Monday, May 27, 2024

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Years of experience Vs Skills – A broken system?

I want a System Administration job. I type the query “system administration jobs” in Google and go on to check the proceeding websites for their listings. Several listings on LinkedIn are appealing. I can configure Windows and Linux Server, I can set up networks, I am good with both hardware and software firewalls, routers are my hobby, VLANS are an easy task for me to set up. Diagnosing network problems? Show me where. It seems like the perfect job for me. So I keep reading the listing. The last three paragraphs make my face drop. They want someone with 7 or more years of experience working in such an environment. How I’m I expected to have that? I am just four years since graduating. Adding my years doing the same in university they add up to 6, if that is even to be considered. Job advertisers don’t even get back to applicants even if they qualify for the jobs, so I just skip this one and move on. Seventeen minutes into my search, everyone wants all the skills I have, but not the years I have. So I give up my search. Back to self-reflection. Where are my gods at?

I’m in the tech world. And I can confidently say one does not need 7 years of configuring servers to learn to do it right. I mean I could set up a full network in my third year in university. So where has the system gone wrong? Do we have this huge number of skilled young people out here jobless because of this corporate culture? Then who are in those offices?

A quick online skim will reveal a lot about the corporate culture in most institutions. Young skilled minds are hired on interim basis and interns of short-term contracts and do all the hard lifting. A simple bribe of a salary a tad higher than the average one will keep them there for as long as the employer wants.

I have been a victim of this. A government parastatal was once updating a hardware for their software in a countrywide campaign. Where I was working I expected some really tech-savvy individuals given the fragile nature of the hardware and the job at hand. I was surprised when two men aged past 40 years came as the IT guys. But I thought they know what they were doing. Boy, was I surprised when I, as the intern, had to show them around the simple Windows Control Panel. In short, I ended up reading the new gadget’s manual and doing the upgrade myself, a mere intern.

Corporate BS

Corporates have this culture that many years of experience make a better employee. I’m inclined to agree that this is true mostly in managerial jobs, where if one has been a manager for long, then they are more reliable and capable. But for technical jobs, there is no valid way I can believe that this notion will stand. I have seen university going students develop so good software that I, as a seasoned developer, have to give my credits.

A screening technique?

I’d be lying if I said that some recruiters don’t use the “years of experience” benchmark to screen candidates out. Some do. Especially when they receive a high volume of applications, as it’s an easy (albeit kind of oversimplified) way to narrow down the applicant pool. But, if you’re able to convey your knowledge in a way that makes it easy for a prospective employer to see how your unique abilities would complement their needs, you stand a decent chance of surviving this initial test.

Here’s the deal: If you meet at least 80% of the requirements listed in a particular posting, don’t overthink it—just apply.

Not quite there? That’s OK, too. If it’s something you’re really excited about, and you realistically think you can handle the job, give it a shot. But don’t forget to stack the deck in your favor by drafting a customized cover letter, updating your resume, linking your personal website and using your network to get in touch with people who work at the company you’re pursuing.

How do you know if you’re wasting your time? By keeping it real. If you don’t have any transferable skills (unlikely unless you’re doing a major transition) or if the number of years outlined in the posting is way more extensive than anything close to what you’ve experienced in your career thus far (like 10 years when you only have one), you may want to think twice about dedicating time to that particular application.

Ultimately, whether or not you qualify is more about the full package you offer, not some arbitrary period of time.

Most hiring managers are going to be way more excited about an applicant with a clear passion and demonstrated exposure to some of the key elements of the role they’re trying to fill than a candidate who has the exact number of years they decided to include on the listing. Don’t let the fact that you don’t meet every single criterion in a job description hold you back.

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