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Upselling yourself

The delightful Cliff Landis (who I have even met in Real Life) has a post with advice for job applicants. Many of his points are excellent. Some can even be amplified. Don’t just proofread your c.v.: have a friend proofread it. You can’t see your own errors, particularly on a document you’ve been poring over for days.

Buhhhhht… I take issue with a couple of Cliff’s points.

Cliff wrote, “Don’t apply for a job you won’t accept – Some folks suggest applying for everything because it gives you ‘practice’ and you ‘never know.’ The reality is that it’s more paperwork and hassle for the folks on the search committee. Ask yourself if you would accept an offer for the position before you apply.”

My take (and, I just noticed, T. Scott’s take): if it’s just for practice, then don’t do it. But if you’re unsure if you want the job, then don’t die wondering. After all, the reverse may be true: you may be utterly convinced you want the job until you sit down with the search committee and a lightbulb goes off in your head, “No, I do not want to work with these people.”

You also don’t know what the agency might be able to offer that’s not on the table — whether it’s telework, or hours based around childcare, etc. You can always ask.

Cliff wrote, “Don’t apply for a job you’re not qualified for — Again, you’ll be adding more paper to stack that’s already too big. If you don’t have strong qualifications or missed out on getting a relevant internship, apply for an entry-level position (and yes, they are out there!).”

My take: women are particularly adept at ruling themselves out of jobs they are more than qualified for. I see this all the time. You need to have some faith that you are capable — and that you can grow into a job. If you aren’t sure, ask a trusted friend (the kind of friend who will tell you, yes, your butt DOES look big in that dress). If you must, take a risk and upsell yourself.

Obviously, if the job requires conversational German and you can’t get past “Guten Tag,” well, then, rule yourself out. But I once walked into a job interview looking for a reference position and walked out as the director, and that ball started rolling the instant the interviewer picked up my c.v. (In this case, I didn’t know of the other position — but I also wasn’t looking at administrative jobs, having limited my idea of what I was qualified for, despite years of work that clearly made me capable for this position.)

You also really don’t want to be in an entry-level job if your skills are better than that (assuming, of course, that you have options). You’ll be frustrated and will spend your days mumbling to yourself how you’d do things better. Well, of course you would, but that’s not the job you applied for, was it?

Finally, I see job descriptions that are laundry-lists of every possible skill set they think they want in an applicant. If you think you can do the job as it will play out day to day, then be bold and apply.

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