Most of the time when people talk about what they’re good at (in both resumes and interviews) they use descriptors like “creative”, “detail-oriented” and “hard working”. It’s also not uncommon to see general skill descriptors like “strong 1. For a list of overused words that you should probably keep off your resume (because everyone uses them to the point that they’re meaningless) check out this page.writer” and “good communicator”. 1
Unfortunately, these qualities rarely translate into something compensable. While being creative, detail-oriented, and hard working are all fine behaviors, 2. I used to play a lot of poker so I sometimes over-fit its terms to the corporate world – although in this case “table stakes” has a business equivalent.they are often table stakes 2 for the jobs in which applicants list them as attributes.
And to this point, while being a “strong writer” and “good communicator” are definitely skills, they are common attributes for any serious candidate applying for a role in which said skills are required.
So how should you differentiate yourself from other candidates applying for positions (or position yourself to move up the corporate ladder internally)?
Focus on concepts.
As usual, to a certain extent we are talking degree here. There are some 3. Most, really.jobs 3 that are exclusively administrative and transactional in their nature. For incumbents in these sorts of jobs, focusing on process is often the best way to prepare for the next level.
Once you reach a certain level in any job hierarchy/family, however, the value of the role becomes less procedural and more about the application of broader concepts.
As an example: Early in a person’s career in compensation their job mostly consist of process oriented, administrative work. They assist in merit planning and administration, preparing and maintaining job descriptions, and conducting and analyzing wage surveys.
As they get further along in their careers they begin to make decisions that set precedents. They move from the transactional space of maintaining that which already exists, and start to use their foundational understanding of a compensation plan’s design in a more discretionary way.
Eventually a compensation professional reaches a point where his/her actions and recommendations have major impacts on plan design, and at the highest levels he/she may serve as the principal architect for the entire program, developing and directing the implementation of compensation at a functional and even company-wide level.
The key thing to understand here is that the difference between the work being done at the entry level vs. more senior levels is scope… and that the way these jobs typically scale up is by moving from the more procedural work that defines early and mid-career professionals to the more strategic work done by executives.
…Basically it’s a gradual move from administrative to developmental labor.
With that said, the best way to learn how to be an architect is to learn the process behind the strategy you (one day hope to) create. Practical application of concepts can (mostly) only take place if one has the foundation behind said concepts first. So don’t be afraid to get in the weeds and start at 4. When I first started my career I had a nasty habit of getting so focused on the strategic/conceptual that I glossed over the details that made the upper level stuff possible. For any work to get done the administrative stuff needs to be addressed though… and often times it lays the foundation for everything else. So while one should always look to understand the concepts behind their tasks, I would also say never run away from grunt work. the bottom… just keep an eye on the big picture as well. 4
As always, please share your thoughts below.
If you have questions about something you’ve read here (or simply want to connect) you can reach me at any of the following addresses:
SomethingDifferentHR@gmail.com OR email@example.com