I was asked to participate, along with my colleague Amy Krenzke, in a recent panel discussion hosted by the Association for Talent Development’s (ATD) Southeastern Wisconsin chapter. Not knowing much of what it would entail, I responded the way any logical professional would. YES, PLEASE AND THANK YOU.

It’s like Richard Branson said, “If somebody offers you an amazing opportunity, but you are not sure you can do it, say yes – then learn how to do it later!” In other words, “fake it till you make it,” a philosophy that has always been a favorite of mine.

As imagined, it was an incredible experience. We were treated to a wonderful networking opportunity, along with a beautifully transparent dialogue regarding learning and development challenges in the workforce. There were also general insights that we as recruiters would do well to remember as we progress through our own professional careers.

1. Certifications and degrees are great, but employers want to see how you’ve utilized those skills in the REAL WORLD.

While those certifications and letters after your name may get you in the door, it will be up to you to truly validate your expertise on the matter by providing concrete examples. Classroom experience is not enough. If you find yourself needing that real-world experience, put your skills and knowledge to use by volunteering at a nonprofit, church, school or at your current place of employment. You may not get a monetary reward, but having solid examples of your real-world contributions will undoubtedly set you apart. Organizations will most likely always accept or at least appreciate you helping benefit their overall mission. For example, I have a fascination with branding and marketing, but that doesn’t really apply to my daily communication with hiring managers or candidates. And that’s how I find myself on the PTO board of my son’s school, creating marketing materials, logos, and managing the social media pages. It sounds like more work – and it is – but it also allows me to stay engaged and continually improve upon a unique skillset that I know adds to my overall value.

2. You don’t need to present yourself as the expert in EVERYTHING.

It is always best practice to continue learning and keep abreast on industry changes. Participating in webinars, attending live seminars, and (my personal favorite) listening to a daily TED Talk, will most certainly shed valuable insight. Of course, it is always essential to present yourself as a knowledgeable resource to those on your team, your employer, and most certainly your clients. But it just isn’t realistic to expect yourself to be the subject matter expert in everything. This is where your past experiences and networking come into play. Knowing how and when to leverage your contacts is crucial. Formal networking groups are not the only medium to grow your professional contacts. Look around, people are everywhere. You have an opportunity to meet and learn about someone with every potential handshake. Whether it be in the cafeteria at work, or a neighbor’s BBQ, there is always the opportunity to introduce yourself and start building those professional bridges. Additionally, social media provides us mass exposure to other professionals nationwide and even globally. While intimidating and a bit overwhelming, if this card is played appropriately, its advantages can be exponential. Interact within groups and on multiple boards to improve your social presence and build your professional credibility.

3. Your career may not look like a straight upward line, and that’s OK.

For anyone who is relentlessly ambitious, rising up the corporate ladder – and FAST – is the top priority. But that typically isn’t how life would have it. The doors to your preferred opportunities will not always open. There will be times when you may have to take a lateral move instead of a promotional one, and that’s totally acceptable. Believe it or not, sometimes it’s even beneficial. Whether you accept a lateral move, or change industries altogether, the more well-rounded experience you can bring to the table, the more it will be to your advantage. Take my professional life, for example. I started my career in the fast-paced world of real estate, responsible for managing transactions from start to finish and catering to the needs of my clients. When I transitioned into Talent Acquisition, it was by no means a climb up the ladder. It was, however, the right move for me. I absolutely love what I do now, and couldn’t imagine doing anything else. So, do I value the past experience that led me down this path? ABSOLUTELY. Real estate showed me how to be a project manager, and how to thrive in a super-fast, super-demanding, and ever-changing environment. It taught me how to provide the utmost service to my clients and how to present myself professionally in less-than-ideal situations. Just because your career moves aren’t all upward doesn’t mean you haven’t gained relevant and transferrable experience.

As recruiters, our focus is constantly on helping other people find the next step in their careers. But it’s important that we not forget to think about our own paths now and again. Hopefully, these tips have provided some guidance and reassurance as you make your way through a career that is uniquely your own.


Post contributed by Cristal Nobles, Recruiter. You can connect with her on LinkedIn.