Beyond the box, beyond the resume

Photo by Christopher Bill on Unsplash

As a candidate for a role, how do we communicate our potential for broader value (beyond the needs of the role) to the organization?

As a recruiter or hiring manager, how do we communicate our openness (or not?) to people who have broader value beyond the immediate role?

As I write this, I am in the search for my next role. A LinkedIn Comment from Jerome Ware inspired me to take a deeper look at my search, in light of these two questions. Jerome’s comment made the point that “people don’t fit in boxes” – that when people are allowed and encouraged to “blow out the box”, enormous potential is released.

Reflecting on my own career

On paper, my resume shows a 14 year period as a “Senior Systems Architect” with Innovative Software Engineering. We were a custom software development company creating software and solutions for the likes of John Deere, Navistar, McGraw Hill, Oak Ridge National Laboratory, and more (including Fortune 50 and Fortune 500 companies that I am not at liberty to name). Along the way, we also developed our own product/SaaS solution in the Electronic Logging Device space (used by truck & bus drivers and commercial motor carriers to comply with Hours of Service regulations), leading to our purchase by Trimble Transportation.

Parts of this story were supported by my “in the box” work as a Senior Systems Architect: leading solutions design, leading software teams, writing software, mentoring engineers, working with the customer to define “what” and “how”. But what I’m reflecting on is my “out of the box” contributions (admittedly a fuzzy definition), which included:

  • Serving as a member of the company’s management team (an internal advisory board, if you will) – helping guide our strategy and growth
  • Holding 1:1s with team members to provide support, increase engagement, and detect situations needing attention
  • Pioneering and running the “lunch and learn” program as a forum for sharing learning and amplifying community
  • Co-authoring the employee engagement survey so we could learn what we were doing well and where we could improve
  • Launching and guiding a leadership development program, which started within Engineering and eventually extended to our leadership team
  • Bringing learnings about agile (Scrum and Kanban) and agile technical approaches in-house to our product development team and other consulting teams
  • 1:1 coaching of team members and emergent leaders
  • Mentoring (and being mentored by – definitely a two-way learning relationship) the president and founder – with whom I often went on sales calls
  • Serving at various times as Scrum Master, Product Owner, and Agile Coach, as guided by “what will best serve this team/project/product, at this time?”

Reflection and Learning

Reflecting on this “out of box” contribution, I notice:

  • For me, an internal drive for “better” – how can we improve as an organization? Where do I see an opportunity to help us move forward?
  • A corresponding drive for learning: given this challenge or opportunity, where does my passion and curiosity take me in the quest to help create “better”?
  • Support and encouragement from the leaders of the organization: agreement and support for my proposals (no, not all of them! 🙂 ), support in the form of time and training, and support in balancing workloads and priorities (what do we need to say “no” to so we can say “yes” to what’s important?)
  • A growing scope of awareness – becoming increasingly aware of the overall organization and ecosystem and the opportunities and complexities within it

Who are we looking to hire?

As an organization, we have an implicit or explicit expectation of who we want to hire. We hire for a role, but do we have clarity about what we want (or not) beyond the role? As someone seeking my next role, I’ve seen many job postings. Zapier stands out to me with the invitation “Even though our job description may seem like we’re looking for a specific candidate, the role inevitably ends up tailored to the person who applies and joins.” What I love about this is the explicit acknowledgement that the role is malleable. (And I’m not just picking Zapier for the sake of flattery.)

Do I fit in the box?

Spoiler alert: No.

Can I fulfil the role? Yes. Will I also be looking beyond the role? Yes. Can I balance those? Yes. (and it’s not always easy!)

There’s a part of me that fears making this statement – does this reduce my hireability? On the other hand, having a “stay in the box” role would be frustrating for both me and the manager/organization, so if that’s the case I’m really helping us avoid a bad fit. And an organization that wants someone “beyond the box”? Let’s talk!

Beyond the box, beyond the resume

As a candidate for a role, how do we communicate our potential for broader value (beyond the needs of the role) to the organization? This blog post is one attempt at a means of communicating broader value. “Getting out there” with LinkedIn interaction, blog posts, podcasts and other content also provide the chance to showcase our capabilities.

As a recruiter or hiring manager, how do we communicate our openness to people who have broader value beyond the immediate role? We think about the invitation that is in our job posting, and the lines of questioning in our interviews… and we remember that yes, we want someone who can fulfil the role, but we also want someone who can help us evolve, and that is “beyond the box”.