It’s hard to find good talent – especially at a growing startup. Scanning applications and resumes for GPA, major, and extracurriculars gives a few weak indicators of who might be a fit. Interviews help and so do internships. But there is an entire tier of talent identification and acquisition that has been lost to history and a few niche industries. The apprenticeship.
It’s time to reinvent the apprenticeship for the 21st century. Here are some areas where apprentices provide benefits you don’t typically get with interns or entry level employees…
Intern: “I’m here for the summer. I don’t cost the company much. They don’t take me too seriously. If I do the basics and have fun it will be a nice bullet on my resume.”
Entry level employee: “I got the job. I’m in. I’m comfortable in my role. I need to make sure I’m moving up and being given proper attention and support. When is the next raise coming?”
Apprentice: “They’re taking a chance on me. I’ve got a once in a lifetime shot at creating tremendous value and making myself indispensable. They’re willing to train me and give me real responsibility. It’s up to me what I do with it. It can result in a job, or an out the door. Time to show what I can do!”
Intern: “I don’t really know how to do this but I don’t want to annoy the people doing important work. I guess I’ll just wait.”
Entry level employee: “I don’t really know how to do this but I’m supposed to and I don’t want anyone to know that I don’t. Oh crap…”
Apprentice: “I don’t really know how to do this but I need to learn and fast. I’ll ask someone who does while simultaneously researching it and testing a few approaches.”
Intern: “I can’t do that kind of high pressure important work, it’s above me!”
Entry level employee: “I can’t do that kind of menial work, it’s beneath me!”
Apprentice: “There is no task above or below me. I’ll do whatever it takes to create value and become indispensable, from taking out the trash to making a big sale.”
Intern: “That intern seemed pretty good, but I can’t remember exactly what they did for us in that few months…”
Entry level employee: “I assume the new employee is doing well in their department and that if they weren’t our management or HR process would discover it.”
Apprentice: “This apprentice has been crushing it when I do my weekly check-ins. I think they’ve earned a full-time job.”
It’s true. A really great intern setup and a really top-notch new employee situation could both look like the apprenticeship I’ve described. And certainly an apprenticeship done poorly or with the wrong person can suck.
But there’s a fundamental structural difference that dramatically increases the probability of good outcomes with an apprenticeship. Everyone is one the same page as to what this is – a short-medium term training and proving ground – and what’s at stake – we’re putting real resources into you and if you succeed you’re on the team – which creates excellent incentives for all parties. This is an extended interview with real “skin in the game”. New hires might feel a little too secure, while interns a little too insignificant.
Contrast an extended apprenticeship with the explicit goal of discovering someone’s long-term potential at the company with asking them to sit though years of school and hope that the credential they get will signal that same potential. It’s like the difference between trusting a marketer’s satisfaction guarantee vs. trying the product yourself before you buy.
At Praxis we realize that degrees and paper credentials are getting weaker, while opportunities and demand for value creating employees are growing. That’s why we identify, vet, prepare, train, and place top talent with great startup companies to apprentice, learn, grow, and if they hit objective measures of success, get hired.
Let us know if you want great apprentices at your startup.