Tag Archives: industry experience

The one where I’m now in the family

Last November I wrote a post entitled ‘The one where it’s in the family’ where I expressed my frustration with what appeared, at least to me, the closed-minded thinking of some people about considering hiring people who had worked outside their industry. At the time people shared some interesting points of view and at the very least it made me feel better.

Now 6 months later I sit here learning to be part of a new ‘family’ lead by people who have done what I hoped more people would that is hired someone from outside their industry and actually made a point of welcoming the outside point of view. That’s all well and good – I am loving my job and the people I work with are being very supportive in sharing the industry specifics I will need to be effective.  However, it got me thinking about the behaviour one needs to exhibit in order to firstly deliver the role but more importantly make the risk those hiring took pay back and bring the ‘non-industry insight’ to bear.

So far the list is only five items long but here goes:

1. Be comfortable looking stupid

There are loads of things you don’t know that you will need to know. Asking means admitting you don’t know and that’s OK. Don’t let the fear of looking stupid or being the one person who doesn’t know stop you asking. The most powerful impact could be in asking a question about something that everyone takes for granted but a fresh pair of eyes that can see differently – it could be a game changer.

2. Share but don’t drone…

Count to yourself how many times you start a sentence with “When I worked for X” or “When I worked in Y”. Using your previous experience and providing some validation to an observation is essential but be aware of the risk of switching people off or worse have them actively whingeing about all the ‘company X’ stories

3. Don’t let specifics drown your perceptions

Yes each industry or sector has a lot of specifics and part of being able to deliver a role will be understanding those specifics but largely speaking people are people and don’t let the specifics drown out or cloud your perceptions – they are probably right.

4. Some people will defend with specifics

If people around you feel threatened either by your role or a new person in the environment they may use the specifics to try and defend a position or even to challenge your validity. That’s OK. Let them defend, understand their defence, don’t swing at the pitch but use this to build your understanding of the organisation and the individual

5. Take the time

Not knowing stuff is OK (according to my therapist!!) and whilst we all want to feel confident and part of things it’s OK to take time to understand the organisation, it’s culture, it’s people and it’s secret language. Don’t beat yourself up or let your lack of instant understand damage your confidence – take the time.

So 3 weeks done and my security pass hasn’t been revoked yet. If anyone has anything ideas of things to add to this post I would be grateful because sitting and writing it has been as much about me focussing on what I need to do as sharing any insight I may have and with that I will leave you to a new week and kick off week 4 and learn several new three letter acronyms!



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The one where it’s in the family

I am currently job hunting. I have made no secret of it and although I have chosen not to discuss the blow-by-blow activities of my job hunt here there is something that I would like to share and get some views on.

I understand and am quite comfortable with the idea that some jobs in some industries are very specific. I understand that in order to be a surgeon, a bricklayer, a commodities broker, a lawyer or a book editor that I will need very specific skills that are also very specific to that role and industry. However, I work in learning and development.

Whilst my roles have included elements of industry specific development it’s been my stakeholders that have given me that specific knowledge and my expertise has been in how to transfer that and in the delivery of the ensuring programme. Likewise developing managers and leaders always has some context but the general skills and abilities one would require to deliver that work are very transportable (in my opinion and that of others) and again I can ask the correct questions of the correct people to understand and embed the context into the work.

Therefore I am surprised when on a regular basis I am told that I am not worthy of consideration for a role (my words not theirs) because I don’t have for example ‘financial services’ background. Having reflected on this at length (there’s plenty of reflection time at the moment) there’s a few reason that come to mind but this is just my starter for 10:

  1. The world is being an insecure teenager at the moment so managing it’s insecurities by making industry background a prerequisite
  2. ‘No one gets fired for buying IBM’ – is it individuals playing safe on hiring ‘people like us’ to make sure they are not exposed in the organisation?
  3. Some industries, even in transportable roles such as mine, are just very different, very complex and need specialists?
  4. The individual manager doesn’t want to have to invest the time getting an individual up to speed on context?

That list is by no means exhaustive and I would love to know your thoughts on them and any other reasons you can think of…

One final thought, given the events of the past few years is it just me that thinks that some industries could do with actively seeking talent from outside their own sphere in order to gain objectivity and challenge from people who weren’t inside their respective bubble when it burst? No? Just me????

I was going to try and work in the analogy of people who intermarry and therefore reduce the diversity of the gene pool with a ha ha reference to the British Royal Family but it didn’t seem to fit anywhere but think about it for a second 😉



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