Q: I am looking for a job in just about any field. I have a degree in English and have worked in many fields including brewing and cell phone repair, as well as customer service. I can learn exceptionally quickly. How can I convey to potential employers that I can learn anything and put forward 100% effort without sounding self important?
A: Great question. Former co-workers, colleagues and managers are an excellent place to start. People that have worked with you in past roles probably know you work hard and produce quality work. Begin connecting and re-connecting with these contacts on LinkedIn and in person. Your contacts can refer you to companies with the following message: “This is a strong candidate. Strong work ethic. Learns quickly. Willing to do what it takes.” It is easier for a professional contact to refer you to another professional in their network especially if that former colleague has observed your work firsthand. It is also less awkward for a professional contact to give you high praise.
If you have a LinkedIn profile, ask some of your former co-workers and managers to write recommendations on LinkedIn. These recommendations can share “real-life” examples of your work ethic and your ability to learn a job quickly. They can also endorse your skills and expertise in specific areas like customer service, graphic design or business development (whichever apply to your career). Employers are often checking a LinkedIn profile before they even invite a candidate in for a live interview.
Make sure that your resume is crisp, error-free and well-designed. I think sometimes English majors are held to a higher standard!
During an interview (either via telephone, video chat or in person), weave some of these attributes in your responses. As an example:
Q: Mary, tell me a little bit about what your manager at ABC Company would say about your performance in your role as a Customer Service Rep?
A: Mike Smith was my manager at ABC. I really enjoyed working for him. I am a high-energy quick learner and he allowed me to learn new skills that were not even part of my formal job description. As an example, I developed a knack of using some of the unused modules available in our software to better troubleshoot customer complaints. I was able to train others on how to use these modules and features. I think it helped us resolve customer complaints more quickly and efficiently.
Lastly, if a cover letter is requested, include some of these attributes in your cover letter.
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Patricia Hunt Sinacole is president of First Beacon Group LLC, a human resources consulting firm in Hopkinton. She works with clients across many industries including technology, biotech and medical devices, financial services, and healthcare, and has over 20 years of human resources experience.
Elaine Varelas is managing partner at Keystone Partners, a career management firm in Boston and serves on the board of Career Partners International.
Cindy Atoji Keene is a freelance journalist with more than 25 years experience. E-mail her directly here.
Peter Post is the author of "The Etiquette Advantage in Business." Email questions about business etiquette to him directly here.
Stu Coleman, a partner and general manager at WinterWyman, manages the firm's Financial Contracting division, and provides strategic staffing services to Boston-area organizations needing Accounting and Finance workforce solutions and contract talent.
Tracy Cashman is Senior Vice President and Partner of the Information Technology search division at WinterWyman. She has 20 years of experience partnering with clients in the Boston area to conduct technology searches in a wide variety of industries and technology.
Paul Hellman is the founder of Express Potential, which specializes in executive communication skills. He consults and speaks internationally on how to capture attention & influence others. Email him directly here.