So, why might someone hire you? If you answer, “For my technical skill. It’s my knowledge of the industry/business/endeavor that will be the deciding factor,” you are probably in the majority of people who might be answering that question. You also very likely would be wrong. Throughout our school years we often hear about the skills we’ll need in the job market – and very little time is spent on the most important ones!
For many of us there are any number of people – maybe hundreds or thousands – who have the skills the employer is looking for right now. We’d like to think we are special, or have a unique insight into our work, but the person doing the hiring has probably heard those stories before. The more important questions are these: “What are you like? What will it be like to have you as a colleague? How do you handle your day-to-day world? Will you be enjoyable to work around?” That’s what they really want to know and what will often ultimately lead to the hiring decision.
More and more employers – especially over the last couple of years – have felt they can teach a solid, smart, focused hard-worker the skills they need for many jobs. Simply put, those are the people they’re looking to hire. Of course, an engineer or airline pilot cannot be hired off the street corner, but that picture is changing, including for pilots. Several airlines are bringing in people who have “the right stuff” who’ve never flown a plane, then teaching them the company system from day one. Why? In the estimation of the airline’s leaders, it is simply easier to start from square one instead of struggling to break the bad habits of those who may not adapt to the airline’s culture.
So, how do you communicate what you’re REALLY like? There’s more to it than just saying, “Hey, I’m a nice person!” Do you have stories that reveal something about who you are? One of my daughter’s has gotten several jobs while also acting as a spin instructor in her spare time. When she mentions that one piece of information she is also saying, “I am a high energy, focused leader who has her health as a priority,” without ever saying it. That’s a lot to learn about someone from just a “hobby.” On the flip side, if you have no stories to tell about your life – nothing that may reveal the challenges you’ve faced or what you’re like as a co-worker – you could be putting yourself at a distinct disadvantage.
Start now. Start thinking about what makes you a great co-worker. How do you show who you are in little ways? Do you enjoy mentoring younger workers? What do you do away from work that makes you tick? Have you seen difficult times and overcome them? How do you go against the most obvious assumptions that people make before they get to know you? All these areas and more can be fertile ground to mine stories and let others know why you should be the candidate who gets the job.
All those stories from school about whether you get an “A” or a “C” in a class may be motivating in the moment, but a lot of things make up the perfect employee. Some are “A” students and some have other reasons to make a significant contribution to the workplace beyond their report card or specific skill set. These days employers are considering ALL those options.