Going for Growth

Hiring someone for their potential - or, as I prefer to call it, hiring for growth - can be a great strategy. However, potential is only valuable if there's room for growth.

Going for Growth
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Recently, I've been scrolling through some questions on Fishbowl, a platform where many individuals come to seek and give career advice anonymously. One of these questions resonated with me and prompted me to write this post:

I’ve been using stack X for a couple of years now, but I’m considering switching tech stacks entirely. Should I make the switch or stay and become an expert in a single stack?

That question felt relatable from their perspective, as I had once been there before. However, since then, I've also encountered similar situations several times from a hiring manager's perspective.

A Personal Journey

Years ago, after almost a decade of working as a full-stack engineer mostly on web apps, I decided it was time for a change. Although I had experimented with mobile development at home, I had never had the opportunity to use it professionally and I was excited to do so. And so began my lengthy journey to find a new job that would allow me to grow as a mobile developer.

Spoiler alert: I didn't find what I was looking for. After many interviews, it became clear that it wasn't going to be easy to find a company willing to take a chance on a software engineer with a decade of experience but very little experience in mobile development. Even though I had taken several online courses, created a proof of concept UI framework using YAML, and even developed a small cat-themed asteroids game. I did notice that there usually was some doubt when they shared their decision not to go forward with me, and even sometimes they wanted to hire me for a different position.

No worries - I eventually found an opportunity that was just as exciting and challenging for me. In fact, it opened up even more opportunities for my personal growth. I discovered that my main motivator wasn't necessarily switching to mobile development or a different tech stack, but rather a change of environment and pace.

My personal journey, which involved searching for and not finding the exact opportunities I was looking for, shouldn't discourage you. If you're truly passionate about what you do, my advice is to go for it! There will be chances out there for you. But, always keep an open mind for any other opportunities that may come your way. Don't shy away from the unexpected.

Hiring Manager’s Perspective

From a hiring manager's perspective, my answer to that Fishbowl question is that, as with so many things, "it depends". Hiring a candidate with proven experience in the specific area you're looking for always feels like the safe bet. But, there are also many reasons why hiring someone for their potential - or, as I prefer to call it, hiring someone for growth - can be a great option. Who doesn't want a highly motivated person who is eager to learn in their team?

When hiring for growth, many of the considerations that go into deciding whether to take a chance on a candidate are similar, whether the candidate is an experienced professional looking to switch careers or a fresh graduate. One of the most important factors, in my opinion, is whether your organisation or team is actually ready for it. Potential is worth nothing when there is no room for growth.

Make sure that when hiring someone for growth, this won't be a waste of time and potential. If you don't have the resources or space to guide them properly, it's unlikely that you'll be able to fully unlock their potential. Additionally, if your team is not ready for it due to a specific business context or because they already have several team members who require extra nurturing, it may feel like too much of a burden to them.

Don't feel bad if you're unable to hire someone for growth right now. Instead, focus on growing your organisation or team, so that they will eventually be ready and able to provide new growth opportunities. Working towards setting up an internship program can be a good start.

Additionally, when time permits and you see potential in this candidate, it's always a nice gesture to provide some guidance or support for the candidate's journey towards a new opportunity, even if you're unable to hire them. This can range from simply encouraging them to pursue their search to more actionable advice, or sharing some resources which will help them on their journey. They will surely remember your kindness, and you never know if it might eventually lead to future opportunities for either of you.