THOUGHT PIECE the carling team
Climbing Up That Ladder – How Times Have Changed Since Your Blogger Started His Career!
Is career advancement all about belonging to organisations, taking examinations, working for a host of different companies with some of them abroad or showing you can get along with people through developing an effective network? The answer is probably somewhere between how your blogger made the ascent and how generation Z are approaching the climb.
Covid has a lot to answer for. I am told that some young people today expect to have a three-day weekend and work for half of the rest of the week at home! Well good luck to them but the career ladder has certainly changed since my day.
Back when Noah was a lad, the interview never figured that strongly; a quick plant tour with the Head Brewer, then it was off to the pub to meet the rest of the team. That group would collectively confirm that you would ‘fit in’. Qualifications were taken as read but personal attributes were just as important as they are now. Today assessment centres will test literacy, numeracy, problem solving and the rest. How times have changed.
The industry has changed too. With fewer larger scale breweries with flatter structures so there is less opportunity to move up the ladder. Companies are often contracting out to specialist suppliers. Brewer owned maltings have passed to sales maltsters, the last being Molson Coors which sold its Shobnall plant to Soufflet in 2015. Technical gurus and their research labs are long gone. Experts like Ault, Rainbow and Portno at Bass; Whitear and Curtis at Whitbread; Bishop and Button at Watneys; Jack Harris at S&N and Ron Hall at Allied are now only names which fall out of a literature search.
There are possibly fewer opportunities in these large breweries but there has been a significant increase in the smaller brewery sector with approximately 1800 today. Some of these are one person bands struggling in a very competitive low margin marketplace; while others have expanded greatly even to the extent of being taken over by the big guys. However, the smaller the brewery, there are often inadequate funds to carry out a lot of training to allow employees to build an exciting CV
Equipment suppliers now carry out turnkey installations from basic design to commissioning. A fair number of brewers have left to join the allied trades where it is easier to build up a network of contacts quickly dealing with projects for a host of customers.
Brewers move more often than in my day with many twenty somethings easily working for three or four breweries. Indeed, companies now expect employees to move on and many encourage it. You need to be sure that your next move will continue the learning process and not simply be for an increased salary. It is essential to continue leveraging your skills to advance your career.
The era of one employer for a whole career is long gone in most cases and if you do linger you must take on fresh challenges, projects and training and develop your career from within. There is the risk that you could be thought of as a ‘company person’ and be passed over in favour of someone from outside with fresh ideas and novel ways of approaching challenges.
SO, IF WE HAVE TO MOVE TO ENHANCE OUR LONGER-TERM PROSPECTS, WHAT CAPABILITIES SHOULD WE BE PUTTING IN FRONT OF POTENTIAL EMPLOYERS?
It is said that the further up the organisation you climb then the job is not always advertised and you get a tap on the shoulder and will be asked to submit your CV and later go along for an interview. The problem is that if people outside your own business do not know you how do they know which shoulder to tap?
This is where our network comes in. You can increase the number of influential people who know you by going to technical meetings and not just talking to your mates when you are there, joining committees, giving lectures and making sure you talk to lecturers when you listen to one.
You should go to exhibitions; the Charles Faram annual hop walk has morphed from a jolly day out to a mini exhibition with lectures. Trade afternoons at CAMRA beer festivals will bring out the local brewers. Meet people at IBD dinners. Try to attend Beer X and the Young Scientists Symposium. All these will increase your knowledge base as well as getting you better known. The internet has many hints and tips about how to interact with people from body language to eye contact and make sure you listen. Make sure you put your phone away! It will be your demeanour that people remember…hopefully favourably.
SO, YOU HAVE YOUR NETWORK; NOW WHAT DO YOU KNOW?
Do not delay taking the IBD qualifications. Are you familiar with new technologies, new products like NOLOs, kombuchas, seltzers and how to brew the host of traditional styles of beer which will see the inside of a wooden cask? Then there is novel packaging, energy saving and sustainability. The IBD does not examine in business topics; so, learn about HACCP, root cause analysis, BRC and auditing skills. How to handle negotiations. Could you lead a change programme, do you know about lean manufacturing and have environmental skills? Do you understand the supply chain? In ‘my good old days’, you had a good idea and someone else up the chain would be charged with implementation; today you are more likely to be asked to progress it yourself so you need a skill set to present a properly costed business case. Project management, procurement, commercial skills, and brand management are all needed somewhere in a modern brewery.
Do your own SWOT analysis and then work on a CPD (Continuous Professional Development) plan preferably with your line manager who should be acting as your mentor during your time with them. It is a sound long term career strategy to keep filling those gaps. You may have to self-fund some study, although there are also grants and bursaries available. You can spend some of your holiday visiting other sites but you will certainly have to read a lot in your own time. There are webinars and YouTube when you need a break from the printed page.
It is a good idea to find a trigger every couple of months and routinely sit down and ask yourself whether you are still actually learning. You need to stay in learning mode throughout a modern career.
You need to be able to demonstrate transferable skills to potential employers then you can get up to speed in a new post more quickly. That new post need not be in your familiar industry, indeed it is perhaps preferable if it is not. There are kindred alcohol industries, other beverages and suppliers where process design, sensory and packaging are much the same wherever you go. There are different terminologies and different rate determining steps but you will soon get the hang of them. How about the enhanced hygiene in the dairy industry? To this day your blogger remembers a milk lecture when us brewers were told ‘when you get a loss in gravity, you call it attenuation and you are happy. If we get a drop in gravity it is called adulteration and we go to prison!!’
Moving internationally can enhance prospects, many large multinationals encourage it. Remember as you get older, roots are put down and partners help pay a modern mortgage. Pensions, healthcare and life insurance all become more prominent drivers as you grow older. It is often best to go abroad early when there are fewer responsibilities outside work. Remember that hotels are dull places and menus are not inexhaustible but be patient for a few months as you build a new social network. You can then tick off ‘resilience’. Try to avoid places with civil wars but that does mean fewer people are willing to go!
We live in a more connected world. Heaven knows how we would have survived the Covid without Zoom and Teams. Rather than keeping an ever-increasing pile of business cards, transfer the details into your contacts record and keep up with those you have met on whichever media platform is in vogue. If you are swapping advice and experience be sure that you contribute rather than always be the one asking questions. There are Facebook groups where you can pose questions but the few that your blogger has inspected do not have many members, the last post was last month and it is full of Chinese fabricators and others trying to sell you things. Such platforms need moderating and some sort of group impetus to keep them going. The IBD and Cask Marque have tried on-line forums but after an initial flurry they fall into disuse.
The IBD is currently seeking chartered status and those wanting to stay Chartered Brewers or Distillers will need to confirm they are keeping up to date by submitting a regular CPD record; what they need to keep up to date in is causing a lot of head scratching at the moment. But you can keep your own CPD plan which suits your own needs.
So be a self-starter, broaden your horizon, get out of your silo and do all the other modern HR catch phrases but remember to keep your CV up to date and ready to go, after all you never know when that tap on the shoulder is going to come!
I am told that an employer will spend just 194 seconds examining a CV and one in five will reject before the end. 47% of CVs are rejected for being too long, 31% for inappropriate fonts, 42% for using clip art or mojis, 43% for being written in the third person and 76% for unprofessional email addresses! 59% contain spelling mistakes. All this on top of the importance of leaving no employment record gaps and telling the truth about the scope of earlier roles and responsibilities. Good luck.