How I Overcame My Lack of Work Experience To Get the Job I Wanted
In real life, most job advice is incomplete.
There is an upside to lazy job advice. I came to realize that, after the fact.
I would go far as to say that I would not have believed in it until it happened to me as an underdog. Here is my real story on changing my job luck.
First the Context
I was streaming through updates on social media. I came across photograph- interviewers seated across candidates. The interviewers were facing the camera while the back shot of the candidate was visible. The caption read, “We are looking for a 22 to 24 year old.” That did not sound right, intrigued, I scrolled below. The line at the bottom made me chuckle, “with 30 years of experience.”
Exaggerated for effect, and a point well made. The jobs we aspire and our experience may not mesh out. That triggered my memory on my own job story.
A Geek in Texas: An underdog to increased odds!
The year was 2011. I wanted to gain exposure in sales and marketing. I had one big challenge — I had zilch sales experience. The best way to summarize my resume [until then] — pure analytical play.
I saw a job opening for head of sales for the Texas region. I had networked with the national head of sales before then (my serendipity experience here). I reached out to him.
He promised only one thing — a seat at the table for an interview. After that, he made it clear that it all depended on how I fared with the veteran sales interview panelist.
Knowing what I know and driven to make the best of the opportunity, I embraced what I knew — solving puzzles. At my desk, it was quickly clear that I did not know a whole lot. I reached back to him and asked if I could talk to the person who recently vacated the job. She had moved on to a growth opportunity externally [that was on par with him]. I asked him if he could share her number. He looked at me for a moment, paused (seemed like a long pause) and then smiled. He gave me her number.
I called her and as luck would have it, she gave me a time slot to talk to her. During the call, I asked her what were the top three challenges in the job. She listed them and I prepared for the interview with those three as my inspiration for my puzzle.
When the dust settled and many months later, after I clinched the job, I came to know that I was the best candidate prepared for the job. My zero experience was a muted factor.
Many years hence, as I reflect back, a few ahas hit me with regard to jobs and careers. I had been lucky to draw on a few instinctively which are now crystal clear, after the fact.
The upside of incomplete advice
Content of a job draws many of us like a vortex. What clinched the deal for me was context. Context like the job was a replacement job. My predecessor went to greener pastures. That was a positive check. The fact that she left in such good terms to take my call was a fantastic check. During our call, her respect for her former boss and her former team was apparent. The fact that my hiring boss gave me her number is a bigger positive sign. When I shared my solutions in the context of that specific job challenge using a problem solving mindset –it proved a lucky edge.
In all this, I gathered the upside of incomplete advice that gives you an edge. Be prepared before an interview is what many adhere to. The standout, my aha, be prepared equally on context.
The beauty of the internet is the democratization of information: LinkedIn search on the hiring manager and the person who has been in the advertised job,before, is just one click away!
The bigger aha has been something much more subtle and powerful. Network, network, network is often repeated sage advice. Lot of advice on how to network effectively is splattered around the internet. Many a times, the implicit objective is to network for a job.
My aha is far away from that: Network for bosses. Without realizing it, that is what I had done! Since then, I have found golden treasures asking people who they enjoyed working for and why. Two magical transformations happen: the conversational vibe becomes positive and I became a collector of great boss names. One surprising thing is like food — many of them like the same people. The common words I have found for these great folks (bosses) — “believes in me” and “trusts me.”
There are many who would hire you based on your experience. If someone offers you an opportunity based on your potential with a conscious knowledge of your lack of experience, grab on and figure it out. They are truly leaders and they are as rare as they come. Network for such bosses (not jobs). The odds for enriching career experience could increase manifold. After all, you only live once and you spend most of your day at work!
The best part, in my experience, there are many incomplete advices in the world, make the best use of them to stand out by being the contrarian who completes them.
Have fun standing out!