Most job seekers know about the code words designed to digitally weed out resumes that supposedly don't suit an advertised job opening. What recruiters haven't accounted for is the talent they are missing out on thanks to the computerized weeding process. They also haven't accounted for job applicants' knowing how to use code words to get interviewed without having the required experience. Once invited for an interview, an intelligent, creative thinker has the opportunity to convince the interviewer that he or she can perform according to — or above and beyond — the organization's needs.
"Dinah" completed her master's in social work and passed the state exam to become a licensed clinical social worker. (For a state-by-state guide, see mswguide.org/licensure.) She wanted to work in a school system, which she eventually achieved. She was hired to assist the head of the counseling department in training social workers entering the school system and to counsel students, with a focus on high school students with anger issues.
She excelled in the training side of the job, but as anyone would imagine, counseling students with anger issues requires sensitivity, commitment and courage. The counseling part of the job was so uncomfortable for her that she filled all her time with training, excusing herself from counseling duty and passing it on to other social workers. It takes a special type of person to counsel and ease students with anger issues and report them when warranted, which she felt she could not (and would not) do. Passing the licensing test to become a LCSW requires knowledge, but knowledge doesn't necessarily translate to one's counseling abilities, especially in a stressful focus area.
Along with avoiding a serious part of her job requirements, Dinah engaged in just the right amount of brown-nosing by handling the boss' personal errands, which, of course, was not part of her job. Up to that point, he wasn't aware of her skirting the counseling part of her required work, so when the other counselors reported her lack of activity in that area, he felt forced to reprimand her. But he didn't fire her. Her brown-nosing and her excellence in training saved her job. Instead, her boss transferred her to a different job at another school within the system — a training job that wasn't available when she first applied. She continued to be a successful trainer for the social workers entering the school system and became the favorite of her new boss.
The point is not to promote brown-nosing (the term used by the "informant"), but to focus on this social worker's ability to interview for and receive an offer for a job she knew she did not fully want. Getting that "foot in the door" enabled her to become an integral part of the system. Excelling in a critical part of the job proved her worth in that system, and perhaps also showed the boss that the ability to train should not be coupled with one's ability to counsel, since each is a talent that draws from different personality traits.
Tara Talbot, the vice president of human resources at Workopolis, confirms that the reason most people get hired is the same reason most people get fired — personality. A resume gets the job seeker the interview, whether by phone or in person. It is then one's personality — the combination of one's communication skills, charisma, charm, personal appeal and whatever else makes the interviewer think you will fit with company culture — that gets one hired. So rather than limit applications to "perfect" jobs, look for partially perfect jobs — with tasks you know you can excel in — and aim to become the perfect employee for that company.
Email career and life coach [email protected] with your workplace issues and experiences. For more information, visit www.lindseyparkernovak.com and for past columns, see www.creators.com/read/At-Work-Lindsey-Novak.