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Turn Your Baggage into a Blessing!

Author : Dilip Saraf

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I have many clients in stages of their careers seeking to improve their station by advancing in their roles or by finding a better job with a growth path. In many cases when they come to me for help they start with their baggage by telling me why they are not best qualified to pursue their dream job because of what they perceive would be an impediment in their being the best candidate for that job.

In almost all such cases my prescription to my clients is very similar: Turn your baggage into a blessing by repackaging it in a way that the hiring team finds it compelling. This can apply to age (the most common baggage), expertise, experience (too much, and also too little some times), a recent setback or a failure in their job or venture, and so on. So, to transform your baggage into a blessing, first you need to become aware of it (the easy part) and then reframe that awareness into a conversation that helps you advance your candidacy to a point where you become the choice candidate. This is easier said than done, but may be more doable with some recent object lessons from my own clients experiences:

  1. Lack of expertise: In the case of one client, who was a lead individual contributor at a major retail chain as an IT DevOps expert, he found an opening for a DevOps manager, the next step in his career growth. Upon landing his first interview he quickly realized that his technology expertise did not include the particular platform the hiring company was using, so they sidelined him after the first round and told him that since he did not bring that particular technology expertise they would look for someone who did. This was further compounded by his lack of the manager title, going in.The first interview gave him insights about the real needs in that job that were not apparent in the job description. So, using the knowledge gleaned from that interview we framed a note to the hiring manager stating that their real need was not someone who had the particular platform experience, but understanding the whole development cycle and the release process to get things back on a rhythm, which was important to them. We fortified that claim by showing how quickly my client learned the technology he used at his current job without being knowledgeable in it before taking that on. His manager had just resigned (true story) at his current job and he presented himself as the person next in line for that role. These arguments cinched the deal and my client was offered the manager role with a major increase in compensation.
  2. Wrong space: You often get ignored when the hiring managers think that your lack of experience in their own space is a disqualifier. For example, if you have worked in product design for medical technology firms your entire career, being considered as a viable candidate for a similar role in consumer electronics would be a major leap. The main obstacles are cycle times (consumer products are churned out every few months, whereas medical products take many years to launch. Cost is yet another factor).In the case of one client when moving from biomedical to consumer product-design role we were able to overcome that obstacle by showcasing the design rigor expected in medical designs as an asset in consumer products. My client was able to present recent example of consumer enterprise products that helped him win the argument and he got the job. He was able to use his success in rigorous design practices that would prevent massive product recalls (a la GMs ignition switch) because of the design mindsets that must be overcome to be successful and to develop consumer loyalty.
  3. Career hopping: In todays job market it is not always possible for job security, even in established companies. Companies get acquired, restructured, downsized, outsourced, and implement arbitrary rank and yank policies. So, if your rsum looks spotty with chronology gaps and job-hops that are getting in the way of your being seen as a stable hire, you must find a way to first package your rsum so that it has presentable optics, without lying about any of its elements.So, if you worked at three start-ups during a three-year period see if can package that three-year stint as an Entrepreneurial Venture. In addition if each of the start-ups could not survive try to package your experience as what you learned at each start-up as something you can present as a valuable experience during your job search and interviews. In most cases it is how you present your case more than what happened to you as a result of those setbacks. In the case of one client, who had gone through three start-ups in four years, the hiring manager was taken by her entrepreneurial spirit, especially when he saw her expertise in one particular technology areas that was important to him.
  4. Different Function: This often happens when one is trying to move from one functional area to another and you have no experience in that particular area. In the case of one client she had started her career, right after graduation, as an HR person in retail. After five years in that function she decided to move into Sales in the enterprise space. To make her an attractive candidate we were able to showcase how she hired the right floor people in retail sales and how she trained them as their HR person to excel in customer relationships turned the tables and she was hired as an account person in a major enterprise company.
  5. Too old/Too young: In both these situations one needs to first figure out strategies that get you in front of the decision makers. This is usually half the battle. In the case of your being seen as too old, package your message (rsum and LinkedIn) to avoid going too far back in your chronology. After listing your most recent 10-12 years make the final entry as Prior- Also avoid graduation years and some other telltale signs of age that may leak through how you package your message. A typical rsum is seen for about 10 seconds or less, so use that advantage to make your message inviting.Once you are in an interview focus on the value you bring and not on how long you have been working. Make that value statement directly relevant to the hiring manger. In the case of one client she had worked in the enterprise space for nearly 25 years and was seen as too old for this start-up. When she convinced the start-up CEO how they could leverage her relationship-building skills to break into new accounts she was hired.

    Similar logic (in reverse) works when your lack of experience gets in the way. In the case of one client, barely out of college for two years, we were able to expand his rsum with the summer stints and internships he had done, in addition to his successful garage venture. During the interview he was able to sell himself on his ability to bring fresh thinking to the team and gave an actual example of how he would solve a problem that they did not know they had.

So, the mindset of having baggage that is going to get in your way of securing your dream job is just that, a mindset. As that cat in the picture, confidently, only you can transform that mindset into a blessing to get what you are after and actually secure it with the right strategy, masterfully executed.


Good luck!


About Author
Dilip has distinguished himself as LinkedIn’s #1 career coach from among a global pool of over 1,000 peers ever since LinkedIn started ranking them professionally (LinkedIn selected 23 categories of professionals for this ranking and published this ranking from 2006 until 2012). Having worked with over 6,000 clients from all walks of professions and having worked with nearly the entire spectrum of age groups—from high-school graduates about to enter college to those in their 70s, not knowing what to do with their retirement—Dilip has developed a unique approach to bringing meaning to their professional and personal lives. Dilip’s professional success lies in his ability to codify what he has learned in his own varied life (he has changed careers four times and is currently in his fifth) and from those of his clients, and to apply the essence of that learning to each coaching situation.

After getting his B.Tech. (Honors) from IIT-Bombay and Master’s in electrical engineering(MSEE) from Stanford University, Dilip worked at various organizations, starting as an individual contributor and then progressing to head an engineering organization of a division of a high-tech company, with $2B in sales, in California’s Silicon Valley. His current interest in coaching resulted from his career experiences spanning nearly four decades, at four very diverse organizations–and industries, including a major conglomerate in India, and from what it takes to re-invent oneself time and again, especially after a lay-off and with constraints that are beyond your control.

During the 45-plus years since his graduation, Dilip has reinvented himself time and again to explore new career horizons. When he left the corporate world, as head of engineering of a technology company, he started his own technology consulting business, helping high-tech and biotech companies streamline their product development processes. Dilip’s third career was working as a marketing consultant helping Fortune-500 companies dramatically improve their sales, based on a novel concept. It is during this work that Dilip realized that the greatest challenge most corporations face is available leadership resources and effectiveness; too many followers looking up to rudderless leadership.

Dilip then decided to work with corporations helping them understand the leadership process and how to increase leadership effectiveness at every level. Soon afterwards, when the job-market tanked in Silicon Valley in 2001, Dilip changed his career track yet again and decided to work initially with many high-tech refugees, who wanted expert guidance in their reinvention and reemployment. Quickly, Dilip expanded his practice to help professionals from all walks of life.

Now in his fifth career, Dilip works with professionals in the Silicon Valley and around the world helping with reinvention to get their dream jobs or vocations. As a career counselor and life coach, Dilip’s focus has been career transitions for professionals at all levels and engaging them in a purposeful pursuit. Working with them, he has developed many groundbreaking approaches to career transition that are now published in five books, his weekly blogs, and hundreds of articles. He has worked with those looking for a change in their careers–re-invention–and jobs at levels ranging from CEOs to hospital orderlies. He has developed numerous seminars and workshops to complement his individual coaching for helping others with making career and life transitions.

Dilip’s central theme in his practice is to help clients discover their latent genius and then build a value proposition around it to articulate a strong verbal brand.

Throughout this journey, Dilip has come up with many groundbreaking practices such as an Inductive Résumé and the Genius Extraction Tool. Dilip owns two patents, has two publications in the Harvard Business Review and has led a CEO roundtable for Chief Executive on Customer Loyalty. Both Amazon and B&N list numerous reviews on his five books. Dilip is also listed in Who’s Who, has appeared several times on CNN Headline News/Comcast Local Edition, as well as in the San Francisco Chronicle in its career columns. Dilip is a contributing writer to several publications. Dilip is a sought-after speaker at public and private forums on jobs, careers, leadership challenges, and how to be an effective leader.

Website: http://dilipsaraf.com/?p=2432&utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=2432


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