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There’s a famous (and possibly apocryphal) story about Ernest Shackleton’s famous mission to Antarctica. The story goes that several months before Shackleton and his crew set off on the voyage that would make them famous, a small ad appeared in one of the London newspapers. It read: 

“MEN WANTED for hazardous journey, small wages, bitter cold, long months of complete darkness, constant danger, safe return doubtful, honour and recognition in case of success. Ernest Shackleton, 4 Burlington St.”

Setting aside the historical provenance of this job ad, the story raises an interesting point: why do we advertise jobs the way we do? There was no past experience that would have prepared any crew member to sail to the most remote and dangerous part of the world. Instead of a checklist of skills, the Shackleton advert is looking for one quality only – personality. The kind of character that would hear the call to adventure and jump aboard.

Research shows that cultural fit is one of the biggest indicators of success in any job, with more than half of new hires leaving because their working style doesn’t match their employer’s. Any HR professional can tell you that the key thing to determine in interviews, whichever side of the table you’re on, is whether you can see yourself enjoying working with the other person.

What’s more, by creating long lists of requirements for the role, you’re often actively putting talented people off. A survey by Harvard Business Review a few years ago found that in nearly two-thirds of cases where a candidate didn’t apply for a job, it was because they didn’t fulfil all the requirements, even though most were confident that they could perform the role well. The effect is particularly pronounced in women, many of whom will only reply to a job ad for which they tick every box.

We’ve been thinking about this a lot at Sussex Innovation as we prepare to recruit several new members of staff in the coming months. Historically, we’ve always posted long, detailed job specifications – but as anybody who’s joined our support team will tell you, they’ve ended up doing a hundred different things while working here that they would never have predicted when they applied.

Our team tends to grow more organically than that. We find out what makes people tick, what they’re passionate about and talented at – and the role takes shape around them. So rather than continuing to pretend any different, we’re experimenting with putting out an open call for people. People who share our vision, values and culture, who love the idea of working with a different growing business every day of the week, and aren’t afraid to roll their sleeves up and get stuck into something new…

“PEOPLE WANTED for entrepreneurial journey, decent wages, hard work, long months of mentoring business owners, constant learning experience, inquisitive mind essential, personal satisfaction in bringing others success. Sussex Innovation, University of Sussex.”

Sussex Innovation is looking for talented, supportive, collaborative people of every stripe to join our team of coaches, mentors and advisors – drawing on all your skills and experience to do stimulating creative and varied work, driving forward great ideas that deserve to be heard.

We’re looking for personality and passion, rather than someone to fit a predetermined role. We celebrate diversity and are committed to creating an inclusive environment for all employees.

Our mission is to empower entrepreneurs to solve the big challenges of our time, from education, to health and wellbeing, and using emerging technologies for good. We want to energise the most ambitious businesses in the south east to achieve purposeful growth and create meaningful work. If that sounds like something you want to be a part of, we want to hear from you.

As a member of our support team, you’ll be directly involved in helping to define our organisational strategy and the way we deliver on that aim. It’s a chance to make your mark, work collaboratively with smart, thoughtful people, and build the job role that you’ve always wanted.

Don’t want to be stuck in an office? Our team spend most of their time out and about meeting businesses, and we’re happy to offer flexible working options – all we ask is that you can access our sites in Sussex and Croydon regularly to deliver workshops and coaching sessions.

We’re particularly interested to hear from you if you have any one of the following:

• Intimate experience of what it’s like to run a small business; empathy for the highs and lows, hard graft, anxieties and pressures involved. 

• Experience in programme innovation, especially in an entrepreneurial setting and can work with our team to test and drive customer engagement.  

• Experience in project managing a business support programme and the ability to create robust reporting systems and manage external stakeholders. 

• Business coaching experience at any and all stages of the business life cycle and the ability to execute a growth plan. 

• Specialist coaching experience (including product development, commercial strategy, performance and accountability, marketing, sales, leadership, people, culture, processes, finance, raising investment) and the ability to show evidence of results. 

• Experience of engaging with entrepreneurs, networking, creating and driving a sales process/CRM development to sell products and services. 

• Creating and driving a marketing plan, across multiple products and services in a similar setting, i.e. a business accelerator, business support programme, business training or courses. 

• Experience in monitoring business success metrics and capturing data for analytics. 

• Experience in developing digital learning environments. 

Visit to tell us more about yourself.

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