About 7 years ago I made a potentially big career mistake. I saw a posting for a newly created management role in the department where I work at McMaster, but I didn’t apply for it. The job description focused on the administrative components of the role rather than the professional/managerial aspects. Instead of asking someone for a fuller description, I passed on applying. I couldn’t reconcile having a PhD and spending my day answering telephones, taking messages and filing. Yes, the job description was poorly written, but I didn’t bother to investigate further so the bulk of that mistake falls on me. I don’t regret not throwing my hat in the ring, but I’ve learned since then to ignore my ego and to understand job descriptions better.
Are you missing out on potential opportunities because you think the role is beneath you or your abilities? Read on for some surprising facts and strategies to help you curb your inner job snob.
Administration: Oh how we turn our noses up at the thought of being an “administrator” as though it is a lowly, dead-end career path. Nothing could be further from the truth! According to Robert Half’s 2014 report on administrative careers, these roles range from entry level support to senior management, and cover everything from operations, HR, budgeting, and marketing to supply chain and project management. Talk about mobility and opportunities for advancement! Check out the job descriptions beginning on p21 and prepare to be amazed.
Quality Assurance: The scientific version of administrative careers. QA calls up images of being inspector 11, examining something boring and watching the clock until it’s time to go home. Again, this is a misconception. QA careers have a wide range, and call for professionals at all levels from undergraduate through PhD to examine products for safety & quality. Imagine the brand’s entire reputation depending on whether you do your job well or not. Pretty cool, huh?! If you happen to be searching in Canada, QA is one of the hottest areas with staffing shortages according to BioTalent’s labour market survey for 2013.
Job Titles: They aren’t what they used to be. Once upon a time, titles like Coordinator, or Program Manager were mid-level roles. Now, they could be anything from entry level to mid-management with a smattering of senior stuff thrown in for good measure. If you’re trying to determine if a position is a potential good fit for you, don’t be swayed either way by the title. Fancy, made-up or inflated titles may even hurt your career prospects according to an article in the Globe & Mail. The best advice? Read the description thoroughly and ignore the title altogether in your decision-making process.
From the Bottom Up: This is the best way to read a job posting because 90% of the relevant information is posted at the end of the description, including education, software, and amount of experience. In larger organizations, HR writes the job descriptions, not the hiring manager, so focus on the qualifications and any unique characteristics of the role you might see. If you’re a visual thinker, try copying and pasting the job description into a word cloud generator like Wordle. Words that are repeated more frequently will appear bigger. That should help you to sort out what’s really important as you decide if the job is for you.
Ask for More: Unleash your inner Oliver Twist, and ask for more information. This is the best strategy if you are applying for internal roles at your organization. If you have an HR department, the actual job description will be 3-5 pages long, and will cover all aspects of the role. Send them an email request for the full description and read through carefully to see if it meets your criteria. If you’re an external candidate, chances are that you will have a hard time getting the full breakdown, but if you’ve been targeting your search and cultivating contacts at preferred employers, you might be able to tap your network for assistance with this strategy.
Truth be told, we all have biases that affect the way we perceive things. The trick is to recognize them and then ignore them. Let the facts speak for themselves. Face it, roughly 50% of candidates apply for jobs they aren’t qualified for, so there’s a lot of misreading taking place out there in both directions.
Questions? Comments? Stories of missed opportunities? All are welcome at firstname.lastname@example.org.