I recently spoke with a 20-something job seeker who saw a listing for a position he would love to have. Something that combines two of his passions: working with kids and gardening. He has several years of experience working with students but no professional experience/education in working with plants. He asked me if I think he should apply. I thought about what I should tell him. And what would be the advice to other job hunters in a similar situation?
According to the career experts I reached out to, the answer is, “Go for it!”
“There are two things that sell in an interview: confidence and passion,” says Suzanne O’Brien, a career advancement coach and creator of Career Confidence, an online course designed to help professionals land the work life they’ve earned.
Confidence, she explains, comes from comfort, something this 20-something job seeker “has in spades when it comes to working with kids,” O’Brien notes. “Designing a career that merges where you’re confident (working with children) with something you’re passionate about (gardening), isn’t just a pipedream. It’s the single best opportunity you have to thrive, grow and advance your career!”
Jim Dickinson, assistant vice president for career services at Loyola University Maryland, agrees that these kinds of situations are great opportunities — a fact that many job seekers, especially young ones, don’t realize.
“I often talk with students and young professionals who assume that a lack of paid experience doing something means they have no experience at all,” says Dickinson, who relates a story about a student he helped with practice interview responses a few years ago.
“He was having a hard time answering, ‘Tell me about a time you had to communicate an important message to others.’ At first, he was fully confident that he had never done something like that. But after a few minutes of exploring his background, he said, ‘Well, there was one time a few years ago that my Boy Scout troop was marching in a Veteran’s Day parade. At the end of it, they needed one of us to give a speech to a group of veterans thanking them for their service, so I volunteered. Do you think that counts?’ Not only did that count — I think it had the potential to be a show-stopping answer!”
The point is you need to figure out how something other than paid professional experience translates to the “required” job qualifications, then communicate that to prospective employers.
“The biggest hurdle is having the confidence that the things you’ve been doing on your own to cultivate a passion, even though they don’t come with an official title or a degree, are valuable,” Dickinson explains.
The “Additional Experience” section of your resume is the place to emphasize outside activities that show the passion you have and knowledge you’ve gained, Dickinson advises.
And what if it’s a newly discovered interest? “If that’s the case, it’s still worth it to apply and share in a cover letter why this is an interest area,” he says. You also should give examples of how you’ve acquired new skills quickly to show you’ll be able to pick up key information on the job, he adds.
“In the latter case, the application might be more of a long shot, but here’s my golden rule for job openings that really excite you,” Dickinson concludes. “Let them tell you ‘No’ if it’s not meant to be instead of telling yourself ‘No’ and not applying in the first place!”
(Article written by Kathleen Furore)