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You’re (Probably) Not Liam Neeson

4 min, 14 sec read
12:15 PM | 1 September 2015
by Simen Moen
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Having a very particular set of skills might be handy if your daughter has been kidnapped by sex traffickers in Paris, but I've found that it is not necessarily a strong asset in the job market.

I have always been good with numbers. So much so that my maths teachers had a tendency of calling me out in front of the class to partial admiration and overwhelming resentment. Whilst doing my degree in advertising, I kept thinking that it was a shame that my natural abilities with numbers weren't more connected with what I was educating myself for. I also felt the same way about my software skills, of which I have a fair amount (I realise that it might seem like I'm trying to paint a picture of myself as an amazingly talented person, but notice that I am, like Liam Neeson in Taken, being very selective and specific about which fields I'm mentioning.) I was confident in my more advertising-related competence too, but I suppose we all would want as many of our abilities as possible to be put to good use.

"…but notice that I am, like Liam Neeson in Taken, being very selective and specific about which fields I'm mentioning.”

While I was pondering this, there were many discussions with my fellow students about specialisation. Finding a trade to master filled up a lot of conversational space, as we were all imagining ourselves in specific jobs at specific companies with specific work assignments, trying to pay off very specific student loans. Consequently, it seemed that acquiring a specific skillset would be a good strategy for eventually making the leap from campus to office.

"Looking back, I think that a lot of people, myself included, may have been getting too caught up in our respective fields of self-declared expertise.”

Looking back, I think that a lot of people, myself included, may have been getting too caught up in our respective fields of self-declared expertise. Although there are some undeniable advantages in this, for instance in filtering out which jobs to apply for, it becomes restrictive when deciding which areas you choose to improve yourself in. Especially considering that agencies operate differently from one another, and a job role with the same name might mean different things in terms of work assignments in two different agencies. Neither one of them is likely to be tailored to a narrow set of specialised skills.

For instance, being good at research was rarely a high priority among students in my circles. It wasn’t seen as a skill, as much as an equivalent of a commute, something uncomfortable and time-consuming (and occasionally involving involuntary grinding on strangers) you had to go through in order to get stuff done. But knowing how to do research might be one of the most valuable abilities to have when you are in a junior role at an agency, which presumably will be the case for most recent graduates. Not just in terms of finding good information, but knowing what to do with it.

"And I believe it did help me stand out, as I managed to land a few interviews, including one for a grad scheme at media agency the7stars.”

When I started applying for jobs, I remembered some work I had done creating interactive PDFs in Adobe InDesign, and had the idea of applying this to my CV. It worked by text and images popping up when the cursor hovered over certain elements on the page. Although there is some substantial value in elaborating on parts of my past, the "Oh look! How fancy" aspect of it was my main reason for doing it. And I believe it did help me stand out, as I managed to land a few interviews, including one for a grad scheme at the media agency, the7stars.

During the interview, I had to do a maths test. I did pretty well, and was relieved that I wasn't going to be called out in front of the other interviewees to be told so. Instead, I was offered a job in the data department. So these days I'm one year into working with what many would call research, involving maths, thanks in part to a few software tricks I know, at a brilliant agency in an industry I got familiar with because I studied advertising.

"You could reasonably describe this situation as me being a nerd, but I like to think that there is an aspect of versatility in there as well.”

You could reasonably describe this situation as me being a nerd, but I like to think that there is an aspect of versatility in there as well. And that, along with a fair bit of luck got me into the industry, and helped me more than I believe a narrower but more impressive set of skills would have.

Alas, if one of your loved ones has been abducted while on holiday in Europe, I can't help you. But if that's the case, I would think you have better things to do than reading this anyway.

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