By Anant Gupta
As an American living abroad, Donald Trump comes up often in conversation. Certainly more than I ever wanted him to. At the same time, I spend my days trying to help people take the next step in their careers. You know who else is trying to take the next step in his career? Trump. And he’s doing a surprisingly good job of it.
When Donald Trump launched his presidential campaign last summer, hardly anyone expected it would last this long. Even fewer expected that he would, as of today, be the presumptive Republican nominee.
There are many reasons why we didn’t take him seriously, mostly due to the fact that he is not traditionally qualified for the job. Since 1900, every president had previously held public office or a cabinet position. The exception was General Eisenhower, and Trump is no Eisenhower.
In this context, it is amazing that Trump has managed to come so close to one of the most important jobs in the world. If this was a job application, his resume never would’ve gotten past the first screen. Yet somehow, he’s convinced thousands of voters that he can do the job.
Many of us will attempt similar, albeit lower profile career changes. Whether it’s a new industry or function or just a big promotion, we will aim for a job that is a bit beyond our qualifications.
Anyone who’s attempted a major career change knows it’s hard — why should someone pick us over a more traditionally “attractive” candidate? Without perfect qualifications pulled directly from the job description, how do we explain to an employer what we know to be true — that we will excel in this job if given a chance?
Luckily (or not), we have an extremely public job interview to learn from this year. If there is any silver lining to Trump’s presidential bid, comedy fodder aside, it is insight into how we can overcome barriers to our own career change
Here are a few inadvertent lessons from the Donald.
Many of us make this mistake too — we use cover letters and interviews to recite our resumes like we’re reading a checklist. But while your accomplishments and skills are important, they won’t help an interviewer remember or like you.
Qualifications are commodities. Necessary, but insufficient. Lots of job candidates have similar skills, education, and experience. It is uncommon to have a clearly “best qualified” candidate — or else hiring would be easy. In a world full of good candidates, the person who wins is the one who connects with decision-makers to foster confidence in their choices. He or she transcends their resume by showcasing themselves memorably — engaging stories, creative demonstrations, or sheer enthusiasm. Whether we call it culture fit or just good vibes, it is often these intangible connections that separate winners from the rest.
Trump knows this all too well. Trump plays on voters’ fears — fear of foreign threats, fear of changing demographics, fear of economic loss. His ideas are light on details and realism, but they are relatable and emotionally resonant. They are simplistic and uncompromising, which makes them feel strong. Trump knows his voters feel threatened and afraid. So unlike his competition, Trump isn’t selling a smarter plan or a shinier resume. He’s selling the feeling of power.
Trump does a lot of things that nobody should ever imitate, but he has gone farther with his campaign than we expected. Trump — the career switcher — is an example of how someone can do a lot with a little. And if you’re thinking of leaving the US in the event of a President Trump, you’ll need a new job. The least we can do is learn from him to make our careers great again.
PS: We’re hiring in India and Singapore.