Experience when changing careers can be daunting at first. However if I had an option of choosing between working with an experienced, jaded, unmotivated person or an inexperienced, hungry, ‘plenty-to-prove’ person – the latter would win hands down.

Sure, it might take 6-12 months to train up and initially you will be spending more time onboarding and showing them the ropes, but in the medium to long-term, this is likely to be the better investment.

You want that person who has plenty to prove by your side. These types will fight tooth and nail to make sure customers are happy, conversion rates are on track and obsess about generating new leads. Would you rather a colleague who ‘clocks’ off after 5pm and doesn’t respond, or the eager worker who answers after-hours not out of obligation but because they want to answer?

Hungry people know that you don’t make much of an impact in the world with a cushy job and chill lifestyle. They expect to be pushed, for the market to be unforgiving and to welcome the unexpected. Skills can be easily taught – intrinsic hunger cannot.

This is why the adage – invest in people, not the company holds true. A good product has a short shelf-life if the team is complacent and unmotivated (even your front-line staff). A company and its product must constantly evolve and adapt to market conditions; it’s the team and only the team that drives this. You want a hungry team fighting for you.

With hungry staff, you can treat them like mini-CEOs and know that shit will get done. Provide them a specialised area to work in and let them take the reins. There are many resources and studies that show the most effective CEOs are trained internally. They know their customers like the back of their hand, could talk about their product underwater, aware of the market and competitive landscape. The same is true for your best and hungriest staff – they usually come from within.

Spend time in up-skilling hungry staff, watch them run rings around the external MBA-trained consultants.

Age has nothing to do with hunger either. Some don’t discover their strengths until later in life, and it can take years to transition from one career to another. BUT when they do act, and they have a clear vision and purpose, it’s like a steam-engine with the amount of energy, desire and drive they can overcome most obstacles.

On the flipside, if you are new to an industry or lack experience in a field or market you must demonstrate your hunger and willingness to do whatever it takes to succeed (whilst upholding your values and ethics of course! – the world doesn’t need another Jordan Belfort…). For example, I currently reside in Sydney but Topme will be launched in Asia. To really understand the market you must live like the locals and immerse yourself within the culture to understand all the nuances. As the marketing guy, this is absolutely crucial. If I’m required to move to Asia, I would pack and leave with no hesitation. This is because I’m ALL IN. Yes, this will involve moving away from family and possibly breaking some relationships, but short-term pain for long-term gain. Sacrifice is the only way you achieve something meaningful.

To be clear, I’m not saying there are no experienced motivated people, just that hunger gives that edge that may be the difference between a good employee and an exceptional one.

One of the pitfalls is that hunger (especially with the sales/marketing crowd) can be faked to impress prospective employers. So how do you tell if someone is genuinely hungry rather than just saying they are?

Dig deeper.

When it comes to the question ‘why do you want this job?’ – apply the 5 WHYs principle to the question. If they provide a superficial answer that was prepared, keep pressing. Eventually, you will either end up at a dead-end (bad sign) or uncover their true motivations and end-goal, which you can work toward to mutually benefit each other.

It’s important to note that hunger isn’t just the responsibility of the employee. The employer and senior team must create and maintain an environment that fosters drive and desire. This might include:

  • Tailoring tasks that play to their strengths
  • Dedicating time to mentor and run workshops to help fast-track skill development
  • Collating feedback from staff and being transparent about whether it is feasible or not
  • ‘Get in the dirt’ occasionally and help junior staff with front-line tasks such as customer service
  • Have a comprehensive onboarding process for new staff
  • Encourage staff to work on personal projects outside of work

If employees are left unappreciated or stuck doing repetitive tasks that require little-to-no mental exertion, how can you expect them to be hungry? Slowly this will drain their motivation and you can be sure they will be looking elsewhere.

Hire the hungry and watch your company grow.

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