Getting hired even when you’re not qualified is one of the most important skills to have if you want to keep your work life interesting. Because if you are always taking jobs you’re qualified for, then your learning curve is really flat, and your work life is really boring.
So here are three ways to get hired when you’re not qualified for the job.
1. Create a project from a different arena that interests you.
One reason my resume is so varied is that I have always done two things at once so that I can switch up as soon as my learning curve flattens. For example, when I was playing professional beach volleyball, I was also writing stories every day. So I was ready to go to grad school as soon as I got tired of volleyball.
In grad school, I didn’t have to write–the writing was done. This was when the Internet was emerging as a mainstream tool, and I realized that my writing was perfect for the Internet. So I took all my printed out pages to the computer science lab and asked one of the professors to teach me HTML.
I wrote my master’s thesis in HTML. I might have been the first English graduate student in the whole country to do that. It got me a job managing the web site for a Fortune 100 company, even though I had almost no marketing or technical experience.
2. Take responsibility for your own education.
In my new job, I spent the next six months reading whatever I could about the Internet. I read about advertising and copywriting, I read about programming, I read about everything. I had no idea where I would fit in the Internet industry, but I knew I had to learn about it to succeed in my new job as Internet maven.
I also talked with a wide range of people in my job, so I could learn from them. My next job was being the interface between the IT department and the marketing department. They were not communicating well. How did I know how to communicate with IT people? I have no idea, except that I had read so indiscriminately that I actually sounded knowledgeable about IT issues, especially for someone who went to graduate school for English literature.
3. Just apply.
I have not always had jobs I loved. I was at an advertising agency, and I was really, really not suited for the work. So I was unhappy and desperate to get out, and I started sending my resume out in sort-of indiscriminate ways.
This is a bad job-hunt tactic, and I don’t recommend it, but one of the side benefits was that I sent my resume to jobs where I did not meet the requirements. For example, the job I got had a description that included “MBA required.”
How did that happen? Most of the time the manager or HR person writing the job descriptions has little idea what they really want or need. So write a good cover letter about why you’re a good fit, and ignore the part about qualifications you don’t have. Talk about your track record for delivering what they want.
If you can do that, then you can apply. And doing that makes you are a better candidate, better than they know they need.