This question comes up over and over again. Whether you’ve just graduated or are looking for a new role or promotion, there are three simple solutions to this problem:
- Work out what skills and experience you need. Obviously, if you want to become a doctor or a lawyer and haven’t studied for the role you won’t be able to get around that. But it’s worth looking at what you really need to get that dream job. Read the job description carefully, including the essential and desired qualities. Search for people who are working in this field on LinkedIn and work out what their background leading up to the role was. If you have similar experience but don’t have the formal qualification you may be able to demonstrate that you are a good fit for the role regardless. It may be worth contacting the hiring manager to find out whether you are in a position to apply even if there are some gaps in your skills and experience.
- Find out how you can acquire the necessary experience. If you aren’t in a position to apply but really want to pursue a particular career path, find out what you need to do to get there. It may be that you can take a short course or do some work experience while you apply. Make it clear in your application that you have identified a gap in your experience and are working to get the experience you need. This will show that you are really keen to learn and are committed to the job even before you start. You may even be able to get some experience working for the company advertising the job, which will give you insight into how the company works and will give them a chance to get to know you and see what you are capable of.
- Think outside the box. Even if you don’t have the required experience you may have good transferable skills that will give your application a helping hand. Perhaps you’re applying for a managerial role and have never managed a team but have headed up a committee, managed a football team or led a group within your church. You may have done some volunteering or job shadowing that could demonstrate management qualities. Or perhaps you are a parent and are responsible for managing your children, the household and your family’s finances. Don’t overlook the experience you already have, even if it initially seems irrelevant or trivial. Add a ‘skills summary’ to your cover letter and explain how you fit the criteria even if you don’t have the formal experience.
It is very unlikely that any candidate has the exact skills and experience the employer is looking for. If you can demonstrate that you have relevant qualities and are willing to learn and develop, you may find that you are able to apply for roles you previously would have written off.