Recent college graduates and I have something in common: we’re both trying to score jobs that require experience we don’t have. No matter who you are, you really have to fake it to make it, for almost any job you want.
Every job seeker knows the deal. You need four things going for you to get hired in the corporate world:
- SOCIAL CAPITAL
Contacts and connections, someone on the inside. A lot of times this trumps even experience. An internal candidate or someone referred by a current employee is almost always going to be hired before anyone from the outside.
Experience can be a tricky beast in a rapidly-expanding, ever-changing industry like Information Technology. It’s always best to have more experience, of course, but for experienced candidates there’s a paradoxical fine line between having too much experience and not enough.
Charm can sometimes trump experience, too. If the hiring manager “feels” good about you then you have a good chance of getting hired. We’re all human. That’s just how it works. Personality can mean anything from outright deception to good salesmanship, or a combination of both. A little bit of salesmanship is always needed in a job interview, in the form of “you have problems to solve and I have solutions” type of talk. Some people have so much charisma that they can sneak into a job by simply lying. This was the case with a guy named McSquiggins, who will forever be immortalized as the god of deception in the personal pantheon of imposters I’ve encountered in my career. This is rare in industries like IT, where it’s blatantly obvious when ideas either work or they don’t, but it does happen.
Luck is when the gods of employment smile favorably on you for reasons totally out of your control. It’s an epic role of the dice to snatch victory from the jaws of defeat. For example, the favored candidate decides to withdraw her application; or you’re on the other side of the planet, there’s a global pandemic, and suddenly in-person interviews are unheard of and video interviewing is the thing to do. Hooray!
So, it’s all about contacts, experience, personality, and luck.
As a recent college grad, getting a corporate job seemed about as impossible as booking a trip to Mars. I rated laughably low in each category. Let’s take a look at my character sheet circa 1994.
I started with zero business contacts. I went to university in Colorado and moved back to Texas, my home state. There, my only friends were slackers who hadn’t done much with their lives. On top of that, I didn’t want any business contacts. I’m an introvert, so the process of making connections seemed lame.
My business experience was of course zero.
Personality was most definitely something I could not count on to get me hired. In fact it was an extreme handicap. My anxiety in interviews made others uncomfortable. At that time I lacked self-esteem and didn’t really know how to talk.
Luck, well, that was out of my control. Or was it?
In the next post I’m going to turn the dial back to 1994 and explore my so-called “rise to success”.