When people come to me for career development one thing that I find that they have often overlooked, to their peril I might add, is to understand that skills alone are not enough. Do not mistake what I am saying, you must have skills to compete in the workforce, you must have them in abundance and they must be up to date in order to be viable in today’s job market. But, and read this carefully, skills alone will not land you the job. That news often comes as a surprise to people, especially individuals that are highly skilled or educated in their chosen fields.
These clients usually have a story of at least one time (usually several) where they were passed over for a promotion or lost a job opportunity to individuals they “knew” were (or perceived by them) as less skilled or less technically excellent than themselves. What they failed to realize was that “the race is not always to the swift … er… skilled”. These individuals have failed to understand what employers’ are looking for when they hire and promote individuals.
Equally surprising to individuals who sacrificed and strove to gain a degree in their adult years is the idea that the degree they worked so hard to get may not make them the attractive candidate they see themselves to be. Listen, all education is worthwhile. The pursuit of a degree is generally a good thing and I believe that all adults should be life long learners”. While I would not discourage anyone from pursuing a degree the bachelors, masters, or doctorate may not open the doors you think it will and may not be the deciding factor for the potential employer. There are other things, more important things that potential employers will be looking for.
There was I time in my management career when I did a lot of interviewing and hiring for staff positions. Whenever conducting interviews I always looked for skilled people but there were other attributes I wanted in the people I hired. At times, I intentionally hired people with fewer skills than those who had an abundance of skills in the technical aspects of the job. Why hire the less skilled? Simply put, sometimes they were the best candidates for the position.
What was my reasoning for this? Simple really, as your manager I can always invest in your knowledge and skills. You can be sent to classes, provided with training, attend seminars and workshops to increase your knowledge base or get you up to speed on things. But your teachability, manageability, and attitude already came with you as a function of your personality and emotional maturity. I can’t send someone to class for that. It would take too long, if it could ever even happen, to try and get you where I need you to be in these critical areas and the potential harm that could come to my team in the meantime was not worth the risk. The philosophy was simple, “Hire attitude, train skills”.
The experienced hiring manager, when looking for someone to add to their team, is looking for more than skills. They are looking for the best possible match for their team or department. Yes, that is a very subjective judgment that must be made but it is a critical one. Hiring managers, the wise ones any way, are looking for the well rounded individuals not the one sided individuals. Yes, they are looking for skills and education, but also for individuals with at least three other traits. They are looking for someone who is teachable, manageable, and with a great positive attitude.
To be teachable means that you are accepting of and are willing to learn new ways and methods of doing things. You realize that despite you great knowledge and skills you still have things to learn. You must be open to laying aside your ways and methods in favor of others. You must be willing to try and explore new things and not think or express a superiority of you skills until you have proven them. You must be willing to change.
To be manageable means that you can accept direction, will follow instruction willingly and often without questioning the reasons or authority of your manager. It also means that you “keep your nose clean” and don’t participate in the “office dramas” that can be divisive to your workgroup or team. To convincingly portray this skill is no small feat for individuals who believe that their skills and knowledge are superior to their team members and/or their managers. If you are one of those individuals that feel they have something to say on most every issue and also feel some inner compulsion to have to share it, then your manageability is in doubt. I’m not suggesting that you become some kind of “yes man” of withhold your input but knowing when to do and how to do it is what gets you considered manageable.
Attitude is more ethereal and harder to describe but everyone knows a good attitude from a bad attitude when they see it. To possess a positive attitude is to project a “can do” mind set in both your words and your deeds. This is what all good managers want to add to their team. That positive attitude can be infectious when supported and rewarded and managers will reward it. Managers don’t like, don’t need and don’t want negativity on their team and will avoid hiring individuals they perceive as potentially risks because of their attitudes. Just as a positive attitude can be infectious, it is doubly true that an individual with a “bad attitude” can bring a team down and potentially destroy it. Good managers know that and hire accordingly. A smiling, easygoing, up-beat persona helps to project a positive attitude and gets the managers attention.
Technical skills, yeah, you need them. You need “mad skills” and you need them in abundance but equally important if not more important are those other things that make you a good hire, teachability, managability, and a great attitude. Many times they will make the difference between getting a job offer and being passed by. Time for self examination, how teachable and manageable are you … really? Oh yeah, and what about that attitude?