The key to making the mid-level of a company more representative is focusing on transferable skills. These are abilities and experiences that may have been learned, applied, and honed in another industry or function. For example, a successful outside sales executive for a recruiting firm will have a number of skills and experiences that can transfer to a role selling software-as-a-service (SaaS). This salesperson has advanced knowledge of sales tactics and will have experience tailoring a solution to a business’s needs. And because she’s experienced at selling a business-to-business talent solution, she can easily apply that knowledge to selling a business-to-business software solution.

And this is especially valuable for newer industries. With so few POC employed in these industries, the organization you work for is unlikely to find the candidate it needs if management looks only for people within your own industry or at a competitor. Instead, they need to expand their search to include people from other industries who have transferable skills. With a little training and education, those workers can adapt their abilities and experiences to your industry with ease. Plus, the company will get valuable new perspectives and best practices from outside the industry, which can help improve a variety of processes.

I know this, because I’ve lived it. During my second year in finance, I decided I wanted to make a career transition and seek opportunities in the tech industry. I applied to more than twenty jobs, ranging from publicly traded companies to my friend’s startup. I always made it to the phone screen but rarely made it to the real interview.

In the rare instances when I did make it past the phone screen, I was regularly told I didn’t have “tech industry” experience and therefore wasn’t qualified for the role. The most frustrating part of the experience was that many of the job postings I was replying to listed skill sets that I have and have demonstrated throughout my career:

Detail oriented

Customer-centric

Self-starter

Experience with CRMs

Previous technical sales experience

The “previous technical sales experience” was the bane of my existence. Not having that specific experience in my background prevented me from breaking into the tech industry, despite the fact that I worked at one of the most prestigious and competitive organizations in the business world. This was the story time after time—until I finally made it to a final round of interviews with one technology company in their Washington, DC, office.

The interviews went well, and after meeting with the entire team, I felt fairly confident I was going to receive an offer. After all, it was an entry-level operations role requiring one to two years of previous work experience. The next day, my heart sank when the hiring manager called me to say they were moving forward with another candidate who had previous experience working at a smaller tech company. This person, they felt, would be better able to adapt to a “startup” setting, given that they were launching their presence in DC.

That’s when I decided to build my own tech company. And four years later, the woman who had given me the devastating news about not being qualified for this entry-level role sat in my conference room to discuss opportunities at Jopwell. Funny how the world works sometimes.

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