You don’t have to look far on job boards like SEEK or Linkedin to find entry-level Marketing opportunities with outlandish requirements – recent graduates needing years of experience and an in-depth understanding of the industry is one not-so-extreme examples which is easy to find.
This predicament is known as the credibility paradox which many less experienced candidates face as they try to find their first job. To see success, young workers – or anyone trying to start a new career with little experience in their chosen field – needs to be seen as credible before being given the opportunity to gain the experience from the ground up. If hitting the ground running was a job requirement, these candidates need to have covered the ground before even having started thanks to the credibility paradox.
For these inexperienced candidates, it’s critical to conquer this challenge. Making a strong start to your career will give you access to experiences and opportunities that will help you get noticed, learn and grow in your career, and allow you to be seen as a ‘high potential’ candidate by colleagues and recruiters alike. It isn’t only the young who will benefit from overcoming this dilemma, as it’s important for companies who spend huge sums and countless hours recruiting, interviewing, screening and eventually onboarding their employees
In a new initiative at Brandeis University’s Perlmutter Institute for Global Business Leadership, Andy Molinksy and Jake Newfield studied the problem of the credibility paradox. Findings suggested that it may be less of a paradox than we think – and there are some resources that these candidates can utilise to overcome the problem, with direct actions to build the experience that they are in need of and compensate for any shortcomings.
Here are five common activities that young professionals, or those looking to pivot to another career can do to jump-start their search and revitalise leadership trajectory.
Utilise your research skills
Developing a unique knowledge that makes you the “go to resource” for your clients and colleagues is one of the best ways to stand out at an organisation. The most effective way of doing this, outside of working in an organisation for a long time, is using your research skills to master industry specific knowledge, information and trends that can be gathered from relevant industry magazines, books and YouTube videos from thought leaders.
If you’re a recent graduate from university, the likelihood is you already possess the research skills needed to do this. But, if you don’t, this is an area that you can work on. Finding out what specific types of knowledge people in your industry crave – and lack – and build your expertise around it. If you can master a topic, this makes you a unique and helpful resource for solving business problems. You’ll be able to build credibility very quickly, and held in high esteem as a source of information by your colleagues.
Identify and embrace your USP
Asking some basic questions of yourself and your skillset will help you come up with areas in which you can contribute value to a business. For example, what have you been praised for in the past? Which areas do you feel you do your best work? Think about the best version of you and how you might describe that to someone. What would that look like? Using the answers to these self-reflection questions will help you generate strengths and resources that can become your USP for a strong start in your career and the springboard for fast tracking your professional growth.
There is also the consideration of your own personal background. Although you may or may not have worked in the specific industry in the past, there is a chance you may possess useful insights because of your geographic or demographic background alone. A young professional might have ideas that resonate with people like themselves, which is invaluable to a business with this as one of their buyer personas. You don’t want to be pigeonholed as someone that only speaks from a particular perspective based on their background, but this can be an effective starting point to build credibility and positive regard for a newcomer to the field and organisation.
A great example of a USP from a marketing perspective is growing a strong understanding of SEO or SEM, as this is an area in which many businesses outsource to external agencies. If you can demonstrate this as a specialty and identify opportunities for the business to improve on, this will set you apart from many young professionals without this experience.
The power of determination, grit, and the willingness to take on an unenviable assignment shouldn’t be underestimated. If the opportunity presents itself to volunteer and make a good impression with a senior colleague, even if it doesn’t sound riveting, throw your hand up (assuming you have the right skill set to deliver, of course). Opportunities are abound to prove yourself, and taking advantage of these to grow your importance and stature is a great way to overcome the paradox many job seekers are facing.
Communicate proactively and manage your workload.
We know that experience and knowledge take a long time to cultivate, but managing your workload and communicating effectively will immediately establish a reputation for reliability with your superiors. Know when you’re taking on too much, and say no judiciously (though as a junior employee, err on “yes” unless you really feel overtaxed). If you anticipate any difficulty in meeting a deadline, discuss it with your superior as soon as possible, and ask for guidance when you need it. Don’t be afraid to ask questions. And don’t forget the importance of following through.
Bringing every single assignment to its conclusion without leaving any details hanging or deadlines unmet will mean you may not be the most experienced person in the room, but you can become one of the most reliable.
Build a network of close relationships
For those starting out in a new industry, your goal over time should be to build a deep, varied network of trusted colleagues that will be able to provide you with ongoing advice and feedback as you progress in your career. Starting out, your Linkedin may be a bit empty in terms of trusted connections, but you will be surprised how quickly you can build up a network for yourself.
Follow a similar approach you took in your schooling and post-graduation. You created a network of friends and academic colleagues in college and likely had to network when you looked for your job in the first place. Leverage these skills and apply them to your current situation. Invite coworkers to lunch. Identify senior colleagues you admire and get a feel for how you can use the organisations culture to connect with them. In some companies, you might be able to invite them directly to lunch or a coffee meeting. In others, you might want to wait until you’ve had more work experience with them before deepening the network tie.
Ultimately, the key is to work hard at getting to know as many people as possible on a professional, or even more personal level. These connections can prove to be critical to your development and growth, whether its as a sounding board for future ideas, mentors or potential advocates for you and your work. Demonstrate to them your commitment and motivation, as well as relevant expertise and when possible – find ways you can help them with their work.
Expertise and value won’t be built on it’s own, and your colleagues won’t see you as a crucial part of the organisation until you prove yourself as one. However, by developing the confidence to leverage the assets, tools and capabilities that you already have, credibility paradox can be surpassed whilst jump-starting a successful career in the process.
This article was repurposed from a piece in the Harvard Business Review.