July 11, 2020

Career Column: A Good Hire

Long ago I was hired for a job that I thought would be perfect for me.  I had just graduated from college with a degree in psychology, and the job was to write summaries and test questions for psychology study guides.  It went well for about a half hour.  Then I was bored.   I didn’t want to stick to the straightforward answers required of me; I wanted to expand on the material and discuss the complexities.  In addition, the office environment was extremely still and quiet, and I wanted to move around and listen to the radio.  I didn’t do the work that was asked of me very well, I complained, and I distracted my colleagues.  Even though I had the right credentials I was not a good hire, and I didn’t last very long there. 

Now that years have passed and I have had to do some hiring of my own, I am better able to put myself in the shoes of my employer.    He didn’t hire me as a consultant to tell him how to improve his study guides.  He hired me to write them as they had always been written, quickly and without complaint.  The job turned out to be one I had no interest in doing, but it was the job that I was hired for.  It was my responsibility to get it done.

A “good hire” is someone who gets the job done.  He or she is also reliable and, at the very least, pleasant to be around.  The job that needs to be done, of course, is different in every circumstance.  It may require very specific skills, credentials, experiences, or talents, or more general qualities, such as quick thinking, good interpersonal skills, or a particular appearance.   For my study guide job, I was reliable and pleasant to be around, and I had the right skills and credentials, but I was not good at completing routine tasks in a quiet environment.  I was not a good hire. 

Why is being “a good hire” important to job seekers?  If Jane is looking for work, or expects to be looking for work, thinking through what it takes to be a good hire can help her get hired for the right job.  She can focus on the skills, credentials, and personal qualities that she “brings to the table,” that is, the strengths, interests, and all of the other characteristics that make her a good hire.    She might see areas that need improvement, and make the improvements, so that she is a better and more confident candidate.  Or she might choose a different focus for her job search, or move towards a different career altogether. 

Here are some suggestions to help you answer the “What makes me a good hire?” question.  Think about:

  • What did you do well at your last job (or at school, at home, or in a volunteer position)?
  • What aspects of the job were easy for you?  Perhaps you found it easy to run meetings, work with colleagues, or get tasks done quickly, for example.  
  • What did you enjoy most?
  • In what circumstances were you most productive?
  • What difficult things did you accomplish? 

Also ask yourself: 

  • What could you have done better?
  • What was difficult?
  • What was unappealing?

Finally, think about what you want to improve, that is, what would make you a better hire, not for any job but for a job you want. 

For my study guide job, I could have, with difficulty, settled down and become a good hire, and perhaps I might have been able to establish a career in publishing or business.   I took a different path, however, working towards a position that would be a better fit for me.   I went to work in a restaurant to earn money and volunteered as a research assistant so that I would be a more competitive applicant for graduate school. 

We are a varied lot, and each one of us brings different qualities to the workplace.    The more we understand ourselves and what work requires of us, that is, knowing what makes us a good hire, the better choices we can make and the better we can present ourselves to potential employers. 

Career Spotlight:  Cybersecurity Expert, Digital Forensic Scientist

Cybersecurity experts protect data on computer networks.  Digital forensic scientists examine digital data to solve crimes.   Jobs in these areas are often stressful and demanding and sometimes they can be tedious, but they can also be exciting and financially rewarding.  Some of these jobs provide the bonus of being able to work with the newest technologies.    Both careers should be of interest to people who like thinking through problems, hands-on work, and following routines. 

\These are “hot” careers.  There is such a high demand for cybersecurity experts that the federal government is trying to interest talented young people in the field while they are still in high school through high school cyber challenges (competitions).  A Bachelor’s degree in computer science provides a good background, but other science and engineering majors could also find a home in cybersecurity or digital forensics.  A strong interest in and ability to grasp computer and related technology is key.  There are internship opportunities and specialized training and certification programs, similar to other IT career paths, and there are also a few specialized master’s and doctoral programs.   Law enforcement agencies and law firms hire digital forensic specialists.   Government agencies and private corporations hire cyber security experts, and they don’t seem to be able to get enough of them. 

You can find information about careers in digital forensics at the American Academy of Forensic Sciences website, in the Resources section under Students :  www.aafs.org/choosing-career#Digital

For a description of careers in cybersecurity, the Wall Street Journal has a good write-up.  Click here to view article.

Karen Goldfinger, Ph.D. is a psychologist in private practice in Essex, Connecticut.   She specializes in psychological assessment for clinical, educational, and forensic purposes and has a special interest in career assessment.  She and two partners recently established KSB Career Consultants, LLC to provide on line career consultation for clients in Connecticut and New York.   Contact her with questions,  comments, or suggestions for the column at karengoldfinger@comcast.net