You're Qualified—You Just Don't Know it Yet!
Career Counseling Intern Sheyda Zebarjadian recalls an appointment where a student was more qualified for a job than they gave themselves credit forMar 27, 2023
When thinking about taking that next step in our career development process, we often hit roadblocks. Sometimes, those roadblocks can be our own self-doubt. When stepping out of our comfort zone and applying for a new job, it can be challenging to balance what we feel capable of versus what we are capable of. Whether a student comes to the Career Center for help finding their first professional job or finding work in a different industry, the Career Center can help address that underlying question: “Am I qualified?”
Several months ago, I met with a student in the final year of their Bachelor of Arts in English program. Upon entering this major, the student hoped to work in a publishing company as an editor. When I asked where they felt stuck in searching for jobs in publishing, their first response was, “I’m not qualified.” Further discussion revealed the student had experience working for a high school newspaper, a literary magazine, service industry positions, and had used technical skills like Adobe Acrobat Pro and Microsoft Office Suite within these roles. Despite these amazing skills and experiences, the student still felt like it “wasn’t enough,” stating most positions required several years of experience in the publishing field. While the student might not have had professional paid experience in publishing, they also did not give themselves credit for the years of experience they had used publishing skills in other settings. This student’s experience showcases how our own intellectual self-doubt might prevent us from taking a risk before even knowing the outcomes. This student’s story reflects the experiences of many others who have written off their chances before even trying – often feeling like they “aren’t good enough.”
So, how might we address this self-doubt and take a reasonable risk? When working with this student, it became apparent that they felt discouraged from feeling “unqualified” and had already rejected the idea that they could be a publishing editor. In our appointment, we took a step back and used O*NET, a source for continually updated occupational information and labor market research, to explore what an editor does exactly. Scrolling through pages of daily tasks, I had the student read out each point they felt capable of doing, which appeared to be nearly every task! We repeated this step with the technical skills section, and again the student identified using a handful of these skills. The wheels began turning, and the student reflected more on academic experiences, remembering projects and assignments when they had to follow deadlines, coordinate with classmates, and use academic databases. The student recalled proofreading and providing content-related edits to articles in their high school paper. The student also managed a team of servers at a restaurant job and sold products to customers at a retail clothing store.
Whether the student’s experiences were professional, academic, paid, unpaid, or were outside of the writing industry, there were key aspects of the editing job that the student knew they could do, because they had done them in some variation before. We took this exercise and applied it to job descriptions by breaking down each qualification and job responsibility into digestible terms. In doing so, we found that the student not only had some form of experience doing these tasks, but that they also felt more confident in doing them!
This student’s appointment highlights how we can leverage our experiences to show employers (and ourselves!) that we are capable of doing the job well, even if our experiences don’t directly match that industry. It’s important, however, to keep in mind the idea of reasonable risk mentioned earlier. When looking at our qualifications and how they compare to the job description, it can be helpful to identify what our gaps in knowledge or experience are. We might run into those keywords in the job description that we have never encountered. In this student’s case, they had never worked with WordPress and sometimes ran into job descriptions for senior-level editing positions that required 5+ years of professional experience as a publishing editor. In those cases, we don’t have to write ourselves off from that job entirely, but perhaps we can use it as an opportunity to reflect on the areas where we can grow to reach that point.
This process can be challenging to take on alone sometimes, so the Career Center at LynxConnect is always a resource to help you explore and identify those valuable experiences and skills before you might write yourself off as “unqualified.” We can also help determine how to address those gaps to work towards your professional goals, build up that resume, and explore ways to help you feel more confident in your job searching process at any stage in your career development.
In need of professional attire? Check out LynxConnect’s Career Closet!
LynxConnect’s Career Closet is a donation-based resource available to all CU Denver students. Our closet carries various items fit for a career fair, interview, presentation, or a day on the job.
Each semester, CU Denver students may take up to two (2) items to keep for free.
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Contact our front desk team with any questions: Phone 303-315-4000 or email LynxConnect@ucdenver.edu.