The Entrepreneur Insiders network is an online community where the most thoughtful and influential people in America’s startup scene contribute answers to timely questions about entrepreneurship and careers. Today’s answer to the question, “How do you leverage a non-traditional background in a new role?” is written by Hari Ravichandran, CEO and founder of Endurance.
Oftentimes in the business world, people become narrowly categorized based on their past jobs or titles: accountant, lawyer, programmer. They have one skill set or career path that they’ve honed or developed for years and now find that getting out of that self-imposed box is much harder than it looks.
But in my experience, I’ve found that what’s more important than having a specific skill set is having a core set of values that drives a person forward.
What do I mean by core values? I look for people who have the following attributes:
If you look for those who are intrinsically driven by these values, you’ll find that they’ll be the ones who can help you and your business think outside the box. They are the people who can look at the problem and not immediately reference a playbook for the solution. They attack obstacles from all angles and don’t expect to achieve results by doing the same thing over and over just because it worked well in one situation. The root of innovation is being able to look at problems from all dimensions, and solve them creatively.
For those who are trying to break into a new role but do not have the typical background for that function, my advice is to show how your previous experience is an asset to the role you wish to assume. You may not know the ins and outs of the new department, but if you show that you can adapt well to change and are eager to learn, you could be the innovator the role requires. Be proactive and show initiative by exploring professional development opportunities that will prepare you for this career change. By doing so, you will demonstrate those core values and prove that everyone has a unique perspective that they can bring to a business.
Take, for example, my educational background. I studied computer engineering. And guess what? My job is no longer in engineering! While my education did not necessarily correspond with my career trajectory, it did not limit my success as an entrepreneur in the tech industry either. I used what I learned as an engineer to solve problems. I made the best use of my knowledge and took it upon myself to continue to learn and challenge myself.
Speaking of challenges, nothing fully prepares you to start your own company. As the Founder of Endurance, one of the most challenging aspects of growing the business has been evolving our culture. Since we started small, we still have the startup mentality, but now we have more than 4,000 employees globally and our goal is to still foster a sense of cohesion where we welcome tenacity and candor from each team member.
This type of culture breeds unity and the belief that the company thrives when we all work together. Work towards eliminating silos and building a team that embodies one mission and one purpose. All businesses look for employees that are creative problem solvers, open communicators and innovators. An organization’s success is dependent on each team member, their commitment to the role and the company’s mission.
If companies work on building an environment where stepping outside your lane is encouraged, you might be surprised to find that this shared sense of value from employees will help you build a long-term sustainable business and positively impact your company culture.