Natural form of alchemy.

As a job seeker, remember this: You only lack experience if they want it done the same old way.“- Robert Brault

…Or when they don’t want to pay the costs associated with training. It is a sad fact, but it is true, training new hires can be expensive. Some industries rely on job seekers to come ready-made, educations and certificates brand new or recently acquired, funded by somebody else. And job seekers should have 0-3 years experience for entry-level positions; 3-6 years experience for just about everything else.

In some industries you really do want things done the same old way. You want your hiring managers to ask every job candidate the exact same questions, no deviations. If your hiring manager asks a female candidate if she has anyone at home that might for some reason prevent her from coming to work, that hiring manager had better ask every single female and every single male candidate that question too.

Otherwise its a discriminatory question. It can open up a company to litigation making a hiring manager who asks such a question of only certain employees a liability.

Other industries though; there is a bit more leeway because of a real need for innovation which does not happen when things are always done the exact same way. Innovation is often the result of bringing in new pairs of eyes, with different backgrounds than the majority of the existing employee base. They like to refer to this as “new talent” but, it’s just bringing in diversity; people with different backgrounds and transferable skills.

By transferable skills, I don’t mean specific skills used in only one industry, where you leave one company and go to another in the same industry. There is transference but the transference is only from one company to another; the skills are the same. I mean skills that all industries need and use; computer skills, writing skills, cybersecurity skills. Otherwise it is like companies are just switching employees off with their competitors.

It almost seems like job seekers are not being permitted to change industries anymore. You come out of high school, you either go to work in a low-skill job industry, go into the military, or go to college, and then if you go to college, you intern for a while, maybe you get paid, maybe you don’t but you can live at home while you get through it. Then you get out there and go to work; maybe for an employer who continues your training.

I once got asked during an interview if I knew the Oracle program. I had already been hired by the company, it is not even important who it was now. I did not know the program, so I did not get the job. Or maybe it was because all of a sudden things got hostile and I began to wonder if I was qualified for the job I had at the time. I did not expect questions for an external hire to appear in an internal interview; my bad.

In fact, someone more qualified for that position got it and was a good choice. I also think this person was chosen from the start and the whole interview process was a waste of time and money to the company, but someone decided they still needed to put out a job description, collect resumes and hold interviews. I was quite annoyed to have my time wasted. It also damaged my regard and trust for  local management.

I did not know Oracle. But I had used proprietary databases in the course of other jobs that were used for storage retrieval of names, addresses, names of family members, and vehicle information right down to vehicle plate numbers. Neither of the previous databases were easily learned in a single day, but neither of them ever came with instruction manuals or tutorials either, and I excelled in their use just fine.

To this day I have never actually seen Oracle in action much less been trained on its use. I would bet the program is not that difficult to learn, but if a company is charging money for tutorials for employees, you better believe the training is going to be costly. Still, I did not want to misrepresent myself by claiming I knew this program. I knew other programs, Microsoft Office for instance; at the time I had 4 years experience with it.

But that was four years of demonstrable experience in an academic setting. Now it’s 7 and half, almost 8 years experience. I know some SharePoint, some Google Drive, some WordPress…you know what else is a transferable skill? The ability to learn how to use computer software, even if you have to do some research and teach yourself. Software programs will come and go over time. Even those that have not, yet,  will change.

The most important transferable skill is the ability to learn. If you have an ability to learn, and a desire to learn, you can, over time, move from a beginner’s level to mastery of just about any skill. You can learn knowledge, skills, and abilities from reading, listening, watching, doing, and teaching others. Nobody and I do mean NOBODY is born experienced, nobody is born talented either. But everything must be demonstrated.

It’s kind of like alchemy which is what eventually led to the development of chemistry and physics. Alchemists spent a few centuries trying to figure out how to develop something called a Philosopher’s Stone that would turn lead into gold. They thought that lead and gold were similar enough that all they had to do was find the right combination and one would become the other. But they are not related minerals at all.

In reality, gold is gold, and lead is lead and if you want to turn lead into gold, it can be done but it requires a particle accelerator, a lot of time, and a lot of energy. The return on investment is also very small; you won’t get a whole lot of gold from a whole lot of lead. It’s a good thing people aren’t lead and gold and don’t require particle accelerators. Then again, particle accelerators, time, and energy makes a good analogy for college degrees.

In any case we all have to transmute ourselves from something effectively worthless to something worth a great deal. We have to make an effort if we are lead, to somehow turn into gold. Spend a few days looking at the mountain ranges of career advice and you might conclude that stuffing yourself through a real particle accelerator would be preferable. They won’t just say that hiring managers want the gold. Or at least the pyrite.

But that’s what the hiring managers are looking for when it comes to the top jobs; they want the gold. They aren’t really talking to the lead in places like Indeed, Glassdoor or even LinkedIn. At best, they are grooming the pyrite to do better about masquerading as gold, but nobody is really talking to the lead. Unless it’s indirectly; making sure the gold and the pyrite do not accidentally look like lead. Or be friends on Facebook.

If you are lead instead of pyrite or gold; you have two choices. You can excel at being lead; be the best damned lead anywhere around. Lead is a very useful substance, and some very beautiful things can be made with lead. Don’t underestimate or disrespect the lead; it is one of the most important minerals used in industrialized nations today. Lead is a regular workhorse mineral. The other choice is you can transmute.

You can stuff yourself into that particle accelerator, invest the time, the money, the energy and voila! Become a tiny bit of gold. Then you get to compete with the bigger chunks of gold that have all been gold much longer because hey, they were natural gold to start with, but you know what? They probably didn’t appreciate that particle accelerator half as much because they were never lead. They only know one perspective.

Meanwhile, the tiny bit of gold, formerly a regular chunk of lead knows what it was and where it came from, and is now transmuted. It has two perspectives; but not a whole lot of experience being gold. And it’s small bit of gold; humble, because everybody keeps saying how the return on investment is so low. But companies also talk a lot about thinking outside of boxes, innovation, new ideas, fresh perspectives. Hire more gold!

And that, my friends, is why they keep on doing things the same old way.