How often have you come across a job posting that was perfect for you, if not for the one glaring gap in the ‘required experience’ field? You hemmed and hawed and wondered if you were automatically disqualified before even applying, so you didn’t.
Deciding whether to apply or not based on the job description compared to your experience is often an art- not a science- in this gray area I am describing, but there are ways you may not have considered in order to address it. Not all of these are appropriate for every situation, so use your judgment.
- Call it Out: Yes, if it’s a huge shift from what’s on your resume, calling attention to it could be the best move. I worked with an accountant who wanted to shift into a career path that was creative and visual, so she applied to a virtual merchandising/sales associate position at a major US retailer as her stepping-stone move to her new career. In her cover letter, she opened with, “I know it may be odd to receive an application from a 9-year accountant, but I’ve got a story AND a bunch of transferrable skills.” She then proceeded to tell her story briefly and in an engaging way and before she knew it, she was hired.
- Know Your Story: You knew that was coming, right? Whether the skill gap is big or small, it pays to be able to describe why you’re doing what you do. The cover letter is a great place to do this (as well as tying your story into how you can help the company).
- Don’t Call It Out: In certain stricter industries, a call-out as described above might not be the best move. Instead, take a deeper look at the job description and the company and see how your unique set of skills will directly contribute to the success of the company or department. Instead of addressing that you don’t have XYZ requirement, show how your skill doing X actually will just as effectively help the company accomplish their goals as XYZ skill requirement.
- Show Your Impact: This goes back to what I talk about a good amount- translating your duties into responsibilities and accomplishments. What impact have you had at your current or previous positions that will clearly be seen as an advantage at the company you’re applying to? Maybe you’ve been in sales for a few years, but prefer marketing, but don’t have the ‘building marketing campaigns through multiple channels’ experience stated on the job description. Have you worked with the marketing team at your current company in any way that would have the same effect? Could you liaise with the marketing team on an upcoming project so that you could gain some experience? Take note of the impact you had and include that in upcoming job applications.
- Make Connections: Oftentimes, it can come down to who you know. I helped a lawyer looking to break into the fashion world and what ended up working for her as she launched her 2nd career was to connect with people in the fashion world. She read articles about people working in the industry and contacted them directly. She was bold and put herself out there. A few such people met with her and gave her the advice she needed to catapult herself into the biz. For her, this meant getting a part-time internship to develop her skills further. It also meant exploring which of her legal skills would help her make the jump.
I’m not advocating applying for jobs where you have only 30% of the required qualifications, but I am saying this: you do not know what a hiring manager or HR manager may see in your experience, so applying to more of those gray area positions in a meaningful and thoughtful way will boost the likelihood that you are called in for an interview. After all, the job search is a numbers game to a degree, so applying to more of the jobs in your ‘gray area’ than you’d normally apply to will only benefit you.
What other ways of addressing skills gaps have worked for you? Leave your comments below!