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It’s never too late to shed a lousy job description. Learn to bridge the direct experience gap and stop enduring work you hate.
“It’s painful to learn new stuff, [but] I learned how to surf and snowboard at 40!” -Kevin Kermes
While it was perfectly normal for our parents and grandparents to stick with the same job for decades, Forbes reports that job hopping every four to five years is the new normal for millennials. People today are learning how to defy the limitations of old-fashioned job descriptions and transfer their skills across seemingly unrelated fields to land better-fitting jobs and happier lives. With a change of perspective, you can, too.
In episode 418 of The Art of Charm, we talk to Kevin Kermes, a man who knows a thing or two about changing perspective. He’s served two combat deployments as an infantry officer in the Army, worked as a headhunter for 10 years, and now owns Career Attraction, a digital publishing company that focuses on various stages of career management. Here, he tells us how you can adapt your skillset to bridge what he calls the direct experience gap and find a job that’s right for you — instead of settling for one that makes you miserable.
A Gallup poll last year found that 87 percent of the world’s gainfully employed describe themselves as “actively disengaged” at work. If you count yourself among them, do you stick around because you feel like you’ve painted yourself into a corner with a job description that limits your options? You wouldn’t be alone; self doubt is the biggest hurdle to overcome when you’re looking to make a life-changing choice.
Rather than marketing yourself around the restrictive label of a job description, career manager Kevin Kermes suggests that you identify the skills you possess and find ways that their relevance can transfer to other fields. What you’re really trying to do is find out the problems that potential employers or clients — Kevin calls them your audience — are trying to solve, and how you can serve them in achieving this.
As an infantry officer, his work environment was austere, dynamic, constantly changing, and he had to do his job the thick of it all with limited resources. When he was making the change from military back to civilian life, he centered his conversations around this fact with his intended audience so they would understand that he could apply this resourcefulness to any task at hand. In an interview with a search firm, Kevin related his experience in the Army with how he could be expected to perform under pressure:
“The worst thing that could ever happen to me when I was in the infantry…[was] one of my guys [getting] killed. The second worst thing [would have been] something [happening] to me. On no day was that going to happen inside this search firm. I framed [it this way] not to be…cavalier about the outcomes [they were] looking to achieve, but…I wanted to paint a picture that there [could be] no situation put in front of me [that would] get me so flustered that I [couldn’t] make it happen…I’ll find the resources. I’ll find a way. I’ll get it done.”
The two ways that people commonly fail when attempting to transfer their skills to another field — that is, bridge the direct experience gap — are:
How can you avoid these pitfalls? Kevin suggests that you learn to understand the audience you’ve served well in the past. Talk to people who have employed you before and ask them some really simple questions:
If these conversations are happening by phone, try to record them. Listen to the responses. Absorb them. Listen for recurring themes — try to pick out the problems that you’ve solved and what people find valuable in you.
Package up this information into a succinct message that you can put in front of people and tell them how you can be of service to them — and if not to them, perhaps someone they know. You can do this by applying what Kevin calls the XYZ Technique. You’re basically saying:
I help X do or understand Y so that Z.
X is your audience. Y is the problem. Z is the outcome that the audience seeks.
To take a risk and hire you without having direct experience in their industry, a potential employer must believe these three things:
The third point is a big one, and has the power to sway the pendulum in — or away from — your favor. Most hires are made in one of two ways: internal referrals or external referrals. The common thread? You’re a known quantity. Having a trusted advocate who can vouch for your credibility and viability as a candidate is enormously beneficial, but it’s up to you to make the personal connection that will seal the deal. Listen to the full podcast for more pointers on how you can bridge the direct experience gap and check out Kevin’s Job Search Toolbox in the resources below.
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