When First Impressions Go Wrong – Not Recognizing Talent Development
In response to a tweet suggesting that many people in the IT industry will try and hide their early Helpdesk work, even though they shouldn’t, I mentioned something recently that I’ve seen far too often in the legal industry. It seems to have resonated, getting more reactions than most of my tweets.
In the legal world I’ve seen too many examples of really bright IT people who started at the Helpdesk not get taken seriously after being promoted, but when they went to another firm, they had no issues. The lawyers just never saw them as anything else and it’s a shame.
— Mike McBride (@mikemac29) April 8, 2022
If you can’t read that, the tweet says:
In the legal world, I’ve seen too many examples of really bright IT people who started at the Helpdesk not getting taken seriously after being promoted, but when they went to another firm, they had no issues. The lawyers just never saw them as anything else, and it’s a shame.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m calling this behavior out in the legal industry because that is where I’ve seen some of the most egregious examples of it, but I have no doubt it occurs elsewhere. I like to call it shiny, new, toy syndrome. It’s all too easy to see someone who started in the firm working the helpdesk as always the first-level support person. As they progress in their career, moving into network engineering, development, or even litigation support, it’s easy to still see them as the same person you used to call who told you to reboot. So when they offer an expert opinion on something, there are doubts. Because you don’t see them as an expert in their field, they are the person who worked their way up in the firm. They are in that job because they were there.
Then, when someone from outside comes in and offers the same opinion, it’s gospel. They are experts. Never mind that your expert started the same way that the internal person did, working at a helpdesk somewhere. It wasn’t your helpdesk, so the first impression is after they are well into their career. You see an expert who had worked in other places and learned the industry instead of the person you first met when they were still learning.
I’ve been on both sides of this. I’ve been the person promoted, and I’ve been the outsider. Honestly, being the outsider was a way better experience. I’ve also seen this several times in other folks too. I’ve seen smart and talented people offer suggestions that are often ignored, only to have the same suggestions embraced when they come from the new person. I’ve watched brilliant people get taken for granted because they’ve always been there, and I’ve seen new outsiders who weren’t all that brilliant get their bad ideas taken seriously. (Heck, I may have offered some bad ideas over the years that should have been ignored.)
We all started somewhere. We all started in some entry-level jobs. We all learned and grew. Good workplaces develop their entry-level people, turning them into experts. It would be a shame to spend all that time developing people and then losing them because you never gave them the same respect they would immediately get by going somewhere else. Somewhere that never knew them when they were in an entry-level position.
The people who worked to learn and build their knowledge and skills deserve better.