Don’t Feel You’re 100% Qualified for the Job? Apply Anyway
These are the steps I took to land a whole new career in tech
Last year was the year I reached a boiling point. I finally became fed up. Fed up with my job in marketing, my capricious-micromanaging-boss, the tasks and high-pressure nature of the job, and the toxic environment in which I was expected to perform in, never mind succeed in.
I spent most days in tears. I wasn’t doing what I wanted to do. My talents felt wasted as I neared burnout for the second time in a year. The pressure amounted to a near-impossible situation that was suffocating my mental health.
I needed a change, and I needed one fast. Marketing was out, and a new career was the only thing that could fix my predicament.
So, in the middle of a global health and economic crisis, I took a leap of faith and started applying for jobs that were way out of my comfort zone. Way outside of the descriptions listed on my resumé.
I knew that I wanted to pivot into a tech role, despite not having any direct technical skills. The benefits of home/office flexibility, working to solve real problems, and the feeling of contributing to something bigger than myself were too great to pass up.
Soon enough, I landed interviews. Shortly after that, I landed my first role in tech in an environment that was the direct opposite of my previous job: positive, healthy, and doing something worthwhile.
I made the switch without experience. All it took was a near-delusional (but healthy) belief in my own confidence while daring to try something new.
I ignored the job qualifications and took a risk
Ok, well, maybe I didn’t ignore all of them. But did you know that if your skills and experience match up with at least 50% of the requirements listed in the job ad, then you are more likely to get your foot in the door for an interview.
When I dove headfirst from a marketing and branding position to a product management role, I leveraged every bit of transferrable skills, experience, and domain knowledge that I had. At the end of the day, I met probably 70% of the requirements my employer was looking for.
Something that helped me take the jump was remembering there will never be a candidate that meets 100% of the qualifications and is a perfect cultural fit.
Most companies don’t always know what they are looking for until it’s right in front of them. And if a person is a proper fit, employers will want to invest in the right person and bring them up to speed with on the job training and coaching.
With all that in mind, I asked myself: What’s stopping me from applying?
I won’t lie. Imposter syndrome and self-doubt tried to stop me. Taking risks and trying new things aren’t exactly comfortable situations. But then again, have you ever heard of a successful person who didn’t take some sort of risk?
You never know what will happen if you don’t open yourself up to new experiences. Don’t self-reject. Self-rejection will hold you back more than rejection from others ever will.
Apply anyway and see what happens. The worst they can do is say no.
I absorbed as much information as I could about the role
I didn’t know the first thing about product management before applying. All I knew was that I had transferrable skills from my background in marketing and education in psychology that matched with what they were looking for, and that was it. The actual position? Nada.
Enter an 80s movie montage of me researching and gathering as much knowledge as possible.
If there was a Facebook group, I joined it. Podcasts, I downloaded them and listened to them on my daily walks. I even bought and binge-read “Product Management for Dummies.” Anything to get a real taste of what the job entailed and how other PM’s experienced their positions.
By immersing myself in what it was like to be a Product Manager, I prepared for the interview and learned which parts of my resumé and background could be leveraged for the role. I came armed with information and left with a new job.
I believed in myself, and didn’t forget to be myself
Full disclosure. Interviewing for jobs is not exactly my forté. My nerves get shot, and it’s hard to tap into my confidence when that happens.
So when my ears turned beet red, and my hands started to shake during my first round interview with my (now) boss and teammate, I took a deep breath and asked myself this: If I don’t believe in myself then who will?
I knew that I had a unique background that could be incredibly beneficial for the role I was applying for. I highlighted each point that I felt were strong arguments for hiring me. In my case, these points were cross-functional team coordination, project management, domain knowledge, and experience in working with tech clients in my previous job.
I won’t say I exactly nailed that interview; I was a little too nervous for my liking. But I did end up making myself memorable by, well, being myself—my awkward, vulnerable, funny self.
When asked how I handle stress, I let them in on my one vice in life, stress-chewing pink bubble gum. This made them laugh. Sure enough, some weeks later, when I showed up for my first day, laying on my desk was a pack of bubble gum.
Often we become so focused on making sure our resumé and experience are aligned with the job we are going for that we forget to inject some actual personality somewhere in the process. The difference between a great candidate and an exceptional candidate, especially when you’re not 100% qualified for the job, is a great cultural fit.
Letting who you are shine through in an interview is a sure-fire way to be memorable when it comes to being asked back for the next round.
One year ago, I wouldn’t have believed you if you told me I would be working in tech and creating real solutions without any prior technical skills. I wouldn’t know where to start looking or how to even apply to those types of roles.
All I knew was that I was miserable and dissatisfied with the job I had. And when people are unhappy, they start considering new possibilities.
It took a bit of research, a bit of risk, and a whole lot of belief in myself, but I did it.
And now, I dare you to believe in yourself too