Editor’s Note: The author of this post, Kim Kaull, is Stanton Communications’ newest intern. Most intern applicants come to our firm with relevant PR experience gained through college coursework and prior internships. Kim requested that we consider her despite a lack of such background. Frankly, we did so with some skepticism. As a follow-up to our meeting with Kim, she submitted the following perspectives that we found so compelling and well-considered, we want to share them with Strategy Room visitors. We also want to introduce you to her as the newest member of our team.
Searching for a job is daunting, especially when trying to break into an industry with little or no prior experience. You can work well, love to learn, and have confidence in your capacity to excel as an employee. Your skill set, however, may be limited to the ability to multitask, efficiently manage 10 social media accounts, and anticipate situations three steps ahead. Even though you are perfectly primed for employment, the difficult task remains in just landing an initial opportunity to present yourself. If, with persistence, you are successful in getting that initial meeting, you have basically one chance to market yourself and impress your potential employer with your talents if not your wealth of background in their field.
When the product you are marketing is you, here are four considerations that may help going into that first meeting:
It’s a Conversation, Not an Interrogation
Let this be your mantra. Remembering that you are entering into a conversation will positively affect your mindset and the energy you bring to the room. You are meeting with living breathing human beings, and people at a quality company will acknowledge the same of you. This is a chance to honestly convey who you are, what interests you, and why your innate capabilities are relevant to the company’s needs. A natural conversation is often more revealing than a discussion of specific work products or experiences.
Explain the Value of Unrelated Experience
Even as you acknowledge the fact that you have no experience in this field, be sure to articulate the value of the experience you do have. For instance, if your resume shows that you taught sailing in the summers, define the worth of that choice. Point out that you didn’t spend your time bumming around in boats all summer. There are many valuable and marketable skills gained from teaching sailing that should not be glossed over.
For example, teaching a complicated sport not only requires knowledge of essential skills, but appreciation for the human and time management dimensions that are applicable in a boat under sail as well as in a professional work environment.
Specifically, each day on the water involves managing opposing personalities in constantly changing and oftendangerous conditions. It means piling utter novices into a powerful, expensive machine and setting them free. The ability to teach this sport well means you are sufficiently mature, confident and able to diplomatically handle all kinds of people, including those who are older and far more successful than you. Confidence in your skills and your ability to keep everyone safe as they embark on new experiences requires excellent communication, genuine compassion and real patience, attributes all vital to a successful and thriving workplace.
Listen Well and Ask Good Questions
Go into your meeting with an open mind and a willingness to learn. Ask questions that help you develop a clear picture of the field you want to enter, and in particular what this company stands for and expects. As you outline what sets you apart from other potential employees, ask the same of the people you are meeting with. You are entering a new field with no experience: one of the best ways to learn is to listen carefully and align your interests with those of your potential employer.
While you are listening, think about what else you can learn from what is said. The individuals in your meeting have taken time away from their work to meet with you. They are experts in what they do. Ask them to share their perspectives and experiences. Show you are as interested in them as you wish them to be in you. Be grateful for the information and advice they provide. Using a sailing analogy, prepare for the possible “tacks” the conversation may take. Have the proper documents prepared to showcase certain skills, such as writing, if it is applicable.
After your meeting, take time to digest the conversation. Evaluate the skills and abilities you have to offer against the information you learned about the company. When you decide that you have the potential to succeed in this field and this company, follow-up to tell them why. If it is not a good fit, explain that too. In short, understand that the interview doesn’t end when you leave the office. Their consideration of your potential value continues afterwards. When, based on what you learned in the interview, you conclude that you are keenly interested in the company, let them know and reaffirm the skill set you will apply to your work.
And don’t forget to say thank you.