By Anja van den Berg
First-time employment is undoubtedly one of the greatest concerns for new graduates. But even entry-level job specs include skills that no newly-graduated young person would have been able to master.
Even if a potential job involves technical skills covered in your studies, the employer will likely use tools you haven’t seen before and rely on processes beyond what you studied.
This is according to Art Markman, Professor of Psychology and Marketing and author of Bring Your Brain to Work: Using Cognitive Science to Get a Job, Do it Well, and Advance Your Career.
However, Markman adds, just because you don’t have all the qualifications doesn’t mean you shouldn’t apply for the job.
“If you’re completely qualified for the job you apply for, you aimed too low,” he clarifies. “Organisations expect people who are new to a role (and particularly people who are new to a firm) to grow into the position. They want new hires to ask a lot of questions, to seek out mentoring, and even to make a few mistakes as they get acclimated to a role.”
That means that you should look for positions that will stretch you, not ones where you can already tick all the boxes. Here is your three-step plan to decide if you should apply for that position – even though your CV doesn’t include every single requirement:
- Decipher the job spec into daily outputs and regular requirements
Read through the job description and get a sense of what someone in the role would do each day.
For instance, if the job requires “public relations experience”, you can safely translate that into the following list of outputs: writing press releases, pitching media, and developing social-media copy. If the job requirement cites ”writing experience” you can decode that as the ability to write concisely, persuasively, and with proper grammar.
After you’ve interpreted the job spec in this way, you’ll have a more accurate sense of what you have to offer and what skills you may be lacking.
- Ignore “bonus” requirements
Sometimes a job spec includes requirements that will be ideal but could read like a laundry list for an enigmatic, magical applicant. Unfortunately, this tactic often scares off qualified candidates who will be capable of filling the position.
Companies aren’t going to stall the hiring process until the elusive dream applicant happens to apply, says Sara McCord, editor of The Muse, an online career platform. “Solid, qualified applicants (like you!) get interviews, too.”
McCord says you should think of the job spec like you would a dating profile: “Yes, I do have one friend whose husband speaks French, runs his own company, flies planes, and volunteers with orphans overseas through a religious charity. But the rest of the group is more than happy with good partners who treat them right.”
- Connect the dots: transferrable skills
A critical piece of the application process is connecting the dots between your experience and the skills the position calls for. In the recruitment industry, this is called ”transferrable skills”.
Think of transferable skills as part of your career tool belt. Transferable skills are proficiencies you’ve gained from working in groups, spending time volunteering, completing internships, taking on freelance jobs, and more.
Just make sure you don’t overreach for relevant experience, McLeod warns. For example, do not try to explain how babysitting prepared you to be an executive assistant because you’ve previously overseen scheduling someone else’s afternoon. Instead, focus on how lessons learned from prior experience would apply to a future role.
Practically speaking, it’s useful for almost everyone to treat job ads as though they are a set of guidelines about what a position involves, not a strict list of requirements that any and all applicants must have. It is crucial, of course, to have at least some of the skills a job requires upfront. “But,” says Markman, “nobody should limit themselves only to positions for which they are already overqualified.”
Harvard Business Review: https://hbr.org/2019/05/you-dont-need-to-meet-every-qualification-to-apply-for-a-job