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The Embarrassing State of Technical and Industry Knowledge


Robby

I meet a lot of jobseekers in Central Indiana. And when I say a “lot”, I mean that most weeks I have coffee with one, and most months I give a speech to a group of jobseekers.

It’s hard to characterize people who are out of work. Some have been unemployed for a day, some for a year. Others are optimistic and entrepreneurial. But one common trend is that jobseekers seem to not actually know anything.

Facepalm
© Flickr User whatleydude

Of course, this isn’t true. People know lots of things. Far and away, people living today are the most educated and knowledgable group of human beings in the history of the planet. But it really seems like people don’t know things. What do I mean?

Technical Knowledge: Information About Procedures, Practices, Approaches, and Theories

If you want a job, you’ve got to have at least a little technical knowledge about the job you might want. This isn’t just for tech companies, either. Here are some actual conversations I’ve had with people:

Jobseeker: “I live on the far northwest side of Indianapolis, and I’m thinking about applying at Subaru.”
Me: “That’s great! What do you like about their current models?”
Jobseeker: “Uh…”

Jobseeker: “I would love to work at ExactTarget. What a great company!”
Me: “You mean Salesforce? I think they were acquired in 2014 and changed their name.”
Jobseeker: “Really? I didn’t know that. Is ExactTarget still around?”

Jobseeker: “I a, looking for a management role. I enjoy leading teams of people.”
Me: “That’s good. Who are the management gurus you really like? Is there a particular popular management philosophy you follow?”
Jobseeker: “Uh…”

Those aren’t intended to be gotcha questions. I am trying to find out more about what the person wants. Imagine if the first person said: “Of the three models they currently manufacture there, I like the Impreza—but what I’m really interested in is the SIA Foundation, which is their charitable giving wing.” Or if the second person had said “Right, SalesForce ExactTarget Marketing Cloud.” Or if the third person had been able to name any management experts from Sheryl Sandberg to Peter Drucker to Jack Welch.

Industry Knowledge: What’s Happening Among Competitors

If you’re interested in one company, you need to know the names of at least two of their competitors. If you are interested in a particular field, you need to know some upcoming trends that are distinct to that field. If you are interested in a particular profession, you need to know at least one of the current ethical issues in that profession.

I recently had a conversation with an individual who worked for a travel insurance provider, and was thinking of making a switch.

Jobseeker: “I generally like what I do, but I want to maybe switch to another company.”
Me: “That’s good. So, are you thinking Seven Corners, International Medical Group, or maybe HCC? Or are you looking elsewhere?”
Jobseeker: “Uh, what are those?”
Me: “Those are all companies that sell travel insurance based here in Indianapolis.”
Jobseeker: “Wow, really?”

Doesn’t look good, does it?

The Truth Is You Probably Do Know

Jobseekers really aren’t as ignorant as these questions make them seem. And in fact, if they thought for a while, they might be able to answer these questions. But this is the kind of information that needs to be top of mind.

And more importantly, it’s stuff jobseekers should be volunteering instead of waiting to be asked.

So, speak up. Show that you know. And, you’ll find opportunity!

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About the Blogger: Robby Slaughter is a productivity speaker and expert. He is a principal with a AccelaWork, an Indianapolis consulting firm.

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