Welcome to the second part of "The Way Out": Applying for a Job Q&A! (FINALLY! TOOK ME LONG ENOUGH HUH?!). Last time, I talked about how to start thinking about the types of jobs you might want to apply for and how to do some research in the form of informational interviews to find out more about the roles and identify how you could be a good fit for them.
So you know what kind of job you want - you have done your research and your informational interviews and are finally ready to start applying. Here are some common questions and my answers to them to aid you in your search!
How do I find jobs to apply to?
The internet, duh :P. There are some great resources such as LinkedIn's Job Search, Monster, Indeed, Glassdoor (which will also show you reviews of companies by their former and current employees - so take with a grain of salt!) and weirdly ... craigslist! There may also be some industry specific resources that may be more applicable to you, you should already know them from the informational interviews you did with people in the career track of your interest! If you haven't done informational interviews - go back to the start and DO THEM! Don't skip this step, it is incredibly important in preparing you for the interview process as well as making you aware of the job requirements in a much more detailed manner and preparing YOU for the transition out!
Can I apply to a job if I am not 100% qualified?
Absolutely!! You don't want a job that will be too easy - where is the fun in that? You do want something that will be a challenge! One study suggests that females tend to shy away from applying for positions unless they fit the job description by a whopping 100%! Men on the other hand, apply for a job if they are lacking 40% of the job credentials listed!! Remember - There is very rarely a "perfect" candidate that fits the application 100% and many companies don't necessarily want that. Being challenged is a crucial part of feeling successful in a position and if you take a position that is a cake walk, you may quickly become bored and company's are well aware of this.
So how much do I need to fit the job description to apply?
Traditionally, the first 3 or so bullet points in a job description are the absolutely critical skills or experience they are looking for. If you fit 2/3 of them, I would apply! If you only have one of the critical experiences or skills, I wouldn't necessarily not apply, but you may need to be creative with how you present yourself to show that you have enough other skills that you bring to the position to warrant the time and effort in training you up in the skills you lack. In your application, you also want to be mindful that if you do have a learning curve for the position (which you should!), you want to point out that you are okay being out of your comfort zone, not being an expert and that you can learn new skills.
If you have other skills that are listed as other bullet points in the job description, definitely point them out in your cover letter and resume - that is the point of these documents!
A recruiter has contacted me! That must be a good thing right!? What should I do?
It could be - however, also remember that recruiters make money by placing people in job. Great recruiters know the field well so can often find people that are a great fit for a job. However, there are also not-so-great recruiters that simply play a numbers game and try to get as many vaguely-qualified applicants for the position in the hopes that one of them will stick. One of the best strategies is to try to identify if the job is applicable to you. If the recruiter refuses to send you a job description prior to you sending them your resume, that is a huge red flag! How can you tailor your resume to a position if you don't know what the position entails? If the recruiter came to you because of the lab you are in, that could be a good sign. They have obviously know that your lab may train specific skills and thus are looking to you for them. Regardless, remember, like HR, the recruiter is not on "team you", they are on team self. They may be able to help you with identifying your market worth to identify salary ranges etc, but at the same time, absolutely do your own research!
I know someone at the company! Can I ask them about the job?
Congrats! Your networking efforts have paid off! You can absolutely reach out to them about the position. Here is an example of a message you could use:
I hope you are well! (Include personal note, like: I hope your kids/dog/cat/etc are whatever)
Thank you again for your time chatting to me some time ago about careers in XX. I noticed a position at your company as XX (include link to job ad) and was considering applying for it. Do you think it would be a good fit for me? If possible, can you please connect with someone on this team so I can talk to them about the position and identify if I would be a suitable candidate.
I would love to grab coffee with you sometime soon and catch up!
Notice several things:
You are letting them know you are interested in the job without ASKING FOR THE JOB! NEVER ASK FOR THE JOB! It is unlikely that they are the hiring manager, and even if they are, you shouldn't assume. Let them come to you.
You aren't asking them for anything that they can't easily get out of. If they don't know you very well, they may be wary of referring you to a hiring manager and asking for someone on the team rather then the hiring manager partially absolves them of referring you directly for the position.
I didn't ask for a referral. As a general rule, never put someone down as a referral unless you have asked them permission to do so! Most companies also have an internal process for referrals that requires you to submit a job application via a unique link that gets sent to you to ensure the employees referral is linked to the application. Often this process needs to be initiated by the employee referring, rather then the job applicant. Again, let them come to you!
Additionally, you may also get connected to someone at the company who knows the position and more importantly, the team the position is in, so you can identify 1) whether it's an environment you will thrive in and 2) how you can best package your experience and skills in a way that is most aligned with the position, team, company and all of the goals of these levels. Some companies are giant and can consist of very different cultures and environments across different branches, business units and teams. It's incredibly important to try to identify what type of person they are trying to find and position yourself the best way you can, to fill that need.
Remember - the company wants to fill that position! It's likely losing productivity, money, whatever... every day that the position is vacant. The key is to market yourself in a way that gives you the best chance of fitting the need that the company is looking to fill.
... For advice as to how to best pitch yourself via your resume & cover letter, check out my article on each of these topics... coming soon!