Lean Into Your Difference
From Career Tips, 2023 Volume 9, September 2023
I regularly hear candidates worrying about what they don’t have that other candidates will have. Very common are statements like these:
“Hiring managers want someone with x years of experience doing y, and I don’t have that.”
“Companies will only look at a person with deep expertise with (insert product, software package, specific technical skill, credential, etc.).”
This can lead to trying to hide, minimize or apologize for what you don’t have. You can’t change your past, so what if you instead decided to actually embrace what you do have and lean into your difference?
If ‘they’ want someone with at least 10 years of experience in something, what is it that you were doing instead that might be of equal or greater value?
- Perhaps you have a more diverse set of experiences that gives you a unique perspective.
- Maybe you can bring best practices from other functional areas / companies / industries.
- Possibly you aren’t stuck in doing things the same old ways, and might bring a fresh set of eyes to identify and solve problems that those with many years of experience would miss.
Now to do this, you will need to carefully examine your difference.
Come up with a sharp, concise statement of the advantage that difference confers. Go through your accomplishments to create solid examples of problems solved / results gained by precisely that difference. Particularly focus on demonstrations of the contrast vs. those with lots of experience.
A good example could be a situation where more experienced colleagues weren’t pursuing a solution to a problem because they thought it was too difficult to address, or a waste of time, and you found a way to address it. Or possibly they didn’t even fully recognize that there was a problem in the first place, and you both brought it to light and solved it.
Also be prepared to do a bit of re-framing. When the other person says that they were hoping for someone with x, empathize with that, and then present your difference with confidence. (For more on how to do this re-framing, see this link.)
When you are able to present your difference with confidence, it can be a game-changer.
Even if I don’t 100% accept the advantage that you are presenting, the fact that you are so confident in it will give me pause. It will at least get me thinking, and give an opening to explore further what you bring to the table. Perhaps then I will see other aspects of what you bring to the table that make whatever I thought I was looking for drop in priority.
Also think of it this way. If a hiring manager truly is stuck in thinking that they must have someone with X, and you don’t have X, how else are you going to get past that?
Try leaning into your difference, and let me know what happens!
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