The Obvious Is Not Always Self-Evident
May 7, 2012
Filed under Uncategorized
It’s here. May 2012. This month I complete my MA and join the year’s NYIT class of 2012.
And this is my final blog for the Slate.
It’s been said that NYIT prepares students for jobs that don’t exist yet. As trite as that sounds, I have to believe that’s the best any institution of “higher learning” can aim for.
But like most of you, I’m still asking myself the question, “now what?” Given the pace of technological change, keeping current with it is like trying to nail Jell-O to a tree. And while dealing with another career change at the ripe young age of 56 has been exhilarating to me, it’s been sobering as well. Even as I write this, I’m preparing for my 4th interview of a process that started in February, based on a resume that I circulated through a networking organization. The opportunity is very attractive; Director of Training for an Internet Service Deployment Company.
Now, “Internet Service Deployment” sounded ominous to me; right away I started with the doubts; my lack of any extensive “techno-expertise” would be a deal-breaker. In my first interview in February, I told the man across the table that I’m no engineer, no electrician, no mathematician – but that a friend once described me as a “closet geek” – and that for nearly 15 years, I’ve built my own personal computers from scratch rather than purchase them off-the-shelf. This was a fun and significant experience for me that had nothing to do with my career passions, I just wanted to see if I could do it — and it got the interviewer’s attention.
At my next interview in March with the company’s founder and CEO, I was told that “Internet Service Deployment” is an impressive way of describing the company’s critical competency (so much of the language of business couches simple work processes, procedures, “mission statements” and other aspects of business in complex jargon that it can be intimidating – and downright mystifying at times.) This particular CEO assured me that my technical expertise wasn’t the critical piece; my resume had interested them for some very specific reasons with which I won’t bore you, other than to say…
YES! There ARE people who actually READ your resume – and can even connect the dots from time to time! I went home and read it again to highlight what got me through the door in the first place. Wow, was I surprised at what I learned about my options for the future! It was then that the words of a CEO I worked for way back in the ancient 1990’s rang in my head like a fire alarm – “The obvious is not always self-evident.”
When you’re fresh out of college, what’s “obvious” in an employer’s eyes is usually buried in the attic of your subconscious; at crunch time, when you must furnish relevant work experience or activities that are germane to the job you’re after, distinguishing strengths (and accepting weaknesses) is a perpetual process of self-examination, self-improvement and supportive self-talk. Then, even if we suspect such personal assets might have value, the next challenge is to effectively convey how what seems ordinary to us is extraordinary to an employer—in written and oral form. What’s fluff to you may be red meat for the hirer.
So dig deep. Think about everything you have done at NYIT and elsewhere, and how those experiences translate into gold.
If you have held any positions or offices in any clubs or organizations, use any and all knowledge or experience gained in that role or activity to strengthen your resume. If you volunteered your time at a church or other non-profit organization, discuss any know-how you gained about managing difficult people and situations. Do you love sports cars? Did you coach, umpire, or referee youth sports at the grammar school, high school, or community level? Do you play the piano? Did you drop out of school for a year to travel around the world? Are you a closet geek? These tidbits aren’t insignificant—especially when the conversation starts to drag a bit, or you are struggling to answer a question out of left field.
Once you find the item in your portfolio that raises eyebrows, brings smiles, or leads the interviewer to say the magic words “tell me a little more about that” – file that item under “always mention.” Keep building that inventory of ‘’always mentions” throughout your life – they will become the “possessions in the changing fortunes of time” that are more valuable than you can know right now.
On a final note; the venerable Maya Angelou once said, “You can tell a lot about a person by the way they handle three things: a rainy day, lost luggage, and tangled Christmas tree lights.” I’d add so many things to that list of three, and I know you can too; slow elevators, clumsy waiters, traffic jams…job interviews. In fact, the interview might top the list.
Again, the obvious … is not always self-evident – but rest assured that beyond your experience and skills, decision-makers will watch closely for how you handle that list; a list that constantly shifts – and it is just as if not more critical than how many years you’ve known how to use Microsoft Excel.
Thank you all for being my readers, my classmates, my colleagues, my teachers, and my friends.
And in the words of my favorite wish…
May the road rise up to meet you,
May the wind be ever at your back.
May the sun shine warm upon your face,
And the rain fall softly on your fields.
And until we meet again,
May God hold you in the hollow of his hand.”
…and may you be three days in heaven before the devil knows you’re dead.
Farewell and Godspeed to you all!
Joe Fortine – ’12 MA