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Feeling Unqualified? Apply Anyway, Maybe, By: Courtney Crites

Nov 04, 2022 06:43 PM
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Have you ever been job searching and come across your absolute dream job? It sounds perfect and you can’t stop thinking about it? 

But then, you scroll to the qualifications section and they’re looking for someone with an MBA, 5 years of experience in the industry and experience managing large teams (sigh). You know that while you have a great set of experiences and a passion for the role, you definitely don’t have those things. 

I guess the ultimate question is - should you apply or should you just forget about it all together because you don’t necessarily have exactly what the company is looking for? 

Well - it depends. 

But here’s some advice you may want to consider as you’re deciding whether to apply or not: 

How Unqualified Are You, Really?

One of the most important things you can do is sit down and understand where you’re at and how unqualified you are. Don’t assume you necessarily need to fulfill 100% of the requirements - usually these are listed simply to weed out people who are totally inappropriate (and I would hope those people would know they shouldn’t be applying, anyways). But think of it as, best case scenario, they hire someone with ‘all of the above’ requirements and if not, no big deal. One time I heard someone say that a good rule of thumb is having about 75% of the qualifications - and I don’t think this is a bad idea at all.

Like I said earlier, you have to be honest with yourself and to understand where you’re at. If the job you’re considering applying for would be a huge jump (for example, they’re looking for 10+ years of experience and you have 1), your energy might be better spent on positions that are a closer fit or that may seem more realistic to the level of seniority the company is looking for. 

It’s Application Time! 

So… you’ve decided to apply! But you still know you’re a bit unqualified in comparison to others that will be applying and you’re trying to figure out some ways you might be able to set yourself apart. Here’s some ideas that might be worth your while, especially if this is a job that you think you will both love and excel at: 

  1. Filling the Gaps

If the description you come across has a long list of requirements that you’re concerned about not having, figure out what you can bring to the table that will set you apart and make the playing field slightly more equal (knowledge, skills, past experiences, etc.). For example, maybe you’ve never managed a large group of people at work, but you have managed a group of your peers in an extracurricular position at school, or through a sport you’ve played. 

Do your best to look at your transferable skills and experiences and see if they will be able to help you set yourself up for success in this job - you may not have the perfect qualifications, but you can definitely speak to your experiences (make sure this is also highlighted in your resumé and cover letter, too!). 

  1. Actions Speak Louder Than Words 

If you’re applying despite some fear that you may not be meeting 100% of the employer’s expectations, a good idea might be to show them what you can do. For example, in addition to your cover letter, maybe you’ll want to include a memo outlining what you would expect the major challenges of the role might be, and how you’d go about tackling them. 

Going ‘above and beyond’ in any capacity will show off your passion, the skills that you’ve worked so hard on, and will also show that you’re serious about the role (what more could they want, right?!). 

  1. Network, Network, Network

As annoying as it can be sometimes, it’s important for us to never discount the power of networking. If you have a contact who is able to make a recommendation or personal introduction to someone at the organization you’re applying to, that’s great - utilize the connections you’ve worked hard to maintain! If that’s not an option, you can also try the cold approach (whenever I do this, I try to find someone from the organization that went to the same school as me, it’s a great way to have some kind of additional connection with alumni). 

It’s never a bad idea to connect with people and start building relationships - you never know what it will bring you (hopefully, success!). 

Final Thoughts 

Next time you come across a dream job that seems a bit out of reach, or that you simply feel unqualified for, don’t write yourself off immediately. Believe in yourself and give it your all! 

Worst case scenario, you won’t get an interview - but at least you got out of your comfort zone and tried! And best case scenario, you’ll score your dream job!