„Career branding begins when you walk in the door.”

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Let’s rethink HR with Hilary Klassen, co-founder of The Secret HR Society and CEO of Quahog

An expert in HR, Hilary Klassen is a co-founder of The Secret HR Society, as well as founder and CEO of Quahog, an “open-source” HR consultancy. Hilary is also building a new tech business as founder & CEO of Career Ari, the first automated career coach. Speaking at DisruptHR in Berlin earlier this year, she explained that „career needs today are like Instagram”. In this interview, Hilary speaks about the importance of a career brand and how companies should promote their employees.

Babbel für Business (BfB): Hi Hilary, your DisruptHR talk was called “Career Needs Today Are Like Instagram”. What did you mean exactly?

Hilary Klassen: All generations are looking to create career stories and this is where Instagram plays a part. People share their life stories in beautiful pictures on Instagram and there is a movement towards sharing their personal career stories, as well. You need more than “just” a career stepping up the corporate rungs of the ladder, but rather one that will shift to focus on the importance of “Personal Life Balance”, as I call it, and the changing needs of an organization.  One day, you might start off in marketing, work in HR and then in data science all at several companies over a much shorter time span. This is actually a true story from a coachee, so it is already happening.

BfB: You name four needs for a person that a career should meet: purpose, impact, feedback and “personal work life balance”. Are security and salary not important anymore?

Hilary: I say “jein” (German mix between ja and nein) because at different periods of life both security and salary can be seen as extremely important. For example, I have a coaching client who is a COO right now and is struggling to pay back an MBA loan and has a new baby on the way.
However, a Gallup World Poll found that globally, money doesn’t equal happiness. In fact, on the global well-being index, if you earn $60,000 USD per year or more, happiness does not increase. I believe this salary is actually going to go down once we workers push for not being cogs in a wheel and for having our other four needs fulfilled with the flexibility to integrate our other interests.

BfB: One of the four needs you name is impact. Regarding all the bullshit jobs (term coined by David Graeber) – how important would you judge the impact of a job for one’s personal career to be?

Hilary: I believe Graeber is only skimming the surface by categorizing „meaningless jobs” as truly non-relevant to society. If you dig deeper to understand that every single person on this earth has strengths, the bigger question at hand is why don’t believe in who they are and how can they be productively applied to situations and jobs linked to performance? When I speak about impact, this is not about one’s self-worth. It is centered around one’s ability and opportunity to do what they do best on a daily basis. This is where companies need to focus.

BfB: If feedback is so important to your career, how should a company give feedback, and who should they give it to?

Hilary: To be honest, as an HR consultant, I work with companies on this topic and everybody wants to implement feedback loops, but nobody really knows what this means or how to utilize them. Feedback starts on the day the new hire walks through the door and should look something like this if you’re a good manager:

Manager: „Let’s talk about your career.”

New Employee: „What do you mean? I just started.”

Manager: „My job is to help develop you for your next role. If I’m not doing this, you won’t grow and learn. So let’s talk about what this might look like for you, OK?

One of the best companies supporting feedback conversations and the nudge system is Small Improvements (SI). People need guidance and we need to capture conversations to track and reflect. All companies should have a tracking and support tool like SI for the employees and, well, that’s why I am creating Career Ari.

BfB: Career Ari is an automated career brand coach. The term career brand is pretty new. What is a career brand?

Hilary: I believe career brand has been around for a long time, but we’ve never seen it like this – as in my entire person showing up to work. Career branding is how you are perceived professionally and it begins when you walk in the door of the office. 

We still need to seek out others’ advice, to be collaborative and smart at the same time. Career Ari’s aim is to help people truly stand behind their strengths and to gain clarity on their brand, and then put themselves out there in their companies and the entire digital world.

www.careerari.comBfB: If the career brand is that necessary for employees, do you think a company should also have a learning brand?

Hilary: Many companies are striving to create a true learning brand, yet fall short because this usually sits under the HR umbrella. We are not seeing the needed alignment to business needs. Plus, the past 10 years have been clunky in regards to learning management systems (LMS), massive open online courses (MOOC), and smaller, external learning platforms. I do think learning platforms and apps are starting to gain traction because people are finally deciding to use them on their own and there is no top-down approach from the company level.

BfB: What would you like to disrupt in HR? 

Hilary: So many things, but my main focus right now with Career Ari is to give people the chance to be in the driver’s seat of their careers by giving them their own career app to support their career goals. Companies fall short in helping people out with their core needs, but this is going to change as the future of work rapidly evolves and we need to upskill/reskill people. The whole HR Tech scene is focused on helping enterprise businesses and making money. My vision with Career Ari  is to provide personalized career coaching at an affordable price that is available to everyone and not only to leaders, managers, and those selected as elite talent.                                                                                

BfB: How do you think a vacancy will look in five years?

Hilary: Job descriptions will not include „what we need” and „your qualifications”. We’ll see job descriptions detailing the challenge at hand and the people involved, which will then ask for your motivation in accepting this challenge. From there, we will see a very different selection process centered around behaviors and potential.

As a consultant to hyper-growth founders and their companies, I challenge them now to change this by leaving out anything to do with describing a role, and to instead paint a picture of the responsibilities. It’s working.

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