Overcoming the “Under-Qualified” Stigma

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It’s happened to everyone: you come across a job description for a position that’s right up your alley. The job is interesting and looks like something that you are completely capable of and excited to do. And then your eyes wander to the “Qualifications” section… You don’t have a Masters degree, 5+ years of experience, or a Series 7 license. So what do you do? Scrap it and move on? If you’re lacking many of the key qualifications that appear mandatory, then indeed you’re probably better off allocating your time and effort applying elsewhere. But if you’re only a few qualifications away from that ideal candidate description, you might be selling yourself short if you give up before even trying. Read on for a list of tips on overcoming the “under-qualified candidate” stigma.

Emphasize Your Skills

Ok, so maybe you don’t hit every bullet point with your qualifications. But don’t give up hope just yet. For many positions, the “Qualifications” section is merely a list of attributes of the ideal candidate. This doesn’t mean that they’re unwilling to consider someone who meets only some of the requirements. So instead of dwelling on what you haven’t done, focus on what you’re great at. Many skills that you acquire throughout school, volunteer work, or another job are transferable to other positions, and can be used to replace any prerequisites that you might not meet. Highlight these skills or experiences in your cover letter, and explain how they will help you excel in that specific job. One important caveat: don’t waste your time applying for jobs that you’re completely unqualified for – for example, if you’re looking at a position for an Associate Attorney at a top law firm, you better have a law degree.

Go the Extra Mile

If you come up short on knowledge or experience, emphasize to an employer that you are willing to work harder than any other candidate to brush up on your skills and become well versed in the subject matter. Don’t underestimate the value that hiring managers place on a strong work ethic. Include in your resume and cover letter examples of your ability to learn quickly. If you possess many of the other qualities of the ideal candidate, you may find that your enthusiasm to learn and contribute may very well land you the position.

Network

Networking is a great way to gain introductions into a company. Networking can also help you establish someone on the inside as an individual who can vouch for you. When you come across that tricky job description, mention to your contact that you’re planning on applying, and explain why. Be honest, and address any points that might weaken your application. Companies want to hire individuals they can trust. If someone with a good history at the company is able to put in a good word for you, it will further bolster that company’s confidence in bringing you on.

Volunteer or Intern

If you find that no matter how you try to spin it, you just can’t land the position you want based on your qualifications, offer to volunteer your services for free. This isn’t to say that you should ever allow a company or an individual to take advantage of you. But if you volunteer or intern for a company, you’ll gain valuable experience that you can parlay into a future opportunity at the company. Get in, work hard, and show them that they need you. Even if doing so doesn’t lead to another prospect within that company, you’ll gain important knowledge and skills that will qualify you for a position similar to the job you had hoped for at the outset.

It’s easy to look at a job description, think, “There’s someone out there who’s better,” and quickly abandon the effort. But have a little faith in yourself – play to your strengths and commit to working even harder than the next guy, and you may find yourself more qualified than you think. So take a chance – you’ve got nothing to lose – and you may find yourself one step closer to your dream job!

All the best,
The Doostang Team

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Use Smart Networking to Speed Up Your Job Search

By Alesia Benedict, CPRW, JCTC – GetInterviews.com

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A critical tactic in your job search toolbox is networking, but it may not feel as though your efforts are getting the results you want. Evaluate your approaches and make sure you are using your time wisely to get results more quickly.

Choose business networks.

Effective networking does not focus solely on talking with friends and family. Of course, you will discuss your job search with your informal network, but this is not the network that is likely to land your next job. Think in terms of business contacts, professional and community organizations, and even former professors or workshop leaders. You need to focus on people who are active in the business community in order to effectively use your network.

Maintain constant contact.

This point can feel like a balancing act. While you don’t want to be a pest, you need to maintain high visibility with your business network in order to be considered as a viable candidate for job openings.  Set your own goal for the number of contacts you will pursue. A goal of 3 to 5 weekly contacts is reasonable when you are conducting a full-time job search. Carry business cards with you for casual encounters and consider a more complete bio, resume, or project sheet for scheduled meetings. Remember to have your own business cards made so that you are not using anything related to current or former employers.  You don’t want to imply that you are looking for a job using company resources! Follow the example below to create your personal business card.

Ben or Betty Job Seeker
Human Resources Manager
(phone number)
(email)
(LinkedIn profile or website)

Diversify your efforts.

Don’t rely solely on social media or local groups. You need to use all resources available to you. Consider professional career strategists, local business organizations, and online sources. For social media sites such as Facebook, present an appropriate image. Remove any questionable photos or postings, such as complaints about your former boss or party pictures. Consider using LinkedIn to expand your network. Research any professional organizations that may also have job boards. It could be worth the membership to expand your professional network and use any online resources they may have for job seekers. Finally, don’t forget local sources, such as the Chamber of Commerce or civic groups composed of business leaders (for example, the Kiwanis).

Target effectively.

Are you networking with people who are making hiring decisions? This goes beyond shifting your focus from informal networks of friends and family to a business network.  Think about using your efforts effectively. You will get more results from some of the business leaders who are involved in local civic groups than networking with those contacts without hiring authority. That doesn’t mean you want to ignore those who answer the phones within an organization. You need to enlist them on your support team as well. Branch out to use the online resources mentioned earlier. If you are already on LinkedIn, review others with similar interests even if they are located across the country. Many professions are relatively small and one professional with hiring authority in New York may know someone hiring in your region.

Cultivate your network.

Cultivating a network takes time. Think of your professional network as a garden. Plant seeds with initial contacts. Weed out contacts that aren’t working. Fertilize those contacts that have greater potential in your targeted search. Constantly tend the network. You can’t expect results if you only reach out periodically or when you need some help. Think of ways to maintain contact with your network on a regular basis. Perhaps you have updated your skills and want to let people know. Send out copies of interesting articles you have discovered. These activities keep your name present in the minds of network contacts.

Smart networking will help you use your time more efficiently and achieve results more quickly. With a targeted network, you are not the only one working to find you a job. You have multiplied your efforts many-fold with an active network. Evaluate your approach and do some smart networking to land your next job!

About the Author: Alesia Benedict, Certified Professional Resume Writer (CPRW) and Job and Career Transition Coach (JCTC) is the President of GetInterviews.com, the country’s leading resume writing firm. They provide professionals with customized, branded resumes and career marketing documents. Her and her firm’s credentials include being cited by JIST Publications as one of the “best resume writers in North America,” quoted as a career expert in The Wall Street Journal, and published in a whopping 25+ career books. Established in 1994, the firm has aided more than 100,000 job seekers to date. All resume writers are certified writers. GetInterviews.com offers a free resume critique and their services come with a wonderful guarantee — interviews in 30 days or they’ll rewrite for free!

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Doostang News February 21: Tips for Improving Your Networking – Part 1

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There really is an art to networking, and while you certainly get better at it over time, there are also a few tricks you can employ to improve your results.   While you probably won’t get very far by standing in the corner at a networking event, you’ll also suffer if you go over-the-top and try to do too much.  Here are some pointers to keep in mind when trying to establish meaningful connections:

Slow Down

If your main goal is to show up to an event and collect as many business cards as possible, you’re not going to get very far in the long run.  The reason for this is that in order to achieve your goal, you will have to move about the room very quickly, without giving yourself a chance to make any first impressions on anyone.  You will easily be forgotten, and although you will have their contact information, you won’t have a real basis to follow up with all those people whose business cards you collected.  Additionally, without much one-on-one time with each person, you will likely forget the individuals you are there to meet as well, and therefore won’t get much out of the event.

Focus on Quality

Really try to relate to the person you are talking to, and make sure that you speak and listen.  Don’t become distracted by other people in the room or think about the next person you are going to approach.  Focus your attention on the person standing in front of you and try to make a real connection with them.  That way, when you follow up, they will remember who you are and will be more open to continuing the conversation you started at the event.

Tell a Story

A good way to stick in people’s mind is to tell them your story.  Think of things you can tell them that are relevant, but interesting as well.  What makes you unique as a business professional and as a human being?  How did you get to where you are, and what makes you tick?  And make sure to listen to their stories as well.  People love the chance to share something about themselves, and having this exchange will help establish rapport between the two of you.  It will also give you something to reference and talk about later on when you get in contact again.

There are right ways and wrong ways to network. So even if professional socializing makes you feel as though you are out of your element, just try to stick to the proper etiquette and you’ll likely come out successful in the end.

Goodbye for now, and stay tuned for our next installment on networking tips!

The Doostang Team

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