So… I'm sitting in my local Costco foodcourt recently… enjoying my $1.50 Polish Sausage and Diet Coke (one of the best quick cheap lunches anywhere). Sitting at the table next to me were 2 people also enjoying a lunch away from their office, apparently discussing the staff in their department and evaluating different individuals.
I wasn't trying to eavesdrop (honest!). However, they were speaking relatively loudly and I couldn't help but overhear bits and pieces of their conversation. I don't know their business reporting relationship, however, it appeared that it was a manager and perhaps a subordinate supervisor, or team-lead.
One comment that stuck out, reminded me how important it is for job seekers to not only make clear that they can do a particular job, but that they have greater future potential as well.
In the conversation I overheard, one person said: "Nancy never comes to me with new ideas or trends she sees, or any insight. She does her job very well, but I don't see any real advancement potential."
I have no idea what business these people were in, and I obviously don't know "Nancy". However, it would probably be reasonable to assume that Nancy thought her career was going well. She apparently "does her job very well" and so she may expect that she has a bright future in the organization. It's likely that her job description never said anything about suggesting "new ideas" or "trends" or "insights". However, those things were clearly an expectation of the people she reports to.
When an employer is considering multiple candidates, most of whom are likely able to do the job well, one of the factors they are likely to look for is whether the person seems to exhibit behaviors that will make them promotable in the future. Certainly they need someone that can do the job at hand. However, a good manager is always looking for people that will also be able to grow in the organization. How do they determine that? Here are some thoughts…
History of career growth. When considering a potential new hire, one way an employer tries to determine if the person might have potential for advancement is whether they've demonstrated growth in the past. Certainly previous promotions are a solid indicator and should be emphasized on the resume and in the interview. However, even if there wasn't a prior promotion in title, have you been given increased responsibilities? Has your previous company shown a growing trust in your competency and abilities by entrusting you with larger tasks, allowed you to work more independently, put you in situations to mentor others? It's equally important to make sure those things are pointed out in your resume and interviews as well.
Examples. Preparation for interviews is always critical. Having, and being able to articulate examples of previous growth situations should be part of your preparation. Examples of situations where you've shown initiative to do things that were above and beyond your specific job requirements are an excellent way to show your growth potential. Where have you shown that you're not only focused on doing your job well, but you are interested in adding additional value to the organization and can tactfully and adeptly communicate them and implement them.
Insightful questions. Asking questions about the challenges that the position, the department, and the company face can show an interest in becoming a greater solution than simply doing the job. The interview is not the place to offer up solutions to all their problems when you only have partial information. However, asking some questions about broader challenges can certainly show that you are interested in the bigger picture, and so may have growth potential.
Connect the dots. Learning about the culture in the organization and the personal characteristics that are generally valued can be a tremendous asset when trying to show your advancement potential. Emphasize the character traits you have, and how they've been demonstrated in previous roles, that match the characteristics of their culture. You have to know yourself well, and see the match when culture matters are discussed. However, if you can help them see a connection between your personality and strengths to their corporate culture, it will go a long way toward gaining their further interest.
Clearly showing that you can do the job is only part of getting to an offer. You must be able to show you have greater potential and are promotable in the organization as well.