Some people have a knack for walking into roles for which they are, on paper at least, entirely unqualified.
Passion and wanting it so much it hurts, as any failed Australian or American Idol contestant can tell you, doesn’t make it happen for the rest of us.
I’ve seen hundreds of people over the last twenty years, desperate to get into a new job with greater responsibilities and excitement.
Take for instance, the eager, young up-and-comer, yearning to take on the manager’s role, disheartened by failure to snare it, yet not understanding that it was the lack of years, experience and maturity that was behind the ultimate decision.
Then there is the Executive Assistant, experienced in the art of managing corporate soirées, Board meetings, catered lunches and more with flawless perfection, who dreams of an event management role catering to people in their thousands, in cavernous rooms with hi-tech equipment. Time and again, her hopes are dashed as she is passed over for other candidates with a strong background in event management.
Most people fail to face the realities of the job search. Think about this critically. If you were hiring for say, a Chief Executive Officer for a global financial institution, would you select the twenty-two year old recent MBA graduate as the person to lead this world-leading institution? He or she may have the knowledge of contemporary business practices, but does he or she have the wealth of experience and knowledge that it has taken to reach that level over decades? That is experience and knowledge that no amount of classroom training can buy.
There’s nothing wrong with throwing your hat in the ring and hoping you may have a chance (as long as there’s nothing to lose like relying on the dream to feed your family and keep a roof over your head). It is also a good value proposition for you to work towards your goals; to see what you have to do to get where you want to go and then pursue it…whether it is training or following a strategic, planned career path. What is soul-destroying, is failing to face the facts about your candidacy and then, like those failed American or Australian Idol hopefuls, plunge into feelings of devastation, bitterness or anger.
How do you stand aside and look at yourself realistically?
For a start, look at the job description or criteria for the position you want so desperately.
If the job description indicates that the successful candidate should have five years of experience in senior management and you have only been acting in a team leader role three levels down, then chances are that your application will not come close to being seriously considered. No matter how wonderful your resume is and how much you have achieved in your short stints as a team leader.
If the job description indicates that the successful candidate should be a senior sales representative with a strong track record selling mainframes to multinational companies and you currently sell wine to the local liquor outlet, then the chances of getting your application considered are slim. It really doesn’t matter if you fulfil all the other criteria of being enthusiastic, client focused, well organised and able to service important customers if you cannot supply the two key ingredients of the job — being in the right industry, and having a track record of selling a specific product.
No-one is saying you shouldn’t have goals. No-one is saying that you can’t make a strategic career transition to where you want to go, and no-one is saying that you need to stay in the same job or industry forever. Dreams can come true, but they have to be supported by pragmatism and the willingness to face facts. Trying to squeeze your skills into a space that leaves no room for growth or movement can be every bit as disheartening as stretching them paper thin to reach boundaries that are beyond your reach.
Being realistic about the opportunities available to you right now, and establishing a vision and a plan for how to execute and achieve your long-term goals is the recipe for hope, optimism and ultimately, career success.