Brain Chatter: The Hybrid Employee

February 8, 2017 Ophelie Zalcmanis-Lai, Content Editor

Hi, my name is Ophelie and I am a hybrid employee.

What the hell is that and am I trying to throw another buzzword at you?

Not exactly.

After Bentley University released data that highlighted the need for hybrid skills, 2016 was officially dubbed the year of the hybrid job. Glassdoor wrote on the topic and explained it as such:

“This year is the year of the hybrid job,” says Susan Brennan, Associate Vice President, and University Career Services at Bentley University. “In the past a student may have thought of marketing or advertising as a creative role. Today business development and big data analytics are marketing roles so the candidate would need to have both creative and analytical skills.”

She’s right, other than the fact that this need didn’t stop with the New Year being ushered in.

I went to school for journalism. I entered Ryerson University in 2012 with the initial idea was that I was going to graduate after four years and be the stereotypical beat reporter for one of Toronto’s Holy Trinity of newspapers (The Star, The Globe and Mail, The National Post) and work on the biggest news stories of the year.

Fast forward four years to my graduation and I had come to terms with the fact that the “typical” job didn’t exist.

Connections I made in various publications had lost their jobs by the time I graduated.

Freelance was the way to go, if you had the backbone to live pay cheque to pay cheque and the good timing of finding an 'in' with a particular publication.

Headlines regarding any of the previously mentioned papers often included the words "more cuts."

Yikes. Try entering the full-time workforce for the first time and being optimistic about employment opportunities at this point.

Luckily, I changed the tune of my game early on. I became a hybrid.

From the beginning, my instructors pointed out that by no means could we just write. We’d be way more of an asset if we could shoot and cut video, be on camera and produce in a control booth, write for print and TV or radio, etc.

Early on, I learned not to settle for the standard job outline. Instead, I was pushed to be proactive with my skills development, rather than just reactive.

So I asked myself: how can I still do what I love – writing – but also not get backed into a corner?

I did an internship every summer, and I tried to do ones that weren’t in newsrooms. I dabbled with the idea of “branded journalism.” I took on the role of social media lead at my part-time retail job.

I looked at related fields (PR, marketing, etc.) and figured out how to parlay my writing, research and people skills into them.

See, my whole mentality was to be ahead of the curve. Yes, I was learning concrete and useable skills at school. But I was also training myself on more nuanced approaches like being nimble.

Plus, on a very basic level, doing one thing forever is boring.

So, in an climate where roles are changing, companies want you to fit in with their culture, and where you need to be able to meld the creative with the technical it’s time to embrace the role of a hybrid.

True, it runs the risk of encouraging people to have broad but heavily diluted skill sets. After all, you can only learn and master so much at a time.

But as with anything else in life, it requires a touch of balance.

It’s not about being a know-it-all. It’s about learning related skills that amplify the value your work provides others.

Don’t just be a data person.

Be the data person who can read it, measure it AND tell a story with it.

Don’t just be the copywriter.

Be the copywriter who can write a branded blog post and also code the back end of its design.

It all comes down to learning the skills that make sense and complement what you've already got in your arsenal.

Deliberately choosing to build upon my traditional skills and use them in new and unique ways has allowed me to carve out a secure career path that is forward-thinking. It has also given the agency I work for, The Tite Group, another unique perspective to strengthen the diversity of ideas it can provide clients with. Sure, it's scary sometimes, going into the unfamiliar with no backing. But instead of panicking over it, I choose to be inquisitive about it. 

Doing this allows you to honour your traditional skills while always remaining a student. I sure am.

I freelance and pitch stories on the side when I can, but I am loving my transition into marketing. I still get to be a storyteller, but I’m also learning how to connect brands with their audiences in order to win the Battle for Time.

Harvard Business Review sums up the need for hybrid jobs and the hybrid education that supports it in a single sentence:

That’s because beyond the rise of complex teams in workplaces, we’re also seeing the emergence of complex systems architecture in the world around us—in other words, the increasingly intricate nexus between hardware, software, and human beings.

So in this complex system, I have two questions for you: what are you willing to learn and, most importantly, where are you going to go with it?

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