Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Multi-taskers: A New Breed of Part-Time Job-Seekers

“art buyer at an ad agency, securing and negotiating photography; was also the office photographer, videographer, and assisted other departments with strategy and social media.”
“currently work 13 hours a week on campus as a computer lab assistant while balancing 15 credits”
“professional with over 14 of experience in sales, management, and business development”
“specialized skills in interactive media, 3D modeling, video graphics, post production and web development”
“health and wellness enthusiast with a background in advertising and publishing”
Look at all of the above excerpts from profiles on Urban Interns. What’s the underlying theme? This last one probably sums it up the best:
“someone who can multitask with a smile!”
Multi-taskers. This new breed of part-time job-seekers has their toes dipped in a lot of different pools. Why do we think this is?
  • Necessity. The job market is still really tough. If you are looking for work, you’ve got to be flexible and open to as many opportunities as come your way.
  • Inherent ability. The mind’s ability to process many different types of information has expanded as a result of that information being available in so many different forms: internet, TV, mobile, and lest we forget, the printed word. We are so used to processing data from multiple streams – ie, having 20 applications open, answering phone/email/skype at the same time – that job-seekers are just better at learning what they need to in order to “be dangerous”, so to speak, in a variety of areas.
  • Demand driven by growth in small business. Startups are leading the way out of the recession. And entrepreneurs need staff that can handle multiple functions. They can’t afford to hire specialists in every field, so they’ll take a few scrappy self-starters that can handle whatever’s thrown at them. (Editor’s note: just yesterday we met a candidate for one internship position that we knew immediately could handle not just that role, but another open role – so we hired her for both! Why manage two people when you can manage one?)
So what do you need to know in order to use this to your advantage as an employer, and how can you manage these multi-taskers?
  • Accentuate the positive. Multi-taskers can’t possibly be experts in every field. It’s great that they’re positioning themselves as such – and that they have so much self-confidence that they actually believe that to be true! – but you’ve got to find out what they’re best at and what they have aptitude to learn. Really study their resumes. Ask them what roles they’ve enjoyed the most and what their passion is, as sometimes what we love the best is what we’re best at. Talk to former employers to find out what their strengths and weaknesses are. Then set them loose on the tasks that they truly have experience and knowledge in, and establish training for what they need to learn.
  • Track progress. As we’ve talked about in the past, check-in, check-in, check-in. By definition, multi-taskers will have 100 things going at once. Heck, they may be job-searching while they’re working for you. So it’s your responsibility to know exactly what they’re up to, every minute, and to track progress has been made on all of their projects. Involve them in the process by having them analyze their own results. It will make them feel good that you care about their work and their role.
  • Refine, redirect, and repeat. The best thing about multi-taskers is their ability to change and take on new responsibilities. Let’s say you hire someone who’s a clear social media guru, but also has good writing skills. Once your social media execution is chugging, have that person manage another social media intern so they can focus on taking your content creation strategy to the next level.
Multi-taskers are not the easiest to reign in, but by effectively hiring and managing them, you’ll be building your team while building your business at the same time.

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