Put Some SAAS in Your Career

by Teresa A. Whitacre

Have you ever wondered why friends, associates or co-workers get ahead faster or move on to other positions? Have you ever assessed your own career?

Consider what I learned from two great career sources: a successful executive recruiter and an HR manager. These two individuals use the SAAS formula for selecting the best people to fill positions. Read on to learn about SAAS.

S Is for Skills

Skills, education and experience are all many job seekers and professionals think they need. Yes, it is important to have the degree, certifications, industry background and appropriate related work experience to get an ideal position. Your résumé would never make it in front of the hiring authority without these attributes.

But have you assessed the freshness of your skills lately? Do your marketable skills keep up with the current industry or marketplace demands? If I were interested in a position in the medical field, but my only experience was 20 years ago, how likely would the hiring authorities be to even want to talk to me?

If you don't know what the right skills are, how can you get the job and use those skills? Skills assessment tools are available through many avenues. Go to job search websites, look up your desired position, and view the requirements. Look for skills assessment tests such as Myers-Briggs or the many others available in libraries or on the internet. (Look under "career skills assessment tests" through internet search engines.)

Complete one of the tests and analyze the results. Determine where you are deficient. Take courses, do consulting, complete an internship--whatever it takes to get the skills you need to pursue your dream job.

Abilities Are Important

Skills and abilities are similar in definition, but there is one key difference. If you're not able to use or apply your skills, your career will not progress.

Consider a quality engineer position listed recently. Various job requirements were described. What caught my attention, however, was the closing line by the recruiter: "I'm not asking if you can do these functions; I'm asking if you have done them."

This statement delineated the difference between skills and abilities. You can have the skills, education and training needed, but if you don't have the ability, then how good will you be? How much value will you present to a potential employer or client?

Listing skills on paper and proving you can do them are two different things. A vice president used this part of the SAAS formula when deciding whether to offer a temporary employee a full-time position.

The vice president assigned a project to determine whether the individual could apply the needed skills and abilities to the best benefit of the organization.

Many human resources departments are adding assessment testing as a screening tool for this very reason. "Prove to us that you have the ability to perform and apply those skills, and we will hire you," they are saying. Demonstrated abilities along with the requisite skills give you the edge.

A Also Stands for Attitude

The strongest skills and the best abilities do not necessarily result in a model employee. If the culture of the organization creates mostly workaholics who never leave their desks, how well would a social butterfly fit in? Fitting in with the organization is just as important as contributing to its growth and bottom line.

The attitude attribute is extremely important yet the most difficult to assess. Hirers can try to assess attitude during interviews, by checking references or by speaking with people who know you well. But the true test of your attitude is how well you work with others in the organization, and the best way to determine this is to put you into a situation and see how well you fit.

Probationary periods, cooperative education, internships, and temporary assignments and contracts are often used for assessing a potential employee's attitude.

Success Is the Result

Skills + Abilities + Attitudes = Success

All formulas produce a result. Whether it is the desired result is another matter. But when the three inputs of the SAAS career growth (or job seeking) process are combined, the result--whether getting a job, advancing in your career or gaining self-fulfillment--is always positive.

TERESA A. WHITACRE is a contract quality engineer for Wabtec Rubber Products Divisions, Greensburg, PA, and principal of Marketech Systems. She authored a quality technology text used by the ASQ Pittsburgh Section for certified Quality Inspector and certified quality technician courses and has instructed both. Whitacre holds a bachelor's degree in quality engineering from Pacific Western University and holds ASQ quality engineering, quality manager, quality technician and quality auditor certifications. She is a Senior Member of ASQ.


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