on this one sector, with everyone else unable to get involved no matter how skilled. This misses out both on the talents of some great great agencies, as well as bypassing the fact that an agency without direct experience can offer a fresh viewpoint, and not be bogged down by convention.

It's very annoying, but we do the same. When I first looked to get into advertising, I met a guy at Grey during a graduate event, who told me I should become a planner. I asked him when they did graduate planning recruitment, the answer was "we don't"... and nor did anyone else.

So how do you get into a job when there are no real entry points? You have to get an agency to take a risk, and in the current climate that's an unlikely thing to convince a finance director to do.

Maybe there's an upside though, because it encourages people who want to get into our industry to be tenacious, to work hard and be sure they want the job; if you work in adland the odds are you damn well earned your place here. Sure as an industry we need to improve in many things, hire more risky people, be more racially and culturally representative, stop seeing people over 50 as past it... but I believe we'll get there, or else I'll be trying damn hard to change it.

Now if only we can get that minority of tender authors to see the value that an agency without direct experience can bring.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

The other frustrating thing is not only must you have recent experience in their sector, but the non-competition clause that states you mustn't be actively working on a similar account!

Very annoying!