One Lesson from Humans of New York

I saw this posting on Humans of New York a while back, and it got me thinking.

It wasn’t the “lying on the job application” thing that really interested me – it’s the fact that this man identified a gap in his knowledge that was holding him back from achieving something.

Instead of just lying about it on his resume and crossing his fingers to hope for the best, he buckled down and taught himself much of what he needed to know.

On my resume and in job interviews, I try to highlight the one skill of which I am truly proud, and it’s this: that whatever I don’t know, I will learn (relatively quickly) by researching it myself. Sure, I’ll take hints, tips, and informative handouts! But really, I’m more proud of how resourceful I am when it comes to trying to learn new skills.

The other day, I taught myself how to use Excel (well, Google Spreadsheets, and, well, not anything extremely complex). I KNOW it isn’t rocket science, yeah, yeah, yeah… But I didn’t have to take a class, you know? I scanned “help” items, looked at what other users were doing, and did some trial-and-error. But I figured it out in not-too-long-a-time.

I believe that it’s this kind of behavior (totally tooting my own horn now, I guess!) that gets you ahead. I don’t condone lying on a resume, let’s be clear! However, I do absolutely think that one has to look for opportunities and teach oneself new skills to not just stay current in one’s own job, but to move up in (or out of) one’s career.

I haven’t lied on a resume, but I’ve definitely presented myself as being more comfortable with certain topics than I was at the time. Sometimes you just have to get in there as soon as you have the opportunity (assuming you’re hired based on all the amazing research you did before the interview) and then make up for lost time the best you can.

My day job involves working with people who are balancing jobs (much like this man’s retail position), families (like his son), and education to better their situations. I’ve considered some other options for this man – alternatives to lying on his resume. The best one I came up with was:

– Simply to teach himself all of those skills beforehand and be able to speak intelligently about the topic. Once he had done his research and done a lot of practice, he could create a portfolio to show to potential employers and begin applying for positions that are in the field. Despite not having actual experience in the field, he would demonstrate his drive and his familiarity with the kind of work required, without lying.

Of course, for jobs that require experience, he would certainly not be considered qualified. Add to that the large number of people applying for a small number of jobs, and it’s likely he wouldn’t be considered for the kind of positions he wanted. I definitely understand why he did what he did – and I’m glad that he didn’t end up getting caught (at least, I hope that sharing his story HONY didn’t wind up getting him recognized by his bosses!).

I’d love to know what your thoughts are! Have you ever misrepresented yourself in order to snag an interview or a job? Do you consider any of your skills to be self-taught? What have you found to be the skill that makes you most valuable to potential employers?


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