When applying for a job we need to demonstrate how irreplaceable we would be. These days that means illustrating how our skills and abilities are not ones that could be handed over to a robot.
As you may well have seen or heard, the abilities of robots and Artificial Intelligence (AI) are developing fast. Any job that is predominantly repetitive or easily learnt is at risk of, before too long, being taken over by an automated version… of you.
Or so we’re led to believe.
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Consider your skills
Things may not be that straight forward. There may yet be hope for human-beings retaining at least some positions. What we need to be asking, and whilst writing a job application is an ideal time to do it, is this:
- What can I offer that a robot can’t?
- What skills and abilities do I have that AI doesn’t and is unlikely to develop in the foreseeable future?
- Now think: or rather, reflect. What is it that makes you human, that sets you apart from inanimate machines?
- And what is it about these very special qualities, that are also highly desirable traits in most work situations?
You may have to think quite hard about this since many such qualities seem to have become a victim of the incessant drive for efficiency that has predominated the last few decades.
But consider it from the position of a customer or consumer: when something has gone wrong (for example your Internet connection or car), what is it that you appreciate most? Almost certainly sympathy, empathy and at least a little bit of understanding being shown for how you feel.
And think about all those times you’ve probably spent on the end of a call to a robotic ‘help’ desk. How often do such experiences demonstrate the unhelpfulness of an automated system (or of a human religiously following a predetermined script)?
Customers, of pretty much anything, when asking for help, need an aware fellow human who can personally relate to and thus understand their individual human needs.
However life-like a robot appears, when you look into its ‘eyes’ you will see no soul. It has none. It (not he or she) cannot provide these things that all humans need in order to feel human.
Addressing your soft skills
So, in your job application or job review, when asked about your skill set, remember to include you soft-skills. Give examples of when, by actively listening (for example to a dissatisfied client or customer) you were able to think outside the box to establish what their real problem was, calm them down by being compassionate and able to take the initiate in resolving the issue.
In response to questions about your ability to work in a team, share examples of your ability to get on with anyone, to put others at their ease by being your natural, human self.
Also, remember, when you go to an interview, that your eye-contact and ability to show genuine, deep engagement with each member of your interview panel, is something that is unique to you.
Demonstrate to your prospective boss that you do actively listen, can respond to what is not said as much as what is literally stated and you’ll make an impression. If they’re aware, they’ll acknowledge your special ability to detect and interpret nuances, to read between the lines and tune-into each situation. In what line of work is that not an advantage?
If your interviewer doesn’t respond to such meaningful inter-human engagement, then they probably believe that robots can do anything: would you really want to work in such an organisation?
What else can an aware and ‘with-it’ man or woman do that would defy a robot? They can apply common sense – whatever that is! Have you noticed how uncommon common sense has become in recent decades? Perhaps it’s because too many of us have become like the AI machines that are getting close to taking over from us.
The value of common sense
The fact that common sense cannot be defined is precisely what makes it common sense and why only human-beings possess it. But roughly speaking it’s the ability to weigh up a problematic situation and come up with a practical, workable solution. Again, which business wouldn’t benefit from such ability?
AI may be getting better at being flexible and adaptable (i.e. at self-learning), but in most (if not all) work situations, the ability to think laterally and outside the box has been extremely beneficial.
We are talking about real-world experiences, about a knowing that comes from being human, beyond the literal and purely logical, which is the only way a computer-based work colleague can think.
Being wise isn’t about being clever. Working with wisdom is about getting a balance between ticking the appropriate boxes and applying emotional intelligence; about balancing the head and the heart.
In a job application situation, this means not being afraid to be yourself.
Selling has always been about having a USP: a Unique Selling Point. What makes you different? Not just in what you can do, but as an individual human-being? What makes you different from what the nearest robot-equivalent to you might be?
Employers are still seeking human staff. Their customers, suppliers and wider stakeholder community (i.e. you as a consumer and member of society!) all appreciate being treated as a thinking, feeling human being with their own ideas and experiences.
Whatever industry you may be looking to work in, underlying the practical skills and specific competencies that may be required, will always be the need to relate to other human-beings. And that means showing that you care. And having genuine passion for the role you’re applying for has never been more important.
About the author: Dr Keith Beasley is co-founder of Working with Wisdom, a network of soft-skill specialists who work with individuals and organisations to bring out the best human-based traits and abilities.