Overcoming the “Under-Qualified” Stigma

Investment Banking Analyst, Chicago, IL
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Vice President, Philadelphia, PA
Sr. Consultant, Boston, MA
Quantitative Analyst Intern, New York, NY

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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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Doostang News January 24: How to be a Team Player

Jr. Equity Analyst, New York, NY
Senior Analyst, Washington, DC
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Being successful at work is about more than just your own personal achievements at a company – it’s about working well together with others.  After all, this is how you contribute to the success of a company, which is the whole reason you are there.  And being a team player at work is about more than just collaborating on projects (this is, after all, your job), it’s also about your attitude and the gestures you make to convey that you’re a part of the team.  Integrate a few of the following pointers into your routine in order to collaborate more with your fellow workers.

Volunteer for Projects

There are always those projects that will come up at work that require a few more helping hands.  So even if said project doesn’t exactly fall under your job description, offer to help out if the team needs some extra manpower.  You’ll really help out your coworkers, people will appreciate your efforts, and you might learn something new that can help you out in your own work.

Offer to Help a Coworker

If you sense that a coworker is falling behind on their work or that they’re going to be staying late that evening working on a big project, ask them if there’s anything you can do to lighten the load.  It’s often better for the company if the project is finished more quickly, and you may help that coworker catch something that they might have missed in the anxiety of tackling such a large task in the first place.

Go to Lunch

Some people like to use their lunch breaks as a chance to run errands, catch up on emails or phone calls, or get away from the office for an hour; but make it a point at least once a week or a few times a month to sit down and talk with your coworkers over a meal.  You may find that the peers who are high-strung throughout the rest of the day are really neat people during their down time when they aren’t thinking of the work at hand.

Take Part in Company Activities

Whether it’s a potluck, a birthday celebration, or an office contest, try to get involved in company activities when these come up.  If your office is part of a recreational softball league but you just aren’t athletic, show your support by cheering on your coworkers from the stands.  Taking part in the extracurricular activities of your office makes work more enjoyable for you, as well as endears you more to your coworkers, who may work more productively with you as a result.

Not everyone is a natural socialite, but even if you are shy or new to the company, there are still ways to be a team player.  Ultimately, your coworkers will appreciate your efforts, and will reach out to you more as a result.

Time for a good ol’ group hug!

The Doostang Team

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