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The Attitude Differentiator

Over the course of my career, I’ve had the opportunity to hire and employ many individuals for a wide variety of roles. In my early days as a manager, I was admittedly stuck on finding people who possessed all the skills and experience I deemed ‘mandatory’, usually ignoring anyone whose resume didn’t include everything on my checklist.

It was only when I was asked to take on a variety of new roles (many of which I approached with limited or no experience), that I realized the power of having a positive or ‘can do’ attitude. I quickly learned that people believed I would overcome my lack of experience with my demonstrated enthusiasm for the task at hand. It seemed I liked nothing better than to be told that something couldn’t be done, or couldn’t be accomplished within a certain timeframe. I made it known that I enjoyed the opportunity to successfully tackle the perceived impossible. Little did I know that someone recognizing that ‘fire’ in me would, in turn, drastically change what I would come to look for in the ‘ideal’ employee.

For those of you who may be a little light on experience, take heart. There are employers who can and do recognize that in many respects, attitude can be everything. Your challenge is to make sure your passion, enthusiasm and desire are obvious to those who are in a position to make use of it. Though you may lack the desired experience, if you can demonstrate that you have the attitude, aptitude and can-do mentality, you may just leap-frog more seasoned individuals.

So, how do you equip yourself to respond when that experience gap rears its head?

The key is to learn as much as possible about the position or opportunity that you’re interested in. This needs to go far beyond a cursory reading of the job description or simply telling the appropriate person of your interest. Ideally, you should:

  1. Speak with someone already doing the role to understand the fundamentals, challenges and expectations of the role.
  2. If the experience you’re seeking is project vs. role based, contact the individual responsible and ask for a meeting. Use that meeting as an opportunity to gain greater insight into the expectations, timelines and challenges of the deliverable.
  3. Dissect the job description/project mandate – determine what specific skills or experience you have, that although may not be a perfect fit, demonstrate a knowledge or understanding of what needs to be done.
  4. Reinforce your interest through independent learning – take that project management course, attend an industry meeting, or ask to shadow individuals who are already in the role or project team.

A smart hiring manager or project lead will realize that the initiative you’ve taken to address experience gaps ultimately speaks volumes, not only about your interest in the opportunity, but also your personal agility and ability to learn.

So, don’t let that real or perceived lack of experience impede your career. While it’s certainly ok to simply state your interest in tackling a new job or opportunity, the decision maker will be far more impressed if you’re able to articulate all of the actions you’ve personally taken in an effort to make yourself a viable candidate. Gather knowledge, make or seize learning opportunities and let that can-do attitude shine through.