What I learnt when I gave chance to a new barber at the salon I visit for my haircut

Photo by Javier Allegue Barros on Unsplash

Sundays for me are booked for running the weekly errands like paying bills, cleaning up my room and visiting the salon for the monthly haircut. This Sunday at the salon, there was a lot of rush with students forming the majority of the customers as schools reopen the next week in my city. Interestingly to cater to the increased demand, the salon owner had kept a new employee who was also his uncle’s son. A win-win for both, the owner gets an extra pair of hands, the new employee employment. That is also how it works in India, especially in family owned businesses, family members are called to take care of parts of businesses when in need.

As I was in a rush and the owner who usually trims my hair was occupied for at least another hour, he suggested I get my haircut done from the new employee. And there in lie the problem. Grooming, as consumer research shows, is a very personal and intimate activity. Most of the customers have favorite barbers and salons and they don’t change it often. So did I. At first I was apprehensive of getting my haircut from this new employee who seemed inexperienced. I would be also be his first customer ever. So I was the guinea pig on whom he would learn to practice his skills. And in these moments, as I waited for this ‘new guy’ to set up his equipment, multiple thoughts crossed my mind.

This is the same kind of situation which managers and HR would face while recruiting fresh talent for a position in their teams and companies. This is the very same situation I faced while looking for jobs outside of my current organization. Most of the companies ask for ‘relevant’ work experience before they hire someone. And just like myself they are very apprehensive of the candidate if she doesn’t have the relevant experience. Although I understand that relevant work experience should be one of the factors considered during hiring, it should not be the only parameter and candidates should definitely not be filtered basis just the work experience. Of course for technical fields this may differ, but for any managerial position it should not. Otherwise it just becomes a chicken and egg story. The recruiter wants a candidate with work experience for the job, the candidate wants the job so that he can get the required work experience. At times the work experience asks are outrageous. A 2 year old graduate from a b school certainly cannot have a 4 years’ work ex in the relevant field. A better way to judge the candidates is how they performed in the previous roles. If they did well, they are likely to do well in the new role too.

So, as I sat there getting my hair cut in anticipation of a fresh new look, I learnt how important it is to try new things, give chance to people new at work, introduce new systems, implement new ideas. What is the worst that will happen? You will fail! The new recruit may not be the right fit, the idea may bomb, and the system may find resistance in the existence scheme of things. But then you would have learnt a great deal of new things too. You would know there is one more thing that doesn’t work. You would, in short become wiser. And wisdom is something life teaches only through experiences. This is also the reason why behemoth companies which are more than 100 years old are still doing well. They have learnt to fail and fail fast. This is also the reason one team in a company does better than others, because the team leader gives opportunity to people to try new things and have people’s back if they fail. In a career spanning 35 years there are bound to be bad years, there will be failures, there will be bad decisions and bad line-managers, there will be reasons to leave your current job and move on, but all this is necessary. And thus it becomes more important to try ‘new’. Because unless you do, you won’t even understand the limitlessness of the opportunities the world throws at you.

And while I thought of all things, the ‘new guy’ had done his job. And Voila! I liked the haircut, better than what I get normally. Enough said?

unlearning, by the hour

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