In a society that exults in its uber-connectedness, it’s odd that distance is the defining culture of today’s job market. Everything we do, from networking with others and communicating with recruiters to contacting those who might be our future coworkers, is done – not at arm’s length, but at the tips of our fingers – as we sit at home in our fuzzy slippers and peck away on our keyboards.
No matter how much we revel in our connections and friends and follows, however, the net effect of such distant interactions is shallow relationships. Those contacts don’t know us as a fellow human being but as a profile or page or handle on a screen. They aren’t privy to our character, our values, our personality (except our virtual persona) or the facets of our life which animate and transform us into a distinct person. No matter how many emails and InMails and messages we send out, they see us as a cipher – a nonentity.
So, how do they react? They treat us as strangers. They are cordial online, but cautious in the real world. And, if they’re a hiring manager, that means they follow the rules.
If an open job says a qualified candidate must have this level of experience or that kind of skill and you don’t, they won’t consider you for the position. You may have compensating attributes or a determination to succeed, but those aren’t qualities they can distinguish from a distance. They are virtually invisible, so cannot be factored into their evaluation.
Does that mean you’re out of luck if you don’t have the experience or skills required for your dream job? Absolutely not. It means that you have to learn how to bridge those gaps.
Stepping Out of Your Fuzzy Slippers
A recent survey of employers came to this conclusion: “The more direct knowledge the hiring manager has regarding the person being hired, the less the person’s skills, academics and experiences matter.” Put another way, the less distance there is in your relationship with a hiring manager, the closer you are to being seen as a qualified applicant.
Why is this so? Because proximity adds depth to shallow relationships. You are no longer seen as a cipher, but as a person, an individual with character, values and a real world personality. And, those qualities can be a bridge across any gaps in your resume.
How do you build such a bridge? By stepping out of your fuzzy slippers and into the messy, inconvenient and stress-inducing crucible of human interactions. In short, you have to stop being a stranger by being better known to your PALs.
Get dressed, get out of the house and participate in the real world meetings of your:
Professional society and trade association;
Alumni organization of your undergraduate and (if you have one) graduate alma mater; and
Local civic (e.g., social service, self-help) or affinity (e.g., veteran, hobby) group.
They are the places where hiring managers hang out and therefore among the best ways to meet and get to know them.
Qualification gaps are not insurmountable barriers to job search success. To bridge the gaps, however, you’ll have to get out of your comfort zone and into the real world where hiring managers can get to know you and your qualities as a human being.