“You say pot-A-to, and I say pot-AH-to.  You say Tom-A-to, and I say Tom-AH-to.” – Louie Armstrong, Let’s Call the Whole Thing Off

I’ve been a Career Coach for over 10 years, and many of the same concerns come up over and over again, yet one issue trumps all others when it comes to the application process…

…few clients apply to jobs if the job description asks for more experience than they have.

Regardless of how much they match with the other requirements and preferred qualifications, people will just accept this as fact, not apply, and lose out on the opportunity.

That’s right, when you don’t apply for the job, you are saying no for them.

Give yourself a chance…just do as Nike does.

What’s the worst that can happen?  What already had happened a hundred times over…you get a rejection letter, if you get any communication at all.

They won’t remember you.  They won’t laugh at you.  They move on…and so do you.

The truth is, the job description is a picture of the ideal candidate the company wants.  It’s also rarely what they get.

When you match with a majority of the qualifications, you are doing a disservice to yourself by not applying.

Besides, what is their definition of experience, and what is yours?

Two years of experience for them might be having worked in their industry for that long, even if it was in a different department or under a different function.  It could also mean exposure to the field, which could be any combination of previous work, education, projects, or skill set (especially technical skills) you’ve improved on over time.

When I applied to receive my certification as a Professional of Human Resources (PHR), I had to convey how my (at the time) five years of career counseling were transferable and relatable to the HR field.  It wasn’t the standard (ask most HR professionals if they consider career counseling a part of their profession, and my guess is 9 out of 10 would say no), and there are likely very few Career Coaches/Counselors with a PHR.  Yet with my exposure to the recruitment process, my familiarity with resumes/cover letters/interview technique, and more, I was able to make a strong case and succeed in this endeavor.

This isn’t to say you should apply for a position asking for 10 years of experience if you only have two.  You still need to be reasonable.  A career coach shouldn’t apply for a rocket scientist position just as a rocket scientist shouldn’t apply for a career coach position (unless, that is, the rocket scientist wants to coach other rocket scientists).  However, if you look at a job description and say “I can do this,” not because it seems doable but because you have evidence to prove that you are able to do it, don’t let that years of experience line deter you.  It’s the biggest hurdle most people need to overcome, especially for entry level or career transition opportunities.

Be confident in your abilities.  Allow them to say no.  Just do it, and you might find yourself with an opportunity that didn’t seem possible if you hadn’t taken the chance.