I recently came across this article on the secret to landing a job at Google. Applicants go through rounds of interviews with a variety of seemingly odd questions. Yet while the questions may appear unconnected, Google is really trying to gauge the following:
(1) whether you know your field of expertise;
(2) whether you can apply what you know in an unfamiliar context; and
(3) whether you can make “creative” leaps to arrive at a solution.
These three characteristics of their ideal employee struck me as characteristics we all should be developing as we navigate our careers and lead in the nonprofit sector.
1. Do you know your field?
Who are the key people and organizations? What are some big issues or policies on the table that affect your cause? How do the people you serve understand your cause? Beyond your cause there is also your profession. What are some best practices in fundraising? What key texts are useful in designing curriculum?
However, developing expertise isnt just a matter of reading and learning (which are important). It is also about connecting with others, exposing yourself to new opportunities, and putting what you learn into practice. Which brings us to the next question:
2. Can you apply what you know in different contexts?
I’ve recommended working on projects outside of work to keep your skills sharp. This is because knowledge isnt just developed in a vacuum; it is affected by the environments we work in as well. Exposing yourself to new challenges exposes the gaps in skill set while allowing you to hone in on what you’re really good at.
3. Can you make decisions without all of the information at hand?
As I assume more responsibility at my current organization, I find myself in this situation quite a bit. However, I find that rarely am I completely in the dark: I have my experiences and expertise to help guide me as well as an understanding of the context. This is often enough to help me make thoughtful decisions. So the question really is how do you leverage what you DO know to solve a problem?
What I love about these questions is that in reflecting on them I get a better sense of where I am professionally: what skills and knowledge I have and what I need to build on.
What do you think of these questions from Google?