Note from Stephen: Today I’m publishing a guest article from Brendan Cruickshank that is quite a bit different from what I normally publish, but I thought it might be a nice change of pace.
I often run into job-seekers who feel they are caught in a no-win situation. They need experience to land a job, yet they need a job to get experience. Their gloom is exacerbated by the commonly perceived notion that hiring is largely a numbers game: if Candidate X has 30 years experience and Candidate Y has only 10, then X must logically be the better choice. Yet slowly but surely, this tired paradigm is beginning to change. Companies are starting to look more closely at the true value of experience and are beginning to recognize that there may not be that large a correlation between a candidate’s experience and his potential value as an employee.
The fact of the matter is that in today’s business climate, there is a word that takes precedence over experience. In fact it takes precedence over just about every other word in the dictionary. It is the 800-pound gorilla in the room. That word, if you haven’t guessed, is change. Companies today are increasingly being challenged to find new strategies and new ways to dominate their markets. Whether they want to or not, even the oldest and most established enterprises need to continually change in order to keep up with technology and accommodate inevitable advances in their industry. Sadly, the ground is littered with the corpses of failed companies whose management thought they had all the answers and as a result, stopped questioning themselves.
Although not always the case, it is often true that people with a lot of experience tend to be hostile towards change – and some companies are beginning to realize this. Sometimes, people with 30 years’ experience become trapped in the mindset that if it’s been working OK for the last 30 years then why change it? Companies that are fearful of being stuck in the mud and unable to adapt to change are beginning to see the value of hiring new employees who do not carry with them the excess baggage of old ideas and preconceived notions. They are starting to realize that hires with fresh ideas and minds that are clean slates can often be the best conductors of change rather than impeders to it. While maybe not discounting experience entirely, firms are beginning to look upon it as just one of many factors and are starting to hire based on other things that they consider more important.
So what are these other factors? Actually there are many of them: attitude, adaptability, tenacity, smarts, skills and abilities in other areas, just to name a few. To a growing extent, companies are embracing the notion that job-specific skills can be learned but behavior cannot. Employees with little or no experience, but strength in other areas, are easier to train because they don’t have ingrained dogmas about how things are supposed to work. They also don’t take comfort in their old ways of doing things; hence, they are more adaptable and amenable to doing things differently. When you think about it, the ideal employee for any firm is one who has many natural talents and can mobilize them effectively without being burdened by the tendency to resort to comfortable and often outmoded, ways of doing business.
Companies are looking for people who can do things their way. If you don’t have the experience that you think that you need for a particular job, then instead of adopting a defeatist attitude, take on a proactive one! Play up your other strengths and abilities. Point out how easily trainable you are and how your ability to inject a fresh approach will be an asset for the company. This approach will more often than not cast you in a very positive light.
At times we all tend to place ourselves in a box. The key to success in the job search ultimately comes down to thinking outside that box. We may think we are trapped within the vicious cycle of “no experience = no job = no experience”, but that trap is very often an illusion. Experience is only one among many factors that companies consider when hiring. The thing to remember is that there are many others. It is up to us, as job-seekers, to position ourselves in a manner that highlights all the assets we bring to the table, and to remember that when all is said and done, companies are going to hire the people that they see as bringing them the best value for their future success.
Brendan Cruickshank (Vice President of Client Services) – Brendan is a veteran of the online job search and recruiting industry, having spent the past 8 years in senior client services roles with major sites like Juju.com and JobsInTheMoney.com. He is quoted regularly as an expert in employment and jobs trends in major media outlets like the Washington Post, US News & World Report, and Forbes and has spoken at recruiting industry events such as Onrec and Kennedy Information’s Corporate Recruiting Conference.