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Companies hire skill sets, not job titles

A recent client had just completed his computer science degree. Currently, he was working as a delivery driver for a national courier service. Prior to that, he had been in the Navy. He was ready to launch his computer industry career starting as help desk technician.

He told me he had absolutely no help desk experience. He feared finding even an entry level position “in this market” with his background. He told me I’d see by his job titles, nothing in his background related to help desk work.

OK. I was up for the challenge.

We started talking. As a driver, he interacted with customers all day long. Frequently he listened to their problems, and either resolved them or gave them direction toward resolution. He also updated package deliveries in real-time every time he scanned a package, adding any pertinent notes and ensuring record accuracy.

In his last 18 months with the Navy, he was a Pay Specialist for a Naval Operations Support Center processing payroll for 600 reservists, and handling inquiries from more than 2000 reservists assigned to the center.

While there:

  • He took on a project to convert paper records to electronic files. He completed the project four months ahead of schedule.
  • He ran and reviewed payroll, ensuring accuracy, prior to submission.
  • He responded to inquiries from any one of the 2000 reservists all day, every day. He troubleshot email account and system access difficulties; and resolved system lock-out issues for the entire department.
  • He uploaded data to mainframe personnel systems, and verified it was error-free.

Photo by TikTik via Flickr

During deployment he’d updated, in real-time, detainee movement within a maximum-security facility. As a mechanic, he’d created a spreadsheet controlling safety gear inventory for 200 sailors.

After we’d finished with the information gathering segment, I said, “So you’ve don’t have any help desk experience, huh? He politely replied, “No, ma’am.” I softly chuckled, and said, “Let’s recap.”

You troubleshot email and information access systems, responded to inquires about any topic from email, to deployment orders, to payroll to whatever any one of 2000 reservist or someone from headquarters, for that matter, can think to ask. As a driver you’re dealing with people face-to-face. Sometimes they’re angry, and you calm them down. You’ve updated databases information in civilian and military positions. You’re used to working in a fast-paced, get-it-done now environment, and have great follow-up skills, ensuring resolution, and customer satisfaction.

With a smile in my voice, I said, “Yep. I’d have to agree. You have absolutely no help desk experience at all.”

Had we been sitting face-to-face, I am convinced I would have seen the “cartoon-style” light bulb appear over his head as he realized, he absolutely, positively DID have help desk skills.

He excitedly exclaimed, “Miss Dawn. With that one bit of insight, you just earned every single penny I paid you, and then some. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you.”

Companies hire skill sets, not job titles. Skills are transferable, but it is up to the job seeker to define their skills in relation to hiring company needs, not the confines of past job titles. Take a step back from what you were called and take a look at what you did.


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  1. I love your recap, Dawn, and your colorful ability to drive the story home!

    It’s also such a huge compliment to you that your client recognized that the value of his investment was returned even BEFORE the resume/career portfolio ‘products’ were delivered.

    Well done!

    Jacqui – One of your biggest fans

    • Dawn says:

      Thanks, Jacqui. That’s a mutual admiration society we got goin’ on! 🙂

      And yep. Very nice he saw the value of partnering with a career professional, before any writing was done. You can feel a surge of energy when a client has that light-bulb moment. I love it!

  2. DawnBugni says:


    What a terrific post and one every job seeker should read. By sharing this man’s story, you drive home the point that it makes no sense to screen oneself out of a job by not aligning your skills to it. Selection is what managers do. Applying is what we do.

    This is a wonderful example how the objectivity of a career professional can educate and motivate someone who has something of value to bring to the marketplace.

    A fabulous piece,

  3. […] Hiring managers want to know what you’ve done in the past, but they also need to know how your work will benefit them in the future. The right kind of reframing reveals both. (For guidance in portraying your past in honest yet illuminating ways, see these examples of showcasing transferable skills and experiences.) […]

  4. I agree in this that the big companies want experienced person for their job requirement not only the person with good degree.

  5. […] To get a better idea of just how well qualified this potential candidate was check out Dawn’s post here. […]

  6. This is quite an interesting look at how recruits should position themselves in a job interview or resume. This might just be the ticket for one’s resume to stand out from the rest!

    In addition, I think this can help those who are considering a career change but fear that their college degree might be too different from the actual work they want to apply for.

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