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You need to ask how you can help a company to unearth those hidden career gems. (Oleksii Glushenkov/Getty Images/iStockphoto)
You need to ask how you can help a company to unearth those hidden career gems. (Oleksii Glushenkov/Getty Images/iStockphoto)

Career Advice

How to find that hidden career gem Add to ...

We all know them. Individuals who consistently seem to find hidden gem career opportunities before the rest of us.

They manage to consistently find roles in their career right before their company or their department takes off. Do they have some inside information or a better ability to pick opportunities than everyone else? Maybe, but I’d argue that these people share a rare skill that allows them to move from one career-making opportunity to the next: the ability to visualize a situation with them added to the mix.

This skill is applicable to everything from relationships to sports teams, but let’s focus on what this means for your career.

Most high-potential companies and organizations are incomplete – that’s why they’re hiring to fill in gaps in their organization. Most job seekers, however, look at the organization objectively from the outside. They ask questions like, “What will it be like to work here?” or “How successful do I think this company will be?” or “Will this be a good career move?” or “Will I enjoy being part of the company culture?” If the answer is yes to all of these questions, chances are there are several qualified candidates vying for an opportunity.

The most talented candidates ask slightly different questions, such as: “How will I make this company successful?” and “How can I influence the culture so that this is a place I want to work?”

As an employer, these are the questions I want my candidates pondering, because these are the same questions I’m asking about them. If I meet someone who I feel will have a significant impact on the trajectory of my business or add another dimension to my team, I’ll walk though walls to get them.

This is not an easy skill to master and it doesn’t come naturally to most. It takes a delicate balance of self-confidence and self-awareness to know your true strengths and weaknesses, recognize the same in others and visualize how all of the moving parts will interact. Those who are able to do this have careers that look like they’re riding a rocket ship.

At Top Hat, we’ve made a number of key executive hires recently who have demonstrated this ability. Ralf Reikers, our chief financial officer, had seen his previous company from a three-person startup through IPO and billion-dollar acquisition and could have walked into any job he wanted after that. When we met Ralf, he knew that we were not the most experienced or capable management team, but he saw the potential in what we were building and could see the impact of his skill set on the trajectory of the company.

We also recently hired a VP of sales, Gene Murray, from Blackboard, one of the largest education technology companies in the world. Gene had joined Blackboard in its startup phase and worked his way up to running sales for their largest business unit. He was well respected in the space and could have joined any education tech organization. He recognized that we were building a product that the market wanted, and saw his sales leadership abilities as a key ingredient to accelerating the company’s growth.

Regardless of your level within the organization, it’s important to practice this skill when looking to join new teams or making career moves. If you can’t answer the question “How will I improve this organization’s chances of success?” then you’re probably not the best fit for the role.

Andrew D’Souza is chief operating officer of Top Hat.

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