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They Put You in a Box?

This is the written form of a speech I gave at the December 2016 ICT conference.

Ten years ago the hiring manager said “Great presentation. “You have a professional presence, good voice, and nice way of explaining the concepts. Good slides too. But...”

She then went on to say how she couldn’t see me teaching software---because I was a hardware trainer.

I tried for a few minutes to convince her I could teach software, that I had trained people in both hardware and software. But, it was useless. She had placed me in a box.

After the you’re a hardware trainer rejection, I worked on how to best present my software skill set. I exquisitely tailored my presentation to match the position requirements. My efforts were clearly successful, because my next job was in software training, as was the one after that and the one after that. I didn’t realize it, but I was now in another box. I was a software trainer.

Back in September I was told my job was to be eliminated. My boss said all future training will be online; a standup trainer would no longer be needed. I was never considered for the new e-learning position, because I was a Standup Trainer.


To her credit, my boss told other department managers how my job was being eliminated and invited them to interview me. The manager of the doc writers told me to send him a resume. I did and never heard back.

So, a week later when we passed by each other, I asked him about the position. He sort of apologized, “Oh, I meant to get back to you.” He then went on to say how he had planned to consider me as a tech doc contractor, but one of the full-time writers had quit; so he planned to hire an experienced tech doc writer, not just a tech trainer who could write. In other words, he put me in a box

In case you haven’t figured out---it only took me ten years---we are always in someone’s box.

Over the last ten years I’ve heard: You’ve never taught a security product; you’ve never taught an apps product; you’ve never taught a billing product, and you haven’t been a sales engineer.

I’m a…..fill in the blank.

Lately, I’m a Trainer; so I can’t possibly understand Customer Support, Sales, or HR positions.

Why do hiring managers do this?

Boxes are thought processes that people use to categorize and judge, people. Hiring managers consciously or unconsciously use them to eliminate people from consideration. They often do this when the candidate has all the qualifications, but has never done that exact job description; or the applicant has done similar work in another field.

So, how do we deal with this? How do you get out of the box?

My approach is to reject them These aren’t boxes at all. They are building blocks.

This is who I am. I am not in a box. You are not in a box. None of us are just one thing. We are the sum of our experiences And as such, we have much to offer any employer. Don’t ever forget this.

Stand tall like your building blocks.

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