How Being a Disruptor Can Help You Get a Job

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Disruptor is such a buzzword these days that most people forget that it can be very helpful when applying for a job! Fear not we are here to help you!

Bill Gates, Steve Jobs, Elon Musk and Jack Dorsey were all disruptors of their own respective industries. Gates opened up computing to the masses with his software (Windows if you're unfamiliar). Steve Jobs was the champion and poster-child of the intersect between practical technology and desirable design. Elon Musk made a centuries-old industry, reevaluate their environmental responsibilities without compromising luxury or performance with his Tesla electric cars. Dorsey showed the world the value of using 140 characters to express yourself with Tweeter. We can’t all be Gates, Jobs, Musks or Dorseys, but that doesn’t mean you can't be a disruptor in your field and on your own scale.

As we delve down deeper into this article we will see strategies you can use, to push both your career forward or perform and complete career change, by taking examples from the greatest to the relatively unknown disruptors in the world at the moment. Because some disrupt without the fanfare a certain turtle-neck wearing gentleman was famous for. Here is how to successfully get a job by being a disruptor.

What Is a Disruptor

The first question that you will undeniably ask is: What is a disruptor. Being a disruptor is essentially offering something that is so substantially more valuable than what it is currently available, that it might not even exist, causing a fundamental paradigm shift in the industry in which it exists. Companies such as Uber and Airbnb are great examples of this; Uber created the largest taxi service in the world without owning a single vehicle, and Airbnb became the biggest purveyor of temporary rentals without owning a single property.

They did this by tapping into the “share economy” and being liaisons between two types of clients. The one client that offers the service (the taxi or the rental) and the other client that needs those two services. Airbnb’s disruption caused traditional hospitality business to adapt to lower prices, especially in geographic locations in which temporary rentals are exorbitant and Uber did the same within the transportation industry.

After this disruption the dynamics of the industries that the disruptor inhabits must be completely redefined, they become trailblazers, role models to be followed. A disruptor also keeps up to date with the latest waves of innovation in their industry and adapts so their own change exceeds them.

Characteristics of Disruptive Innovation

These are some characteristics of disruptive innovation according to the Harvard Business Review:

  • It’s an ongoing process – it is an evolution rather than a one-off success. It brings products and service to a level never seen before.
  • It's not readily embraced – Often the disruptive innovation is embraced by early adopters and later on by the mainstream when it reaches a level of quality and cost that its predecessing technologies, services or products offer. An excellent example of this is iPods versus portable physical media players such as Walkmans.
  • They avoid the conventional models – Tesla began their production models with a sports car targeted at early adopters. Frequently unless an automotive company intends to only sell sports car, they do not produce a high-performance model until they are well established. Furthermore, Tesla sought to put into mass production an untested, completely electric, high-performance sports car.

Disruptor vs. Innovator

Both of these terms at least semantically seem proximal, but the truth is they diverge when you delve into the characteristics of each one. It's their overlapping that confuses most: you can’t be a disruptor without embracing or creating innovation, but not all innovators are necessarily disruptors. Both distinctions push the envelope; innovators frequently make a shift without reorganising the status quo whereas the same can not be said for disruptors.

Using Disruption For Career Shift

Of course, the most obvious use of disruption for a career shift is creating what is called disruptive innovation, which is when a small entity challenges the tenets of a very well-established industry, with a completely new business model or product.

If you have such an idea or product, then you should seek out investment opportunities. Companies such as Snapchat and Kickstarter got their start in exactly this way and now are worth hundreds of million dollars.

Not everyone can have that sort of idea, or even keep it alive long enough to see it become profitable. Disruption doesn’t have to move an entire industry; it can still be on a smaller scale. For example, a form of smaller scale disruption could be moving outside your field of knowledge and pursuing your passions professionally.

Changing industry’s can be a very disruptive act (although in recent years it has become increasingly popular) especially moving between the creative and financial industries. On the other hand, this gives you a standout feature amongst the other individuals you might be competing with; you have a completely fresh and different perspective and the skillset from a very different industry. Along with your passion for the industry that you seek to enter (and the knowledge that comes with that passion), it should give you an edge. I mean it's not every day you see an investment banker applying for fashion design position that can sew a suit jacket from scratch.

Another way to go about gaining an edge as a disruptor is combining another relatively new job searching strategy, the pain letter. Some recruiting professionals recommend a pain letter for use instead of a cover letter. Essentially this letter points out something that is hurting (the pain) the company and how you and your skill set, knowledge and experience will help alleviate or completely amend what is damaging the company.

It might seem counter-intuitive, as an outsider pointing out the deficiencies of a company when applying for a job, but that is ultimately the reason they are hiring you, to fill a gap or to fix a problem that exists.

Using Failure to Disrupt

You’d expect a candidate interviewing for a job to list their accomplishments, accolades, and awards, instead when asked, mention some of your failures. Use every failure as proof of your resilience and your ability to adapt. Failures can also be a teaching process in disguise, especially if you are a strong self-assessor, which further proves that you have the ability to self-critique another important characteristic recruiters look for in candidates.

Beyond the benefits of presenting yourself as resilient, adaptable and able to self-critique, using your failure during an interview will undeniably distinguish you from the candidates that only mention their positive attributes.

According to Ambra Benjamin, Recruitment Manager at Facebook, a failed business endeavour can be used to excuse a break in employment or a CV (resume) gap. She not only commends a failure in that vein, Benjamin considers it a very valuable career asset due to the lessons someone can learn through said failure.

Disrupting The Paradigm

Another paradigm that exists when looking for jobs is the relationship between an active interviewer and a passive candidate. The interviewer asks the questions expecting “canned” answers from the candidate. You can shift this paradigm, though, to varying levels of success.

If the interviewer asks you about your qualifications, respond to the question and then ask them in turn which responsibilities these fit into. If they ask you why you want the job, answer and tell them what you want to do when you get the job. This will shift the dynamic of the interview into a more conversational and engaging one. It isn’t complete and utter disruption of the status quo.

If you really want to disrupt an interview, try to redirect every question back at the recruiter. This demands a certain level of delicacy, though because it can quickly become frustrating for the recruiter, hurting your chances at getting a job.

You can actually explicitly say that you are a disruptor, but you must explain why that is an asset in a candidate. Disruptors constantly seek and thirst innovation, they question but go further into trying to find solutions to the questions they postulate.

Disruptive Answers To Interview Questions

  • Tell Me About Yourself

    • Instead of answering that question with your experience, education, and qualification, talk about a relevant experience that shows the application of your abilities and skills.
  • Tell Us About Your Previous Place of Employment

    • This can be tricky especially if you out-grew the company that you worked for. Use the positive actions that created profit or saved money for the previous company and say that you felt it was time to extend that experience to a new place of employment.
  • Why Do You Want to Work for Us

    • Although the immediate response to this question would be to boast the company’s merits, instead find the pain (that I mentioned above) that position seeks to mediate. Then mention that you believe the company to have the support system, culture, and infrastructure to allow you to do so.
  • Why Should We Hire You

    • This is a tricky question, made trickier by the fact that you seek to diverge from the most obvious and straight-forward answer. You can answer this like a disruptor by asking the interviewer, why they are considering hiring you. A little bit of humour will show that you have a good sense of humour, confidence and well developed social skills.

Being a disruptor is not a guarantee of success, it is a combination of innovation, thirst for knowledge and evolution and requires hard evidence to prove. You can’t just claim to be a disruptor; you will have back up your claim. Are you a disruptor, how have you used it in your professional life? Has being a disruptor gotten you a job, or helped you advance your career? Let us know in the comment section below.




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