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Expand your candidate pool by being curious about people: embrace career agility

By Candice Solomons, Business Executive at iOCO Digital Talent.

Johannesburg, 23 May 2024
Candice Solomons, Business Executive, iOCO Digital Talent.
Candice Solomons, Business Executive, iOCO Digital Talent.

Forget the days of linear career paths and one-dimensional skills. The modern world demands agility and the job market reflects that. This press release isn't about the latest buzzword, but about a powerful approach to talent acquisition: embracing career agility.

From a company perspective, we’re all competing for top talent, which means we’re constantly having to adapt our approach to talent acquisition. For employees, the shift to a candidate-driven market means rethinking how to capitalise on skills, expertise and experience to get placed in roles that offer opportunity for growth.

Enter career agility

What is it? It's an individual’s ability to adapt and thrive in a dynamic landscape. Agile employees can shift gears, learn new skills and seamlessly contribute in diverse roles. This doesn't mean they lack depth; it means they leverage their existing skills and are eager to grow. While individuals have been quick to embrace the possibility in career agility, organisations continue to overlook their potential, robbing themselves of the opportunity to discover these diamonds in the rough.

Why should you care about career agility?

We already know that by 2030, 85% of the jobs that will exist haven’t been invented yet, according to this report from Dell. Let’s just take a moment to reflect and let that sink in. That’s a mind-blowing amount of transformation crammed in six short years. So how do we prepare for that change, as both employer and employee? Yes, you guessed it. Career agility. This article will flip both sides of the occupational coin, while sharing some of iOCO’s remarkable career glow-up stories that I hope will inspire you to adopt a more agile mindset to talent acquisition.

Ultimately, career agility refers to the ability to keep pace with the demands of change required in the modern business landscape. Agile employees, adept in both mindset and skills, are the ones who excel in adapting to new roles, changing work environments and business demands. Exceptional career agility allows individuals to transition into new positions, applying their skills across various roles.

The opportunity for career agility in IT

The IT industry is the ideal incubator for career agility, with opportunities matching every personality. While the cost of change can be affordable, involving certifications, self-study and employer support, the decision to transition into a new career is not easy. It requires hard work and dedication, but having made their big, brave decision, individuals who switch careers bring valuable attributes: a fresh perspective, enhanced creativity, a willingness to take chances, adaptability, flexibility, going the extra mile and a strong commitment to succeed in their career choices.

When an employee is agile in their approach to their career, it means they:

  • Utilise existing skills in a number of different/related roles.
  • Can move effectively from one role to another (even within the same organisation).
  • Adapt to changes in business and industry landscapes.
  • Excel in unique scenarios where individuals and interactions matter just as much as processes and tools.
  • Have the right mindset to ensure their skills are relevant, in 2030 and beyond.

Putting career agility into practice

In my own career at iOCO, I have transformed from junior software developer to business executive in the Digital Talent team, which just goes to show the successful career shifts that are possible with leadership support. Today, when seeking new talent, I get excited reading a candidate profile whose career history reflects a shift from a different career into IT. I want to meet them to understand how that shift happened, and I am often inspired.

We have prime examples of career agility within our own ranks at iOCO. I am talking about Richard Harvey, previously an investment specialist, who is now one of our hottest designers in the Advisory business; not to mention Douw van der Merwe, a former audiologist now enterprise architect consulting in the health sector; and Clydie Cronje, former police officer turned developer and now a delivery and execution executive at iOCO.

Every person I have mentioned now holds high positions at iOCO. Why? Because they acted on their passion for IT and took a bold step into the unknown to learn something completely new. They took a risk, they made it happen, and, as a result, they are incredibly successful today.

Why does career agility matter for employers?

Being career agile isn’t just beneficial for employees, it’s great for companies as well. These individuals are willing to go the extra mile, put in the effort required to see themselves succeed in their new career, they’re committed and dedicated to the outcome and this shines through in their attitude. Such individuals would be willing to grow into new roles and develop along with the business itself, which effectively reduces employee churn.

But how do you find career agile talent?

There are two types of job seekers who will show off their strengths during the talent acquisition process. One has excellent hard skills (credentials, qualifications) and experience; another has outstanding soft skills and values that would align with the company culture.

Deciding between the two is a tough call, but it is ultimately the hiring manager's duty to decide on the perfect fit for the organisation.

Often, my team shares feedback laced with frustration. They’ve shortlisted and talked to the most phenomenal candidate, but the hiring manager looks at the CV, looks at the number of years of experience, and declines the candidate because they’re “not experienced enough”.

This is not to say that experience and credentials are not important. They are. However, when a candidate shows agility in the way they think, that they are dedicated to upskilling, learning and relearning, plus all of the characteristics highlighted above, I would be willing to trust that kind of person to adjust themselves to the needs of my project or the role I’m seeking to fill. There will (and should always) be minimum or key hard skills requirements, but I believe that we can trim it down to the essential skills necessary for the candidate to see the job through, and treat the rest as secondary. In other words, we’re focusing more on hiring the right attitude.

Think about it this way: when you hire more career agile employees, in the future this will enable your organisation to:

  1. Leverage internal mobility to promote employees.
  2. Move employees up into senior roles.
  3. Develop and grow existing employees.
  4. Reduce employee turnover.

Employees who know they have opportunities to develop, grow and ultimately be promoted within an organisation are more likely to remain with their current employer, which results in the retention of talent you couldn’t afford to lose, anyway.

Need more convincing of the power of career agile individuals?

Here are a few more examples of people at iOCO who have successfully shifted careers and now continue to add phenomenal value to our business, to our people and to our customers:

Hillary van Leeve – from revenue clerk to business analyst, she plays an integral part of our Ways of Work competency.

Richard Daniel – from sports scientist to scrum master to the business unit head of DevOps. A smart people’s person who took the term scrum (in rugby) to another level, mentor to many.

Mary-Lyn Raath – from speech therapist and audiologist to consultant, to technology advisory, and now customer value enhancement executive at iOCO, leads a winning team and is the absolute best at strategic solutioning for our business and for our customers.

Ready to recruit top talent to future-proof your organisation?

In a world where the competition for talent is fierce, focusing on the future potential of candidates can help both your recruiting team and organisation at large adapt to the demands and realities of talent acquisition and retention today.

Remember: Don't just search for skills, search for potential. Be curious about people, invest in their growth and watch your organisation soar with the power of career agility.

It's not just about hiring the best, it's about seeing and unlocking the best within those hires.