Imagine you are the hiring manager for an open position in your department. You are down to two highly-qualified candidates; one of them has had 7 years’ working experience and the other, 12. However, those were 12 years’ of a jagged path. According to his resume, after obtaining a manager position in 2016, he left the job 6 months later to attend to a personal matter. Then 9 months later, he rejoined the industry but at an executive level (2 job levels below his last appointment). Today, he is in front of you as an assistant manager hoping to score the manager role that you are hiring for.
Contrast that with the other candidate whose resume shows progression from technician, to senior technician, to senior executive and now to assistant manager. She has moved from one position to the next by applying herself, learning new things, achieving new highs before moving onto the next position.
Whom would you hire?
7 out of 10 people we posed this question to said that they would hire the second person, notwithstanding that the first one has held a manager position before. Why? Actually, many of them shared that the fact that the first candidate could not secure a similar-level position after he rejoined the job market raised alarm bells. If this person was a good candidate, then people would not hesitate to put him in the same job level as the one he left. That he could not secure that level of job – whatever the circumstances may be – gave them cause to doubt him. It could be that the candidate did not even apply for a higher-level position, which would also be cause for concern because if he did not feel confident that he could still do a similar-level job, then they would also feel less confident in his abilities. As such, 70% of the people polled would choose to hire the second candidate.
And why not?
The second candidate had displayed what we term as career fluency. This is a situation where a person’s career has been a smooth, upward-moving one, where each subsequent job was of a higher responsibility, of handling a larger-sized team, a larger budget and/or a wider portfolio. Career fluency does not simply mean that the candidate had been appointed to the job, but that (s)he had demonstrated accomplishments within that job for a reasonable amount of time.
So why is a person who has career fluency a more attractive candidate than one who has prior job experience? Here are 5 reasons…
(1) You show consistent ability to perform at higher levels
Because you have consistently been promoted to a higher level, it demonstrates your ability to perform. And which company does not want to employ a person who can perform, especially in different companies, and in different roles? Such person is said to have a wide repertoire, and that is a very attractive feature about any candidate!
(2) You show your ability to learn
When thrown into a new position, with new processes, new culture and new politics, the person who can control these fastest is usually one who learns the fastest! Hence, if a person has a smooth, upward job progression, it also means that the person has a strong ability to learn; and the greater the ability to learn, the more valuable she is to the organisation!
(3) It demonstrates your ability to take risks
While there is absolutely nothing wrong with just staying where you are, doing the job that you know very well, earning the pay you had always done; the longer you stay in the job, the higher your chance of just maintaining the status quo. This reflects your risk appetite since there is some risk in moving from a position of comfort to one of uncertainty (in a new job). And yet, if you have consistently moved from one position to another higher one, and been successful in each of them, you would have shown your propensity to manage risks and this is also an important skill to have. Indeed, if we want someone to contribute to a business, we need that person to manage risks and not just hug the status quo. Growth and risk come together; and the person who knows how to manage risks in a positive manner is a very good hire!
(4) It displays his strategic thinking abilities
To be strategic, one needs to have an intent that impacts well into the future, to be focused on meeting that intent, and to be creative and flexible to adapt the approach to a changing environment. From this description, we can see that positively managing your career strongly demonstrates your ability to think strategically; and that is a competency that is in high demand, since fewer people embrace it. A strategic thinker does not allow the situation to impact them; they impact the situation. And what better area to impact than our own career?
(5) It gives the hiring manager confidence that you can do the job
Lastly, as you positively manage the vagaries of the job market, constantly coming on top by securing the next level position, and contributing to that position quickly, you will go into a hiring interview with the confidence that you can similarly impact the next level position you are interviewing for. Confidence is contagious, and it will also give the hiring manager similar confidence that you can get the job done. Mind you, we are not talking about arrogance, because arrogance stems from a misplaced sense of self-importance. Confidence comes from the knowledge and experience of successfully handling a new task and one’s ability to replicate the success. If you were a hiring manager, wouldn’t you also want to hire a confident candidate like yourself?
Time to start building your career fluency
The best time to have started building career fluency was 20 years ago. The second-best time is now! So, if you have not done it, it does not mean it is too late. As we enter a new decade, regardless of where you stand in your career now, regardless of whether you are in your first job or had several career missteps, commit now to build career fluency. Let the next one or two decades be a flawless upward movement in your job positions. This takes planning, this takes learning, this takes execution. No one has ever gotten to the pinnacle of their career by luck, even if it seemed that way. It took concerted planning, intent focus and determined action.
Here’s to your career fluency!