3 Ways To Get A Great Job Without Meeting All The Requirements
Written By: Aditya Sharma, Ph.D.
During my PhD, my studies ventured into many different areas.
I dabbled in anything that I could get my hands on: biochemistry, synthetic chemistry, cell culture, protein NMR, microscopy… the list goes on.
So, when the time came to finish up my PhD and get a job, I thought I would definitely have all the skills I needed.
I started to search for jobs to see what was available.
I quickly realized that there was a huge variety of industry positions available to someone with a PhD.
And, I realized that even with my varied background, I didn’t meet all the qualifications for ANY of the positions I was interested in.
I felt completely unqualified for industry.
Maybe all I was qualified to do was a postdoc?
But, even when I looked at postdoc positions, I began to feel unqualified.
My PhD began to feel like a waste of time.
When I finished my PhD, I was unemployed and entirely unsure of how to get a job.
My desperation led me to ask for help, which I was reluctant to do.
But, I am so glad that I did.
I learned that I did not need to have all the qualities listed in a job posting to get hired.
This was confusing to me.
Why do employers put these skills down as “requirements”, then?
Turns out, employers are looking for that perfect candidate, but know that they are unlikely to find one.
This changed the way that I was searching for a job.
Instead of trying to find a position I was qualified for, I started looking for a position that fit with my professional lifestyle goals.
If I didn’t need to have all the qualifications, I felt like I could choose a job I would enjoy.
Even if that meant that I was lacking in a couple of areas.
Ultimately, I decided I wanted to move away from the bench.
And, I knew that no matter what industry position I found myself in, I had the skills to be successful.
Why You Don’t Need Every Skill Listed In The Job Posting
There is a famous survey done by Hewlett Packard, reported across many media outlets (including Forbes), which investigated why people don’t apply for jobs.
The study found a discrepancy between how men and women decided if they should apply for a job or not.
Most women won’t apply for a job until they meet 100% of the job requirements, while men don’t apply until they meet at least 60% of the job requirements.
Women are known to suffer from Imposter Syndrome at a higher rate than men, but everyone experiences this feeling.
As a PhD, you were taught to be extremely critical of yourself, and this can lead to a feeling of not being good enough.
This is detrimental to your job search.
You may feel unqualified for a job which you may actually be a perfect fit for.
Like the women in the Hewlett Packard survey, you are disqualifying yourself for a job before you even apply!
Many PhDs feel unqualified for a job unless they meet 100% of the job requirements.
This is ridiculous.
The main culprit behind this feeling of being unqualified is that PhDs often believe that the list of required skills is golden.
They think each of these skills is essential to getting hired.
A majority of employers believe that your technical skills are not the most important factor in whether or not you get hired.
A recent survey by LinkedIn found that 57% of top business leaders rated soft skills as more valuable than technical skills.
Your transferable skills are MORE important than your technical skills, or your lack of a specific technical skill.
Put away your feelings of being unqualified and go get the industry job you want and deserve.
3 Strategies To Get Hired When Your Skills Don’t Match The Job Posting
Transitioning from academia to industry means that you may not fit perfectly into the job description for the position you want.
This doesn’t matter.
Don’t let the fact that you don’t have all the skills listed in a job advertisement keep you from applying.
As a PhD, you have the transferable skills to get the industry position you want.
Here are the 3 ways you can get hired as a PhD, even if you don’t have all required skills listed in a job posting…
1. Realize the list of skill requirements is just a wish list.
The list of required skills for many industry positions is long.
You may feel overwhelmed or unqualified for positions that interest you because there are so many skills listed in the job posting, and you don’t have all of them.
But, there is no need to worry.
The long list of skills that accompanies a job advertisement is just the hiring manager’s wish list.
When they write the job description, they are envisioning the ideal candidate.
But, the ideal candidate almost always does not exist.
Sometimes, the skill requirements are even just a template that a company uses over and over again.
For each individual position, some skills may be more important than others on the list.
You have no way of knowing.
So, don’t let yourself get discouraged if your skills don’t match the job posting.
You do not need to have every skill that is listed.
Even if the job posting requires 2-5 years of industry experience, or experience in a technical skill that you don’t have, you should still apply.
As a PhD, you have many transferable skills that are highly valued in industry.
Don’t let the fact that you are lacking a few skills keep you from pursuing the industry positions you want.
2. Link skills you don’t have to the relevant technical and transferable skills you do have.
Even though your skills don’t exactly match a job posting, that doesn’t mean that you don’t have any relevant skills.
It can feel like you are completely unqualified when reading through the long lists of required skills.
But, don’t get discouraged.
As a PhD, you have many skills that the hiring manager will find valuable.
You just have to position these skills is relation to the required skills listed in the job posting.
Let’s say a job posting lists protein NMR as a required skill, but you don’t have this skill. What do you do?
Do you have a skill related to protein NMR?
Do you have other skills that are relevant to protein NMR?
Do you have transferable skills relevant to protein NMR?
Chances are, you do.
So, you just need to use your related skills to show that you are qualified.
For example, you could say that you have x skill and achieved y result, which is relevant to protein NMR studies.
The skills that you highlight here could be a technical skill or a transferable skill.
Use whatever skills you have that are relevant to the required skill that you don’t have.
This does not mean that you should lie.
You should not say that you have a certain experience if you don’t.
The hiring manager will eventually find out and this will likely lead to you being blacklisted from a company.
The best policy is to be honest, to be sincere, and to highlight the relevant skills that you do have.
3. Remember, as a PhD, you have an unparalleled ability to learn quickly.
This is your trump card.
As a PhD, you can learn anything, and you can learn it quickly.
You have a PhD in learning.
You are a doctor of learning.
As a PhD student and a postdoc, you are constantly learning new things.
You can learn highly technical things very quickly.
This is a valuable skill.
It means that you can learn any of the skills listed in the job posting, and you can learn them quickly.
So, if you don’t have one of the skills that the employer wants, show that you can learn this skill.
Highlight an instance where you had to quickly learn a new skill.
Then, tie this experience to the required skill.
For example, you could say you learned x skill in y time frame, resulting in z result, which shows that you can learn quickly and demonstrates that you can learn [the required skill] quickly.
You should still write the keywords associated with the skills you don’t have in your resume.
This is helpful with applicant tracking software, but it is also important for when a recruiter or hiring manager is reading your resume.
When the hiring manager reads your resume, they are merely skimming it.
They are looking to see if you have the skills they want.
So, make sure the hiring manager’s eyes can find the right keywords in your resume.
This is why it’s important to tie the skills you don’t have to skills you do have, or to your ability to learn quickly.
As a PhD, you have many advantages over other job candidates.
Don’t let a few missing skills keep you from applying for an industry position you are interested in.
Searching for a job is difficult. It takes commitment and a well thought out strategy to be successful. It is possible to get discouraged and lose sight of your value during a job search, especially if your skills don’t match the job postings for the positions you are interested in. But, as a PhD you have many advantages over other job candidates, and there is no need to get discouraged. Instead, you should realize that the posted skill requirements are just a wish list, link the skills you don’t have to the relevant technical and transferable skills that you do have, and always remember that as a PhD, you have an unparalleled ability to learn quickly. You have what it takes to get the industry job you want. It’s just a matter of selling yourself in the right way to your potential employer so you can transition out of academia into industry.
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