Harry Gooding, 22 July 2016
Let’s start by playing a bit of a game.
First round of this game is this. Imagine a sheer cliff, water at the bottom, grass at the top, blistering sunshine. There is the most extraordinary orange water slide looping its way down this vast cliff, the bottom end 50 metres out to see with water pouring out, the top of the slide set 10 metres or so back from the edge of the cliff. Now imagine you’re standing at the top of this slide, you’re standing, waiting to throw yourself down it.
Same game, round 2. Imagine sitting at your 6 year old niece or nephew’s school concert. You’ve had just about enough of listening to some very “sweet” performances. Imagine that just as you’re starting to think about sneaking out a child walks on and sits down at the piano. The child adjusts the piano stool like someone who’s played the piano for forty years, she takes the sheets of music off the music stand and rests the stand down (she knows this one off by heart). She stands up and slowly lifts the lid of the grand piano and props it open, again like someone who has done it a million times. The crowd sits forward in silence. The child walks back to the piano, sits at the stool, closes her eyes, takes a deep breath and then places her hands an inch above the keys.
Now, finally, imagine you’re walking through a food market, for argument’s sake let’s imagine it’s a market in the south of Italy somewhere. You’re being marched through the market by the head chef of a Michelin starred restaurant, she’s picking up ingredients faster than you can keep track of, exchanging nods and words with the owners of the stalls as if they’re just putting it on her tab. Now you’re back at her kitchen, the ingredients are washed and laid out, the immaculate kitchen is sparkling.
What do all of these examples have in common? Well, in every situation you can sense that there is something going to happen either in the very short term, the medium term or the long term. Each of these situations has potential. The ingredients are there for something incredible to happen. You might be about to slide down the greatest water slide on the planet and create a memory you’ll never forget. You might be about to hear a child prodigy play so well it changes your perspective on what people are capable of. You might be about to eat the greatest meal of your life.
These situations all represent potential. Nothing of note has happened in any of them, yet in each of them there is undeniable excitement about what might be about to happen.
I’ve had a week off, so welcome back to the long standing tradition of the “Arch Graduates introduction”.
“We hire potential” “to be honest I’m really looking for potential more than anything” “I don’t mind if they’re not the finished product, I’d happily look at someone who has the potential to grow into the role” “I’m much more interested in their potential than what they’ve done so far”
So what on earth is potential? Well let’s do a quick definition
“having or showing the capacity to develop into something in the future.”
“latent qualities or abilities that may be developed and lead to future success or usefulness.”
No surprises there, but in the context of a job application, how do you demonstrate this to someone? Well I think actually it’s all about this phrase “latent qualities”. Let’s take a straightforward example. You’re applying for a role as a data analyst, you’re going to be pouring through huge data sets trying to spot trends, anomalies and draw some useful conclusions. You’ll be using SQL to query the database, and producing weekly reports that will be sent to the board.
You’ve never used SQL or written reports, but what “latent qualities” do you think might be appropriate for this role? Well maybe something like ‘attention to detail’, patience, a “head for numbers”, reliability and “good at writing” might be a few.
Let’s go back to the third example from earlier, the example where you’ve been whisked through the market and now you’re back at the kitchen looking at the ingredients laid out, the kitchen gleaming.
When you’re interviewing for a role, especially as a graduate, your goal is to show that you’ve got enough of those ingredients to make a great meal. Over time you’ll add new ingredients in, but it’s about showing you’ve got the big ones, the ones that ‘you can’t teach’. How do you show them? Easy, you show them. Tell the interviewer and give them real life examples. “I’ve always had a good head for numbers, when I was doing work experience at InventedBiz.com I actually had my 2 weeks extended to six because I impressed them with my excel and analytics skills”.
So, ‘potential’ it’s all about the raw ingredients. When you’re interviewing for a role have a think about what dish they’re trying to make and therefore what ingredients they’re looking for. Then ask yourself, do you have them? If you do then tell the interviewer.
Next week we’ll talk about the role the chef has to play in all this.
Right, another conclusion we might be able to draw from all this… I’m hungry.