How I got a job offer without required degree or experienceThere was a time when I decided to switch from for-profit to not-for-profit. I was especially interested in homelessness and housing issues. So I first found some volunteer work in a non-profit that helped build temporary housing for the homeless, even though I had never worked in that sector.Some months into volunteering, I saw an ad for a policy analyst for a major New York City agency that dealt with those issues. It specifically required (not suggested) a Ph.D. as well as direct experience. I had neither. But I was excited by the idea, and determined to talk my way in if given the chance.So I turned to my experience as a business analyst, and other transferable skills, and used my cover letter to make the case for why I absolutely was qualified, perhaps even more so than others with direct experience. I used personal success stories to help make my point. And, long story short, I got the job offer.
Another example of talking my way into a jobI have a similar story from law school. After the first year, a well-known constitutional lawyer at our school advertised that she needed a summer intern. Only problem was that I was going to school part-time while working and hadn’t yet taken Constitutional Law. She told me that was a showstopper. I told her I didn’t see it that way — and I kept trying.Now, I had to stay as charming and pleasantly determined as possible, without completely annoying her. I also quickly boned up on Constitutional Law basics, and used what I had taught myself to discuss some topics of the (paid) internship. I even threw in a few related cases on the issue to bolster my attempts to impress.While I had not made myself a constitutional scholar in a couple of weeks, and while not everything I said was brilliant, she admired my spirit and thought process. Even though she still said “no”, she smiled more when she saw me. And finally, although it took a while, I convinced her.[P.S. I decided the law was not for me, but that’s another story.]
Why I hired someone without (supposedly) required skillsI’ve also helped hire many people. In one case, despite the seemingly closed minds of my colleagues who wanted to see very specific experience, I thought about what the job really requires — and the very special qualities and unquantifiable skills that would mean success for our project.And after receiving a good number of replies to our advertisement, even though some appeared to hit the mark (at least on paper), I just wasn’t getting that “aha!” instinct. Luckily a cover letter and resume arrived that had me smiling, despite the lack of enough specific experience.More on that story here:
A few more thoughtsAs I said, you can’t always get past the requirements for a job, especially in organizations that use tight rules and/or a “no human eyes” automated process to screen resumes on the first round. And so if you are wildly off the mark, it probably doesn’t pay to apply.Then again, if the job really speaks to you, and you think you can make a strong case for yourself, other than annoying some screener who wouldn’t call you in anyway, in most cases you have nothing to lose.
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