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Advice / Job Search / Finding a Job

Should You Apply for That Slightly-Out-of-Reach Job—or Not?

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There it is.

Posted on the job board of your dream company.

A job that is totally amazing. A big step up from the job you’ve currently got. And, yes—maybe just ever-so-slightly out of your reach.

Should you apply anyway? Or would it be a total waste of your time—and theirs?

This four-question guide can help you decide whether to go for it or hold back. Grab your pen and get ready for a healthy reality check.

1. Do You Have at Least 80% of the Skills That Are Required?

Try to set your excitement (or nervous butterflies) aside for the moment. Remain calm, and simply look at the facts.

If the hiring manager wants someone who can do 10 particular tasks—have you done at least eight of them in the past? If there are 10 skills listed—do you have eight?

Again, just look at the facts. Have I done most of these things, or not?

If the answer is “yes,” great! (Stop reading—and go get started on that application.) But even it’s “no,” don’t give up yet.

Move on to the next question.

2. If You Don’t Have at Least 80%, Do You Have Proof That You Could Acquire Those Skills Quickly?

For many hiring managers, your ability to quickly learn new skills is more important than the list of skills you’ve currently got. They want someone who can evolve and adapt as the company’s needs change.

If that’s you—great! But, of course, you can’t just self-promote at a job interview saying, “I can learn anything! Promise!” You need to be able to prove it.

Look at the skills you don’t have. Of them, are they things you could pick up, through enrolling in classes or taking on some new experiences?

Then, look back at your career history to date. Can you think of three instances where you had to learn something new quickly? Or adapt to a new challenge—fast? Write down those examples. There’s some proof that you can use.

3. What, if Anything, Is Still Making You Feel Like You Don’t “Deserve” This?

If you have at least 80% of the necessary skills—or hard proof that you could quickly acquire those skills—then you appear to be an appropriate candidate for the job.

Those are the facts. Black and white.

So, if you’re staring right at the facts, and you’re still feeling that you don’t “deserve” this position—it’s important to understand where those feelings of inadequacy are coming from. If you don’t resolve these negative feelings, then you may very well come across as underconfident during the hiring process and get passed over, no matter how qualified you really are.

What’s at the root of your uncertainty?

Are you flashing back to your childhood, watching your golden-perfect older sister get everything she wanted, while you got overlooked? Or flashing back to high school trauma, when you got booted off the debate team by a teacher who told you that you were too shy and quiet? Or are you hearing your terrible boss’ voice echoing in your ears? (“I’m not sure you’re ready for that responsibility…”)

We all have bad things that were said to us or that happened to us in the past.

But are you going to allow snide comments or past trauma to hold you back from going after a great opportunity that you completely deserve? I hope not.

The facts are right in front of you. You’re a contender. Except, before you start writing your cover letter—answer this one final question:

4. What’s Motivating You to Go for This Job? (Really?)

Are you being motivated by a need for approval? (“If I get a job that pays six figures, my peers will be so impressed…”)

Are you being motivated by an overblown sense of self-importance? (“No one could do this job better than me!”)

Or are you being motivated by genuine enthusiasm—and a desire to be of service? (“This looks so exciting. I am confident that I could do a terrific job and really make a difference at this company!”)

Make sure your motivation is in the right place.

And then? Go for it.

Assuming you have a good chunk of the skills required and the drive and ability to learn the rest, you’ve got nothing to lose by applying.

Even if you’re not selected for this particular position, you’ll be connecting with a hiring manager and (hopefully) making a terrific impression.

There’s no telling where this new connection might lead—maybe to a job that’s even better for you than the job you just discovered.