You've been in your IT job for a while now and are starting to feel a bit, well, stale. Aware that you're a good "people person" you'd really like to move into communications.
The organisation you work for is great and all your mates are here so you don't want to leave, but how do you know if your skills are transferable and, even then, will your employer be prepared to transfer you and train you in another aspect of the business?
Spark NZ has addressed this problem for its employees with an internal initiative called Careers Fairs. Now in its second year, the fairs are run like a trade fair; each team sets up an exhibition stand and has people assigned to talk to other employees about what they do, what is needed for a role, and a little about the culture of their team.
A series of 10 sessions, daytime and evening, are run in four locations - Auckland, Hamilton, Wellington and Christchurch - so as many employees as possible can take part. This year, one-fifth of Spark's total workforce attended the fairs.
Spark's head of human resources in HMB (home, mobile and business), Wendy Hammonds, says the idea came as a way of helping to solve the traditional corporate problem of people leaving for career development, and to further encourage Spark's already strong internal mobility. "The fairs also have the benefit of breaking down silos and retaining knowledge and talent within the organisation," she says.
Of the 12 exhibition stands in Auckland, four represented the major Spark business units - Digital (ICT), Connect (infrastructure), Ventures (innovation) and the Spark Foundation (philanthropy). Three were external partners: Massey University, LinkedIn, and Hudson, which supplied career coaches. Also exhibiting were the five parts of HMB - customer services, finance, sales, HR, and marketing.
Jessica Moloney began her career with Spark (then Telecom) 10 years ago, selling phones part time in a Nelson retail store. Since then it's been quite a ride for Moloney as she has had 15 different roles within the company and is at now Spark's social media marketing manager.
Moloney attended the Careers Fairs to talk to people about marketing as a career option within the business.
"The fairs are a good opportunity to understand other parts of the business," she says. "There are so many different functions within a business the size of Spark that you don't always have an in-depth understanding of how you can transfer your skills to another field, so for example people in finance may not consider marketing as a way to progress through their financial career. However, with aspects like procurement and negotiations with big global partners, it makes your job easier when you understand the different functions - it makes it more relatable."
Moloney says the fairs are a good way of encouraging people to stay within the business and are particularly helpful for younger employees, especially those in the call centres or the retail stores.
"They're interested in learning the business at the coal-face and then transitioning into corporate functions after a year or two. It's awesome to see people make these moves, because they have face-to-face experience with our customers and that becomes invaluable when it's taken into a more corporate role."
Moloney feels fortunate in always having been able to move where the energy is and to be involved in projects that have had a start-up mindset.
"I was heavily involved in the start-up of the Spark Foundation, which had been something I was interested in when I was in a corporate communications role," she says. "I've been really lucky to have always felt as though I'm doing something new."
Looking ahead, she says: "I'm interested in things like Spark Ventures.
"In having a chat to people at the fair, you're able to consider the business as a whole and how your own career ambitions might apply to that. And it's also good to get our own teams out there talking to people - it's really good for culture and for engagement."
Hammonds says feedback on the fairs has been phenomenal. This year, participation has "gone viral", she says. "It's only the second year and there are still some things we could improve on, but the survey responses have been in the 80 to 90 per cent range to the extent that people found it informative and liked it and would like us to do it again."
Hammonds says people at the fairs appreciated having a licence to speak to senior and HR people without their managers looking at them askance.
"They also valued the opportunity to be able to connect with specific people with specific opportunities or knowledge that they needed, immediately and on the day. People really liked that."