The advice to ‘apply for jobs you aren’t qualified for’ means to apply for jobs you only meet 60-70% of the requirements for, not to apply for jobs you can’t do.
A job that you meet most, but not all, of the requirements for is called a stretch job. Put simply, it’s a job you have to ‘stretch’ yourself to meet the needs of.
When is it okay to apply for a stretch job?
First, see how the job description is formatted—some job descriptions will include both a requirements section and a preferences section. In this case you will want to make sure you have all or almost all the required skills, but you don’t have to worry as much if you do not align with the preferred skills.
However, some job descriptions only have one list. Here’s how to figure out if you should still apply for the job even if you don’t meet 100% of the requirements:
Ask people you trust if they think the job is a good fit for you. Make sure to consult people who are unbiased and are not afraid to be honest with you, like former colleagues, managers, or mentors. Imposter syndrome can creep in when pursuing career advancement, so having the support from people who know you well can be just the push you need.
Ask yourself if this new position makes sense based on your past experiences. It’s okay to think outside the box when crafting your professional narrative so long as you have solid examples of how the pieces of your career fit together. Have past challenges prepared you to take on this new one? Do some of your skills easily transfer from one industry to another? If you’re going to convince a hiring manager that you are the right fit, you need to be prepared to explain why.
Evaluate how the opportunity makes you feel. Does it excite you? Is it a company or industry that you are passionate about? Assess your own level of confidence in your ability to do the job. If the opportunity is something you are excited about and you are willing to go the extra mile to work hard, then it is an opportunity worth pursuing. If you are not the traditional candidate you have to be passionate enough to show hiring managers that that does not matter, or better yet, plays to your advantage.
Stretch jobs are a great opportunity to advance your career or step into a new industry. If you think the opportunity is right for you then it is worth pursuing.