Thursday, May 11, 2006

Looking for head

This little jaunt over to the UK hasn't been quite the joyride I was expecting. Employers haven't thrown themselves at my feet and begged me to work for them for absurdly high daily rates on account of my fabulously broad range of experience, ability to turn out quality results, and dedication to lightening the mood at even the most serious meeting by the injection of some camp humour and the odd bawdy double-entendre. Funny that.

However, it's not been too bad either.

One of the biggest problems I face is that I have very highly developed generic skills, honed over years in various consultancies, but a lot of employers are looking for a very specific thing, such as 5 years in front-office energy futures trading, or experience with Blue Martini v2.04.

I often find that my generic skills - documentation, process analysis, software architecture - are often better developed than those of the folks who have been working in a specific area of business for years, or with a specific tool for years. When that happens, there can be a great synergy. I learn the business or the toolset from them, they learn how to create better documentation, how to map processes more effectively, how to design or at least depict their solution architecture more clearly.

Unfortunately, my strongest skills are hard to demonstrate at an interview. Everyone who does what I do (business analysis with a techie bent) claims to be great at documentation. Few of them are. It's one area where I really do feel that I excel. How can I prove that to an interviewer, though? And why would they take the risk?

Despite all this, I've been head-hunted a couple of times lately. One of them is for a permanent role. The job itself sounds fantastic, but the fact that it's permanent puts me right off. Amusingly, it's almost for a company that have employed me before. I've said if they're having a hard time getting permies, I'd be happy to contract for them. Fingers crossed.

Another is also a permanent role (computer says "no"), this time in data warehousing (yawn), something that I've done more of than I'd care to admit. A third is a contract role involving a lot of travel (boo), and a software product that I'm not hugely fond of.

The fun thing is that for each of these roles, I have been approached by about six different agencies, all within a few days of each other. I don't know what hormonal markers there are on my CV, but they obviously have the same effect on specific agents when faced with the same job spec.

Now, if only only one of those specs required all my core skills, was located in Docklands, and commanded a nice fat day rate ...

11 comments:

Jay said...

You could always levitate yourself into the room. If I were the interviewer, honestly, I wouldn't need to see anything else (though a big package might get you a bigger package).

Qenny said...

I don't know if I work in the kind of industry that will give me a bigger package in return for having a big package of my own. Sadly.

frobisher said...

"This little jaunt over to the UK" - where are you from then? Are the Magic Circle aware of this fact?

Qenny said...

Oh, I'm from Scotland, but I'm now based in NZ, and only over here for a few years to make some nice big British pounds and drag them back down under. The Magic Circle have members all over the world, and they thrive on their international reputation, so they're sweet with the whole idea. As long as I keep paying the membership fees.

Tickersoid said...

I know what you mean. You can be a queen of all trades and still be better than specialists. Pity about the demonstrability of your forte.

Sometimes I wonder if I really am a steel worker.

Da Nator said...

1. I think it's very interesting that, more and more, it seems our society encourages people to completely focus on one skill set so as to be "the best" at it. You can see this in your example as well as how children are aggressively trained in one sport, concentration, etc. I wonder what it says about our culture that we are less keen to produce "Rennaisance men"? (BTW, this is one of the reasons I think I've been having a bit of a crisis over what I'd like to do, career-wise, for the past couple years).

2. You're in New Zealand? Gasp! Mrs. Nator and I have been yearning to go there for some time. I'd love to hear about where you are, what it's like, etc., if you have the time and inclination.

Cheers!

Qenny said...

ticker: I grew up near what was the Ravenscraig steel factory, so I know a lot of steel workers. I have to say that you write in a manner that suggests you may not be like many of your colleagues. In a good way, obviously.

da nator: my Lovely Husband™ is also going through career indecision, and has been for a while. I'm sure you'll get there in the end; and I hope he will, too. I'm not currently in NZ, but I'm based there (as in, that's where we own property). It's a great country. Go visit - although I warn you, you may not want to leave. There are so many things to recommend it, including a genuine lack of glass ceiling (major female CEOs, a female - possibly lesbian, certainly very gay friendly - PM), the world's first transexual MP (and what a star she is, too), beautiful countryside, healthy attitude, healthy lifestyle, great food. It's all there.

shiftclick said...

Is documentation something that you could prove your skill at by putting an example on paper in a nice little bound format and have available to give out at interviews? I have no real idea what documentation is but it seems to be something that is done on paper ...? But in today's virtual world, I don't know that that's true ... just a thought.

Funnily enough, my excellence in a number of areas and mastery of no one item got me my position. FINALLY, people who had a clue! Yay for me! And yay for you too!

Qenny said...

shiftclick: I think most of the stuff I write is read on-screen. Also, I often use colour to help make things clearer in diagrams, etc. Sadly, I never get to the point of being able to showcase what I can do well because the "have you done X amount of time of Y" hurdle is much too early on in the process. But something always comes up in the end, and I do seem to enjoy a high degree of luck in my life, so I shouldn't let it worry me.

Reluctant Nomad said...

Sounds like you're in the same line of business that I am. Bores me shitless, actually, but it pays the bills.

Qenny said...

Oh, I love what I do, I genuinely do - it's just sometimes a pain getting to do it for as much money as I want :-)