“I can’t get that job because I don’t have a college degree.” “I’m not going to apply because I don’t have the required experience.” “They won’t think I’m a good fit because I’ve never worked in that industry.”
These are all valid points and I hear them all the time intelligent, hardworking, frustrated people. These points are all roadblocks on your way getting what you want. But I also think they can be seen as detours, with the ability to still get to your final desired destination.
Roadblocks are frequently “check box” issues, such as not having a college degree. These are the kinds of things that knock you out of the job application running because you literally get filtered out by the HR software. Is there anything more defeating? A computer has made judgment that you aren’t even going to get the average 4 second review most resumes get. Gross.
Another roadblock could be that you are changing careers and you don’t have the “5-7 years industry experience”. Again- ugh. Computers don’t get that skills frequently transfer and your experience in another area might prove to be an advantageous set of knowledge that gives you a different insight than someone who’s been in the business for years.
In order to understand the best ways to get around these dang roadblocks, I did what any one with a Rolodex (ok, iPhone contact list) full of HR professional friends would do…I went to the source! I talked with Alicia Boaz and Kim Hickey, HR Extraordinaires and got some great inside scoop about the nitty-gritty of hiring decisions. Their excellent insight is sprinkled throughout the following tips.
When it comes to: No degree/the wrong degree/not enough degrees:
I’m assuming that you have the chops here, you just don’t have the degree to get you past the roadblock. This is where experience is critical, because you have convince companies that your experience trumps a degree in this case.
1. The biggest advice for this kind of thing is to get away from the laptop! You do typically have to submit an online application/resume for almost any job today in order to get into their tracking system, however, the key is to not let that be your only in. As my HR gurus told me, not all HR systems will kick you out of the running if you don’t have a degree, but some will. The key is to have someone in the company asking HR to look out for your resume, so they can pull it from the gazillions of other resumes littering the system.
2. This is where major networking comes into play. You need to get to know people in high places. Or at least medium places. Someone who can get to know you, understand why you’d be great for the job even without the requisite degree, and is willing to make a pitch for you. A great way to do this is though Informational Interviews, like I explain here.
3. Another way to start to develop your network is by having your reputation precede you. By becoming an authority in the industry (by writing blogs, being part of your industry associations, attending networking events) you can establish yourself based on your skills. This gives those people that are going to bat for you some meat to confirm why you are more than qualified and the degree issue is really no issue at all.
4. Finally, getting a certification in your field is a great way to show your expertise, dedication, and professionalism. Having some key letters behind your name can lend a lot of credibility when you don’t have the degree typically required for the job.
When it comes to: Lack of experience:
You’ve got to get creative here and get ready to do some hard work. Because those HR computers have one thing right…you need something to bring to the table (other than having a dazzling wit and being a snappy dresser).
1. You need a project. You need a way to get some experience in this area. And I hate to say it, but you may need to do this for free. It’s probably time to break out the old volunteering skills and do some greater good. Many non-profits have business needs just like every other company. They need spreadsheets and analysis and research and marketing and operations help. If a kind, willing community member is willing to lend a hand, then as quick as you can say Bob’s Your Uncle, you’re on your way to getting some experience.
2. The next thing you have to do is figure out how to transform your experience and skill set into a perfect complement for what this new job requires. You are going to create an entirely new version of your resume, with every single line describing your past experience in a way that you can tie to being advantageous in your new career. If they want 2-4 years’ experience, you need to make what you’ve been doing for the past 2-4 years seem like a great compliment to what they are doing.
3. Ah, she says it again… now you’ve got to get people in your corner. The best way to get a chance is to find someone who believes in you and is willing to give you that chance. A great way to get people interested in you is to show them you’re incredibly interested in what they do. Ways to accomplish this are:
a. Immerse yourself in the industry- read blogs and websites, follow the news in that industry, and get to know who the key players are.
b. Go to networking events! Tell people how much you like the industry and would like to get into it. Ask them how they got into the industry. Tell them about the project you’ve done and how your experience dovetails nicely with what you hope to do. Then ask if they have any advice for someone like yourself. People like to help others! As long as you come across warm, excited and ask intelligent questions, odds are great that people you admire will give you great advice. Take that advice and move forward with your goal!
Navigating these checkbox challenges is not easy, but do know that’s it not impossible. You’ve made it this far on your talent, skills and tenacity. You can absolutely get over these hurdles. Be creative, dedicated and put in the effort it requires. Once you change your mindset from “I can’t” to “I’ll figure out a way”, more options will become available to you than you ever imagined. Go out there and get it!