Whether you’ve been thinking of a career change for a few months or even a few years, you’ve probably wondered how to know when you’re ready to apply for a job. Now you can stop guessing and finally know! By asking yourself the following 4 questions, you’ll be able to decide when it’s time to take the plunge and go after your dream job!
Question 1: Do you have the skills?
Obviously you need the actual skills to do the job you want to apply for. But the most common question potential applicants like you have is: How many of the skills do I need to have?
As a rule of thumb, it’s worth applying for a job if you meet 60 to 80 percent of the requirements. Notice that I said “requirements.” As our Director of Operations here at Skillcrush often points out, most job postings are a wish list, not a list of hard-and-fast must-haves. In other words, employers usually include every qualification that a candidate could have in the hopes of finding the perfect employee. But, at the same time, they know no candidate is perfect. So, if you have most of the skills a company is looking for, you’ll be right on par with other applicants.
And, when you’re thinking about the skills you need, don’t forget those soft skills. As opposed to hard skills, like web development or design, soft skills include your personality, attitude, ethics, working style, ways of communicating, ability to organize and lead, and so on. Often, these traits are what set good candidates apart from the best candidates. So, by comparing your own traits with those needed for the job, you’ll be one step closer to knowing whether the job is a fit for you.
But watch out! If you have all of the skills for a position—hard or soft—you’re most likely overqualified for the job. Or you’re almost certain to quickly outgrow the role. In either case, you’ll likely soon be bored and looking for new challenges so it’s better to skip jobs like this and set your sights higher from the start.
Question 2: Can you prove you have the skills?
Once you know you’ve got the skills you need for a job, you need to show that you’ve got them. After all, you can’t expect a hiring manager to just guess that you’re the candidate she’s looking for!
To prove you have the skills, start by prepping your resume and LinkedIn profile. If you’ve already applied for similar roles, you can just do a quick refresh. But, if this is a completely new role for you, you might need a more comprehensive rewrite. In any case, be sure to include all of your hard and soft skills and, whenever possible, back up your descriptions with numbers and stats that quantify your experience. (Tip: If you’re light on background in the field, consider organizing your resume functionally instead of chronologically to emphasize your skills over your experience.)
Next, check that your online portfolio includes the latest and greatest examples of your work. Don’t worry if you don’t have many (or any) paid projects to include. Coursework and mock projects are also completely valid examples of what you can do. To take your proof to the next level, add testimonials from previous employers, freelance clients, professional contacts, and/or course instructors. And remember to also link your relevant social media accounts (after of course making sure they’re up to snuff professionally) and sites like GitHub, CodePen, and Dribbble.
And, finally, get in touch with people who you’d like to use as references. You’ll want to have at least one former supervisor and one colleague ready to rave about you, but feel free to also reach out to clients or other people in the field who will sing your praises. Let your references know the requirements of the position you’re applying for and ask if they feel like you meet them. That way, they’ll be ready to vouch for you if needed and, if nothing else, their evaluation will be another way for you to confirm you should apply for the job.
Question 3: Is the job right for you?
Now that you know you’re right for the job, you need to see if the job is right for you. To do this, you’ll need to to find out what the company’s mission and values are and, if possible, how the employees are managed and work together, then compare what you learn with what’s important to you when it comes to work.
Hopefully the job listing itself will give you insight into some, most, or (ideally) all of these details. But, if not, you should definitely check out the company’s About page, blog, and social media accounts to get a feeling for the team’s makeup and culture. And, to understand your future employer even better, you can search your network (for example, via LinkedIn or meetups) for people who’ve worked there or reach out to potential supervisors or colleagues to learn about what it’s like to actually be a part of the company.
Question 4: Can you prove the job is right for you?
Just like you have to provide evidence that you have the skills needed for the job, you should also demonstrate how you and the company are a fit. This means spelling out the values or beliefs you have in common and the ways that you’ve already dedicated yourself to these ideals or the reasons they’re important to you.
Your resume/LinkedIn, portfolio, and references should support who you are, and, if you get to the interview stage, you’ll of course be able to emphasize your values then. But, before that, the best place to explicitly lay out how you and the employer are a match is your cover email. So, describe in more detail the projects or roles you’ve had that highlight the values you share with the company. And also call out how dedicated you are to their mission or the industry as a whole by listing any courses you’ve taken on your own or volunteer work you’ve done in the field. That’s sure to catch any hiring manager’s attention and be another way to help you land your dream job!
Kelli worked in international logistics and then freelanced for years as a corporate language trainer and translator before following her passion and making a career change into tech - in her mid-40's!
She was both one of the first Skillcrush students and one of the first Skillcrush team members, starting as our customer support manager and now serving as our Operations (aka HR) Manager, a writer for our blog, and a career counselor.
Kelli is a Texan living in Finland who loves tech, podcasts, Corgis, emoji, gifs, and, most of all, practicing for and going to catalan style line dancing events all around Europe.