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Is This Job Search Mistake Keeping You From Landing Your Dream Job?

Topics: Career Advice
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Do you worry that you aren’t qualified to apply for your dream job — at least, not yet? Think twice. The biggest job search mistake you can make is waiting until you have every single requirement before applying for a position.

It’s easy to feel discouraged after looking at the qualifications for a job. This is especially true if you’re just getting out of school or starting down a new career path. Maybe you thought you were doing all the right things by getting educated in your field and earning a degree, for example. But, now you find that all of the jobs you’d like to apply for require at least a few years of relevant experience.

A lot of folks back off at this point and decide not to apply at all. But, that’s often a mistake. Actually, you don’t have to meet every single qualification in order to apply for a job. In fact, there are a lot of benefits to stretching professionally and applying for opportunities that are a little out of your range, especially right now. Here’s what you need to know:

unmet qualifications can scare off applicants

job search mistake
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It’s natural to shy away from applying when you’re under-qualified. However, the job search process can get pretty frustrating when every employer seems to want more than you currently offer. You might find yourself wondering how you’re supposed to get experience when every entry-level position in your industry seems to require it!

Do You Know What You're Worth?

Folks are often afraid to apply for jobs when they don’t fulfill all of the qualifications listed in the job description. But, fear can really limit your career potential if you aren’t careful. As a general rule, it should never be the reason you do, or don’t do, something professionally.

You might be rejected. Or, maybe you won’t. That idea can be pretty scary, too. Don’t underestimate the power of the fear of success. After all, what if they gave you the job even though you don’t check every box? Will you be prepared?

It’s normal to feel intimidated when you don’t meet all of the prerequisites for a job. However, it’s often worth reconsidering this initial impulse.

You don’t need to check every box to apply

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“The requirements listed in job descriptions are guidelines, not hard and fast rules. You don’t have to satisfy every requirement or meet every qualification listed. If your skills are transferable and you are in the ballpark with the number of years of experience the company’s looking for, apply. Applying gives you the opportunity to be considered,” said career coach Avery Blank, according to The Muse.

Don’t turn away from that application just yet. You actually don’t need to meet every single requirement in order to apply for a job. In fact, if you meet every qualification, you might not be stretching enough.

Here’s the thing to keep in mind: companies expect that you’re going to learn new things and get better at meeting their expectations in a new position over time. They want you to know a lot, of course. But, they also know that it will take some time to get you acquainted with your role and with the organization. Often, meeting most of the requirements is enough to be seriously considered for a job.

Young workers, and people who are new to an industry for any reason, bring a lot to the table. Don’t undervalue the power of your enthusiasm. If you can demonstrate your overall capabilities and a willingness to learn and grow, it’ll go a long way.

Don’t let the fact that you don’t meet every qualification get under your skin. Instead, own it. Be honest throughout the application process about what you know and what you’re excited to learn.

Here’s another job search mistake to avoid: going into the interview without knowing how much you’re worth. Take the PayScale Salary Survey and get your free salary report today.

Women are more likely to hesitate

Considerable research has shown that women are less likely than men to apply for jobs when they aren’t 100 percent qualified. It’s not that women aren’t as confident as men. Something else seems to be holding them back. One researcher surveyed over 1,000 people about why they didn’t apply for jobs when they didn’t meet all of the qualifications. Only about 10 percent of women (and 12 percent of men) said they held back because they didn’t think they could do the job.

The top reason for not applying (according to 41 percent of women and 46 percent of men) was thinking that they wouldn’t be hired because they didn’t meet all of the qualifications. Potential applicants didn’t want to waste their time if applying wasn’t going to get them anywhere.

Another 22 percent of women (and 13 percent of men) said they didn’t apply because they didn’t want to put themselves through a process if they were going to fail. They were more concerned about failing than about wasting time and energy. But, both groups seemed to believe that they wouldn’t be hired without meeting all of the requirements.

Fifteen percent of women, and only 8 percent of men, said that they wouldn’t apply under these circumstances because the guidelines told them that they shouldn’t.

So, why do women hesitate more often then men for theses reasons? Leadership expert Tara Sophia Mohr, who conducted the survey, feels that it’s because women are often misinformed about the hiring process.

“All three of these barriers, which together account for 78 percent of women’s reasons for not applying, have to do with believing that they job qualifications are real requirements, and seeing the hiring process as more by-the-book and true to the on paper guidelines than it really is,” she wrote in Harvard Business Review.

Plus, Mohr says, women are socialized from a young age to play by the rules in ways that men aren’t. And, due to bias, women likely do need to meet more qualifications in order to be hired. They shy away from the process for good reason. But, that doesn’t mean it’s in their best interest.

it doesn’t hurt to try

interviews but no job offers
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People shy away from applying for jobs for all kinds of different reasons. Many of these reasons are understandable. However, if you find yourself in this position, keep in mind that you have absolutely nothing to lose, and everything to gain, from applying anyway.

Of course, there’s a tremendous range of experiences here. For example, if you really are massively under-qualified for a position, it might not make sense to apply. But, it’s another story when you can check most of the boxes. If you lack just one or two skills, or the requisite experience, it might just be worth your time and effort to apply. How long could it take? And, the rewards could be great.

Remind yourself that you’re not risking a thing by applying. Stand strong and confident in the truth of who you are professionally right now, and present yourself honestly throughout the application and hiring process. You might just find that your efforts lead to some interviews, even though you don’t meet all of the requirements.

Despite some recent indicators that things may be starting to slow down, the job market is strong right now. There have been fewer unemployed workers than job openings for over a year. And, the unemployment rate stood at the very low rate of 3.6 percent as of May 2019. This is a wonderful time to stretch professionally and maybe even pursue job opportunities that are just a bit out of your range. The pay off will likely extend beyond simple monetary benefits.

“If you only apply for jobs where you fit the description exactly, you’re not giving yourself any room to grow,” career coach and author Elizabeth Saunders told Forbes. “New positions shouldn’t be the same job in a different company, but should be ones where you have most of the skills and then can learn and grow and expand into the additional responsibilities. Don’t stunt your growth and development!”

At the end of the day, you can’t win if you don’t play. If your dream job is calling you, but you don’t quite meet every single qualification, why not apply anyway? The experience could be good for you, no matter the outcome. And, the process certainly won’t do you any harm. Just remember to be honest about where you are and where you’d like to go. Demonstrate both your enthusiasm for the work and also a supreme willingness to learn and grow. The outcome might just surprise you.

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