The jobs that are the most fun are where our learning curve is high but we can still achieve results. Usually the list of requirements for a job like this is a little beyond your experience. So how do you get one?
First of all, realize that the people who write job descriptions actually have little clue about what they really want in a candidate. That means they are easily influenced if they see a resume that grabs them. The other thing to keep in mind is that candidate requirements are usually insanely optimistic so most people applying will either be way out of the price range for the job, or not quite meeting the qualifications for the job.
In any case, you should always reach for a job way above you, but do it in a way that makes you seem like a reasonable candidate. Here are some tricks:
1. Use the informational interview as a sales pitch.
If you know someone is hiring, and you know you’re not qualified, you might still be able to get an informational interview. In that meeting, first find out all you can about what that particular department or company (depending on size) needs. Then find out what really matters to the person you’re talking to.
If you can sell yourself as someone who has the right type of personality and demeanor for the type of work that needs doing, the hiring manager might believe that you can grow into the job quickly. This leap of faith becomes more realistic when the hiring manager believes that you know a lot about the job and he knows a lot about you (which you selectively reveal in the informational interview).
Tough part: Shifting the meeting to a job interview even though it wasn’t scheduled that way. Be subtle.
2. Sell yourself as a consultant.
People want good ideas. Note, though, that a good idea is one that you can actually implement—one that you can see through from start to finish. People say that their particular industry is not like this, but in fact, every industry is ripe for a good idea sold the right way.
This is typically what consultants do. They go into a meeting selling an idea rather than selling themselves as a fit for a job description. A great example of how any industry needs good ideas is the funeral industry. There are tons of new ideas for how to bury peoples’ remains, and the industry is dependent on the quality of new ideas flowing in.
This is true of all industries, no matter how obscure. So if you come up with a good idea and sell it to the right person in the organization, you might be able to land a job implementing that idea even if you have no experience doing something like that.
Tough part: Learning how to sound like a consultant if you’ve only trained to do an interview.
3. Get people to use you as a reference.
Headhunters don’t fill entry-level jobs, they fill mid-tier and top-tier positions. The headhunting business is all about sourcing, so the more you know about how headhunters source online, the more likely you are to get tapped for a job that is a little beyond your qualifications.
Eric Muller, from Prizm Consulting, says he often searches for resumes with respected corporate brands on them and then he looks for the people listed as references—and he goes after those people. So try getting your friends at your level to list you as a reference and you get a chance to be considered for a higher level position.
Tough part: Getting the right friends.
4. Blog to become an expert.
It’s amazing to me how many bloggers in the Brazen Careerist network are people with 1-3 years of work experience who sound like someone with a lot more work experience. The reason for this is that blogging forces you to become an expert in your field a lot faster than a day-to-day office job forces expertise.
Blogging focuses on ideas and the person who is writing those ideas. You can position yourself as top in your field offline by becoming top in your field online. Your online position gives you access to people who would not consider hiring you based on your resume and experience, but would consider hiring you based on your blog and your ideas.
Tough part: Having good ideas. Really.
5. Have a realistic idea of your skill set.
It’s very hard to sell something you don’t believe in. So you are going to have a hard time getting a job that’s a little bit beyond you if you don’t really believe that you’re good at what you are saying you’re good at.
Also, though, it’s very hard to sell something you have blind faith in. Think about the evangelists that knock on your front door. Their arguments are not persuasive because they “just believe” they are right. If you “just believe” you can do it, you won’t be able to cut a deal.
So in order to land a job that’s beyond your experience, you need to tread that fine line between having a strong belief in your strengths and not going off the deep end to the point where you sound delusional.
Tough part: Seeing your true self and believing in the person you see. This is actually the tough part of all of life. Which explains why I like writing about career advice so much.