All In a Day's Work

On first glance, some of my past job experience has no correlation to my current work as a Staff Writer and Manager of Public Relations.

But don’t be fooled—I was groomed at a young age for this business. Consider some of my early jobs:

1. Library assistant. In elementary school, the fifth graders were given the “privilege” of working one of several jobs each morning during homeroom. Looking back, it seems like free child labor.


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Regardless, I very happily volunteered to work in the school library. Mrs. Swisher was the best librarian ever—don’t argue with me on this one—and by the end of the year I’d pledged to dedicate my first book to her.

This taught me a valuable lesson that I now follow as a staff writer: Don’t make promises you can’t keep. Mrs. Swisher still deserves her due credit, but try explaining that to your Nana.

2. Landscaper. When my dad wasn’t teaching in the summer, he ran his own landscaping business. As such, I spent many a scorching afternoon mulching, planting and sneaking rides in the wheelbarrow. 

I’m no fan of manual labor, but as Manager of Public Relations, I have no problem handling all of the position’s heavy lifting. (See what I did there?)

3. Mail sorter. The only transferrable skill from this job was learning that it’s illegal for me to open my co-workers’ first-class mail. Pre-sorted standard is fair game, baby!

Based on my stellar employment history, it’s clear that there is life—and talent—outside of the apartment industry. Management companies just have to dig for it.

We’ve entered a time when internal and external change is taking place at an unprecedented pace in the multifamily housing industry. Of all the challenges, none is more essential to success than the search for talent and the need to re-orient hiring strategies. The talent war still rages, but it has evolved from facing a shortage of overall talent to a relentless battle of finding the right talent despite stubbornly high unemployment rates. 

One innovative recruiting practice is hiring candidates with transferable skills from outside the apartment industry. 

Mulcher turned manager, anyone?

Hiring from outside the industry challenges the status quo and broadens a company’s resources for dealing with new situations. The “we’ve always done it that way” mentality will be challenged as the outsider questions, “Why is it done that way?” Groupthink becomes less prevalent. Problem solving begins with a more divergent approach. The outside hire brings a broader base of experiences on which to generate ideas and build new solutions or to repurpose old ideas and apply them to a new context. 

Being open to candidates without apartment-specific experience has its challenges, but can also result in faster hires and lower turnover as the candidate pool widens and core competencies are more closely examined. 

So if anyone is looking to hire someone who scores highly in the “patience” and “resourcefulness” departments, give me a ring. I know a dishwasher who makes exquisite roses out of tinfoil.

For more, check out “Mining for Gold on Mars” in the April issue of units Magazine, which mails today.

Lauren Boston is NAA’s Staff Writer and Manager of Public Relations. Unsurprisingly, she writes a lot—most often for units Magazine and as a weekly blogger for APTly Spoken. She enjoys making people laugh, sharing embarrassing childhood stories and being the (self-proclaimed) Voice of the Apartment Industry. She welcomes feedback, unless it’s negative (in which case, please keep it to yourself).