My stomach was so unsettled I could barely eat my breakfast. An empty stomach on stage would have to do. As I approached the conference room, I saw a poster with my name listed as the keynote speaker. You would think that made me feel like I belonged in that room. But, it didn’t. The audience, a group of highly intelligent medical leaders, had more degrees and credentials than I could ever accumulate in a lifetime. My inner critic had tagged along with me, reminding me that the meeting organizer wanted my highly sought-after boss to present, but she was busy. So, they chose plain old me.
I felt totally unqualified, but I knew I couldn’t carry that anxiety into the room. I had to find some peace, and I’m pretty sure God gave me the perfect mantra in that moment. I remembered that I was chosen to be there. They chose me and I choose them.
“I am meant to be here for these people, at this very time, with this very message, for this very purpose.” This gave me an alternate thought track instead of ruminating on, “I’m not qualified, I’m not meant to be here…”
Have you ever hesitated on opportunity or held back your true talents at work because you feared you’re weren’t qualified to be there? This not only impacts our confidence, but our paycheck. A study published via a research at Hewlett-Packard found that women tend not to apply for jobs unless they feel they possess each of the listed qualifications, while men will feel confident about their application matching just 60% of them. The result of this thinking is that men will more readily apply to roles that have a higher salary, because he’ll have the confidence despite not meeting all of the job criteria. Women will find roles they feel 100% qualified for, which can tend to come in at a lower salary band. If they do apply and get hired, they justify a lower salary due to not meeting “100% of the qualifications.” (Spoiler: Men tend not to do this.)
My personal experience as an HR director and hiring manager confirms these findings. As I was interviewing leaders, and as I coach men and women today, there is a distinct difference in how men and women approach career opportunities. Women tend to come to me with a hesitant mindset. They’re thinking about applying, but unsure because they don’t meet 100% of the qualifications. They’d take their career out to the polls, “Do you think I’m ready?”
On the other hand, men bring a more competitive mindset, “This job looks exciting. What a challenge! I wonder who else is applying?” They don’t ruminate about the qualifications, whether they worry about it or not, the message they send is, “It looks interesting and I’m going for it!”
Here are three ways you are more qualified than you think:
You Bring More Than Just Technical Skills
As a hiring manager and HR leader who wrote job descriptions for close to 10 years, we were just hoping in an ideal world to hire somebody who met all the qualifications. We knew that it was much more likely we would find someone that met half of them. Most of the time, I hired the candidate who revealed a great attitude, awesome motivation, high levels of accountability. I could teach them everything else. What unique talents and skills can only YOU bring to the table? How can you communicate their value?
You Are More Than Your Story
Start noticing when you’re telling yourself a story, “I don’t think I’m qualified for that.” (Especially when you meet at least half of the qualifications.) If you could approach this opportunity with fresh eyes and leave the story behind that you’re not qualified or not ready, what is best for you? Would you advance to the next step? When have you overcome this story in the past and how can you apply those lessons here?
Your Successes and Failures Make You Unique
Start documenting ownership for your part in the success, and counterintuitively, even if you’re a part of a project that failed. Keep them both and be clear on what was your part in it? That’s incredible material for learning and continuous growth. Some of my best learning was from taking ownership in my failed projects. These details make a great interview answer because the hiring manager is likely going to ask you about your mistakes. You can tell them accountable story of how you were involved in something and how you overcame it, what you learned from it, and how you grew into what came next.
Documenting learning from your mistakes is incredible for your confidence, not only to reveal what you learned from your failures, but also because overcoming mistakes is daily practice at work. Coupled with your career list of successes, skills, talents, and abilities that cultivate your unique genius, you bring something that no one else can replicate.
Long after we’ve been hired, it’s not uncommon to feel those “I’m not qualified” thoughts to creep in. It’s tempting to compare ourselves against our peers who seem to show up with such ease, with all their stuff together. So, here’s a behind the scenes secret. I have yet to work with someone who truly has it figured out. We might look the part, but I’ve coached CEOs of a company down to individual contributors, myself included, we’re all still trying to be ready and figure this whole thing out.
None of us ever feel fully sure, fully ready, 100% of the time. Remember, they chose you. You chose to be there. Your experience is perfect for this opportunity.