Last week, I had a chat with a potential ‘web copy’ client.
“Why do your clients choose to work with you?” I asked him.
He paused for a moment, then muttered, “Because I’m qualified.”
“Well… you’re a counsellor, so I already assumed that,” I said. “Why would someone come to you, over another qualified counsellor?”
It’s not always easy to think of reasons other than qualifications and experience (the other popular answer to my original question is, “because I’ve been doing this for XX years”).
Don’t get me wrong, they’re useful. But are they really enough?
I know that if I’m going to work with someone, I don’t want to rely on a dreary list of qualifications and experience to tell me who they are.
As a former HR Manager, I’ve recruited lots of different people to lots of different jobs in lots of different companies. By no means are the most qualified and experienced people always the best.
(You probably know at least one person who has all the right credentials, but are still not very good at their actual job. I know I do.)
There are some obvious exceptions, of course. I doubt we’d put our collective trust in Professor Chris Whitty, had he wandered in off the street with a few bits of medical advice scribbled on the back of a Starbucks napkin.
But if you’ve happened upon just the right job, in just the right company, and you’re confident that you could do it, then why not try and make it yours?
It might take a bit more research and creativity, but it can definitely be done.
(For one thing, it’s likely you’ll be coming into the job with a fresh pair of eyes – read: less cynicism – a wealth of life experience, and a genuine willingness to learn and grow.)
Do an honest skills analysis.
Every job has its own invisible list of extra requirements, for skills that go beyond ‘a 2:1 in media studies and three years’ experience’.
My own job as a writer doesn’t just involve an ability to string words together in coherent and creative sentences. I also have to be
- a really, really good listener
- able to translate people’s thoughts into words they’d use themselves
- able to put those thoughts and words into a clear, compellingly readable structure
- able to work quickly
- social media savvy
- familiar with SEO and search terms
- a nice-ish person who tries not to alienate others
And that’s just off the top of my head.
My previous role as an HR Manager went far beyond organising everybody’s holiday allowance, and keeping up with employment law changes.
Actually, I’d say that was the simplest part of it.
I had to translate that legislation into simple policies that were relevant to the firm I was employed by. I had to act as peacekeeper between belligerent managers and their disgruntled team members. I had to deliver terrible, life-altering pieces of news, such as redundancies, in a clear and compassionate way that also wouldn’t bite the company in the backside later on.
See what I mean?
If you lack experience in a job you’re dying to get, think about the ‘invisible’ skills you’re going to need. Make a direct approach based on those, combined (if necessary) with a willingness to work towards any supporting qualifications while you’re in the job.
What do I mean by a ‘direct approach’?
Find the person who’s responsible for the job – be aware that this could involve bypassing HR altogether – and make your application to them personally.
Along with your CV, write a sincere and energetic covering letter explaining why you want the job, why you want to work for their company, and what you’re going to bring with you to do it (the aforementioned ‘invisible’ skills, mixed with the visible parts of the job description that you match).
I’m not guaranteeing instant success. But this approach has worked well for me in the past, and it’s also worked for people I’ve been responsible for hiring – some of whom have turned out to be the very best.
So, please keep at it.
Because if ever there was a time when we needed to approach ‘the usual’ in more creative and soul-brightening ways, it’s now.
I'm a friendly and professional writer, reviewer and editor who works with warmth, humour and flexibility.
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