TL;DR: Be a lawyer and make a case for saying ‘yes’ authentically, based on data points from your resume and life experience. There will always be reasons to say no. Find the reasons to say ‘yes’ (with facts).
Students walk into my office, show me a job posting, and say “I really want this job, but I read through the requirements, and I don’t have (…) (fill in the lack here). Often, this is about the “Experience of X number of years preferred” bullet point, but the second-most common reason for a candidate’s trepidation is there are items on the list that she feels she doesn’t have competence in.
My response to this starts with: “there are always, always reasons to say no. How about we flip the narrative and see why you can say ‘yes’ with confidence and authenticity regarding your fit for this position?” (I really do speak like this often. 🤣)
There are, of course, valid reasons to say no when making a decision about what action we want to put our cognitive and emotional energy into. We do need to learn to say ‘no’ a lot more — to soul-sucking activities that give us instant gratification but leave us feeling guilty (or worse, ashamed) inside, driving us to repeat the dysfunctional behavior to avoid said feelings of guilt/shame/letting ourselves down) (2 hours on social media when that paper/project is due in 6 hours, anyone?)
We need train and practice our decision making skill: become competent at deciding, INTENTIONALLY, when to say ‘yes’ and when to say ‘no.’ This intentional decision making capacity is about practicing emotional and cognitive intelligence, cultivating self-awareness, and trusting our innate wisdom born of experience and reflection.
In the specific case of the narrative that goes: ‘I want to apply for this job but I don’t think/feel I am qualified,’ let us practice stepping back from our obsessive focus on the result (getting the job) to taking ACTION STEPS:
- Print out the job description.
- Get a pen.
- Read out the job description ALOUD, 3 times, from start to finish.
- Underline keywords (words that feel important and resonate with you).
- Pull up online 2-3 cover letters online for that role. Read them carefully to see how other professionals structure their sales pitch.
- Open your cover letter draft. Write a cover letter that makes an argument for “here’s why you would want to interview me.” Be a lawyer. Make your case.
- Review with a career counselor /mentor.
- NOW make the decision about applying.
- If yes, review and customize resume to this specific posting.
- If no, save the resume in your “Effort” folder.
- Move on to the next job description.
REPEAT. Again, and again, and again, and again.
Most of the time, the student candidate is surprised at how strongly s/he CAN make a case for why an interview is a valid ask. If the cover letter really makes them realize the job isn’t a good fit (yet), then we have data points to make the decision to put it into the ‘Effort’ folder and move on to the next task.
There are always reasons to say “no.” Start by making an argument for saying “yes.” Then, decide. Based on verifiable, actual data points.