Are You Really “Unqualified”?

Some of my resume clients agonize over which jobs they “qualify” for. I encourage people to break down what they mean by qualification. Most people blur four distinct issues:

Being uncredentialed. A doctor or lawyer must have a license. In those realms, an individual without a license is unqualified by definition. In most occupations, credentials are not legally required; in some fields, credentials are little more than marketing tools – the better marketed they are, the more money involved for people operating training schools and certificate programs.

Being untrained.For a particular job role, a person may have the right stuff but not have exposure to the required procedures and protocols.

Being incompetent.Ultimately, competence is the most important qualification. It is what the credentials and a track record of successes are intended to ensure. Competence is difficult to define and hard to identify without direct evidence. Many credentials – including fancy degrees – are proxies for competence.

Being unmarketable.Let’s face it. People have prejudices. Your local social service agency may want “nonprofit people.” A corporation may hire all of its project managers from the ranks of former consultants. A particular position may require a bachelor’s degree when a bachelor’s degree provides no relevant training and does not measure the right competencies.

Reasonable job seekers aren’t troubled by being excluded from work they are not legally permitted to practice or being weeded out when they lack the fundamental capabilities that would allow them to perform well. Most do not resent employers for preferring to hire people who are trained and ready to roll.

Most resume writing clients are stumped by the marketability piece. The feeling, “I could do this job!” or “I’m pigeonholed doing something I don’t like (and that I’m not even as good at as I could be doing … .”

How can a career changer work around this? It’s all in the story. Find the story about your career that rings true because it is true, and communicate it to a person (like a hiring manager, executive, or owner rather than the HR person.)

Years ago, I applied for a job with a start-up professional services firm consulting to the Fortune 500. I had never had any kind of similar job, had spent the last couple of years freelancing. In my final interview, the CEO said, “Most creatives don’t like this sort of structured environment. How do you think you’ll cope with this?”

My honest answer: “I like interesting work. I can cope with anything for a while, as long as I’m intellectually stimulated.

He believed the story. I got the job.

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