Hearing such a statement would make you feel astonished, yes? The first time I was told this at the end of an interview virtually left me speechless. I applied because I knew I could fill the position, was qualified and even experienced in the field, then was told I had qualifications beyond the ‘fit’ of the position. I left puzzled.
I was on a concerted job hunt after returning from travel over-seas. I needed a job. I was in my late twenties, had tertiary qualifications beneath my belt so to speak and was willing to take work in any field. I’d worked in several, diverse job settings, so felt I was fluid and could adapt. Despite all of this, I received the same knock-back at the next interview. I simply couldn’t get a foot in the door.
Being puzzled, I got in contact with a mate who was savvy about the current, workforce climate. He told me that most likely I was seen, because of my qualifications, as a non-long-term contender. In other words, I simply would hold the job for as long as it suited me while I looked around for something better. My astonishment grew because I thought I’d made it clear that I was a ‘stayer’ in any position. Obviously not the perception of at least two perspective employers, right?
If I’d spoken to Carole Brown at the time, she would have told me to take an inventory of my skills and capabilities; not just my qualifications. In The Essential Career Guide Carole outlays the following for consideration:
Top ten skills and attributes employers look for
If you do a quick scan of job ads, employer surveys or even a general web search on this topic, it quickly becomes obvious what skills and attributes employers generally consider the most important:
- Communication – written and verbal
- Initiative, self-motivation and positive attitude
- Innovation and creativity
- Self-awareness and confidence
- Research and analysis
- Teamwork and leadership
- Time management
- Adaptability to changing situations and environments
- Commercial awareness
- IT know-how
The time of my job hunt was pre-IT dominance, so that didn’t really count. The rest I had. Juggling a full-time tertiary course with part-time work meant I had various skills. Working in a hospital across various positions over time also skilled me. I had a B.A/Dip Ed beneath my belt and had done a stint of teaching. Travel for six months O/S had broadened my outlook; my horizons. I thought I had what an employer wanted. Sadly, that proved not the case. I was over qualified.
I reflected upon my situation and my mate’s analysis. I came to realize that I needed to say turn my thinking around. If I granted the case I wasn’t a ‘fit’ for the jobs I applied for, then I was applying for jobs that didn’t ‘fit.’ I needed to go back to basics, look into the job market and be better informed. If it had been the 2000s, then I probably would have sought advice and guidance from a career counsellor or advisory service. Instead, I muddled on for a time.
Back then, I would dearly have loved to be resourced, to have had on hand strategies, to better know what I was on about in seeking my next job placement and how to go about such. There’s so much available now. Carole Brown has a checklist which I wish I’d had at that time:
- Be guided by your career values
- Do what interests you
- Be clear about your skills
- Continue to learn and up-skill
- Clarify your career brand
- Work on any blind spots
- Keep up to date with the job market
- Network consistently and generously
- Grow your on-line presence
- Write great applications
- Polish your interview skills
- Keep focussed and positive
- Think big about your career
- Set goals and take action
- Seize the right opportunities
- Build your career resilience
- Remain fresh and relevant in your job
- Know when it’s time to move on
On a related note, according to the latest Graduate Careers Australia survey
However, what did I conclude during my journey? What do I conclude now? That you have to have an edge, and with that comes the need for knowledge, drawing on resources, constructing a tool-kit of strategies, and seeking expert advice and support.