Unconventional Skills (like milking cows!) Can Get
You Noticed Fast.
By Erika Welz Prafder
New York Post- March 06, 2006. Milking cows isn't quite the work experience many companies are looking for, especially for an office job in Manhattan. But for Iowa native Lindsey Kerndt, it turned out to be exactly what she needed to land an entry-level position in a major advertising firm.
"When I wasn't in school, I worked on my family's farm," says 24-year-old Kerndt. "I usually woke up around 5:30 a.m.,milked and fed the cows twice a day, put hay bails up in the barn, and finished around 8 p.m. I developed a very solid work ethic."
And as unlikely as it sounds, it was this very character trait that landed her a receptionist's role at Della Femina Rothschild Jeary & Partners last year. Hired initially as a temp, Kerndt was trained on the job to answer phones, navigate particular computer programs and assist with production orders. Within two months, the firm offered her a full-time spot.
"If you're a quicker learner, you don't necessarily have to have prior experience at a certain job to excel at it," she says.
Indeed, personality, a self-starting attitude and commitment were the qualities that made Kerndt most marketable, says Anne Accini, a partner at The Employment Line, the New York-based staffing firm that placed her. And with a surging demand for administrative, temp-to-perm candidates today, the staffing agency advocates an "open mind" policy when considering applicants with non conventional work experience.
"We see cookie-cutter resumes at every level - same phraseology, same nuts-and-bolts qualifications," says Accini.
"To stand out, it doesn't hurt to point out those extras that speak to your character."
For example, someone with an honors degree might mention that he or she earned it while holding down two jobs. Or a stay-at-home parent who's looking to re-enter the workforce could highlight the skills he or she gained while running a household - such as budgeting, negotiating and juggling schedules.
"Don't leave it up to the recruiter to draw the conclusion that you want them to make," says Accini.
In Michael Bachman's case, knowing how to play up his acting and comedy background helped to boost his professional status in the business world. With a BFA degree in acting, the 32-year old relocated from Ohio to New York a decade ago, chasing a dream of stardom. While working for a theater company, to help pay the rent, he held down temp assignments at area financial firms.
"I didn't have a business resume and I'm not a button-down suit type of guy, but I was driven, my interview skills are sharp, and as an actor, I was already in the business of marketing myself," he says.
"An interview is just like an audition. You need to present yourself well in two minutes. I know how to relay my strengths and weaknesses very well."
Five years ago, he sought a change from the "stiff and stuffy" investment-firm atmospheres he'd been a part of and accepted a temporary office assistant position at an Equity Research firm based here. Day-to-day responsibilities included heavy phone work. His TV voice-over experience came in handy, as did his ability to transform his persona.
"I have a decent phone, and whether my employer wanted a cool, secure tone or a hospitable Southern accent to convey the ideas of our firm, I was able to transform myself into such characters instantly," says Bachman.
His experience as a stand-up comic also improved morale and was greatly appreciated throughout the 20-person organization.
"I don't take anything too seriously. If you've ever tried to put a live show together with less than $1,000 in a day, you know what pressure is," he says.
Since becoming a permanent staffer two years back, Mike now owns share in the company and has been promoted t o office manager. He firmly believes his attitude got him farther than his professional credentials.
"There are guys with MBAs who can't carry a conversation and make someone feel comfortable in a a conference room," he says.
Another secret to his success is his self-confidence.
"You shouldn't lie about your lack of experience. Instead, let a hiring manager know that you're well rounded and point out what you have excelled at. You can be trained on things like Excel and PowerPoint, but you have to be able to demonstrate that you have the will to learn and be molded."
According to The Employment Line's Accini, it's also worth noting that individuals with atypical resumes are increasingly interesting to employers for the "fresh perspectives" they bring to the table. If you're considering switching industries or need experience to get experience in a certain field, temp-to-perm work is an excellent way to go.