Business news from the Fredericksburg region.

RSS feed of this blog

COLUMN: Don’t be deterred by job ads

At this time of year there are many new college graduates who are actively searching for jobs. There are also students looking for summer internships and employees unhappy in their current jobs looking for greener pastures. You might be one of them!

Over the years I have talked with many of these people and have witnessed a couple of things.

When you read a job description or advertisement, many times the person or committee writing the document has listed everything they can in terms of credentials, experiences or qualifications in order to hire THE PERFECT EMPLOYEE.

Guess what? No one may have the breadth or depth the company would like for each of the credentials listed. That person probably does not exist.

So you are in job search mode and you read this description of THE PERFECT EMPLOYEE and think, “While I’d love to have this job, there’s no way they’ll consider ME because I don’t have (then you list the one, two or ten things you DON’T have that the organization is looking for).” And you decide not to apply because YOU have decided you are not right for the position.

I would like to challenge you to stop doing this! If you embrace my theory that THE PERFECT EMPLOYEE does not exist, then why not throw your hat in the ring and see if, just perhaps, you might be the closest-to-perfect applicant they receive? You never know who else is applying so you might as well compete with the other less-than-perfect folks!

While most descriptions list all the credentials they would prefer a person to have, most jobs have 3 to 5 very important experiences or qualifications a person MUST have to effectively perform. Can you figure out what those are? If you have those 3 to 5 (or even think you might), apply!

In January, my college-aged son was notified that he was eligible to apply for a prestigious summer program to be held in another country through his school. As he read through the requirements to be considered, he noted that “preference would be given to students who had not studied abroad.”

As he had spent ten months in Italy as a Rotary Youth Exchange student during a gap year between high school and college, he told me that he thought he should not apply for this summer program because he would not be selected because he had lived in Italy.

I reminded him that the word was “preference,” not “requirement” and encouraged him to apply. I also indicated that he would have no way of knowing who else would apply AND what credentials they would bring to the table. At the end of the day, I encouraged him not to “self select out”; by not applying he would not be giving the organization a chance to get to know him.

You can probably guess where this is going. He chose to apply, completed an impressive array of forms, received a phone interview, and was recently notified that he had been accepted into the all expenses paid (the parents are happy!) program.

When I spoke with him the day he learned of his acceptance, after congratulating him, the first thing I talked with him about was the lesson learned. If he had decided to not apply because he thought he could/would not be considered, he would not be studying abroad this summer.

This is a great life lesson! So many times WE decide that we do not have what it takes to be successful in whatever endeavor we are considered when, in fact, we do! But we must learn to have confidence in our abilities and experiences and also remember that we do not know who our competition is. We might actually be THE PERFECT EMPLOYEE (or candidate), but if we do not apply, they (and we) will never know.

As I mentioned before, it is job search season for many. If you or your loved ones are searching, I encourage you (them) to cast a wide net, applying to positions that might even be a stretch! You never know what the hiring manager or committee is REALLY looking for. You just might be their definition of THE PERFECT EMPLOYEE!

Lynne Richardson is the dean of  the University of Mary Washington’s School of Business and a marketing professor. She writes about various aspects of finance and economics that affect our readers. Send suggestions for future topics to