Are You Really Qualified For That Job?

revolving doorBy Sonia Acosta

You did it. Four years of college went by in a haze of parties, new experiences and, hopefully, at least a few dozen textbooks. Now it's time to go out into the world and get a job. Should be easy, right? You've done your part, and someone out there owes you a job. Wrong.

Companies are looking for qualified workers who will help their businesses move forward. Beyond a college degree, you will need to show experience, concrete skills, emotional intelligence, tenacity and myriad other qualities.

Here are three tips to help you navigate the thin line between qualified and entitled and honestly evaluate your skills as a recent graduate or entry-level worker.

1. Evaluate your experience and goals. Jaime Radow, a certified life coach in Scottsdale, Ariz., poses five questions that can help recent graduates and entry-level workers take the first important step in any job search: evaluating your experience and your goals.
  • What education do I have? "This list should include everything from college to those 10 years of dance classes to that weekend workshop you took in film making," Radow says. "Write it all down. Don't edit yourself."

  • What experience do I have? "Paying jobs and internships obviously make the list, but also include that six months of volunteering at the retirement home, i.e., skills gained, communication with the elderly, patience and compassion. Even selling baseball cards or Girl Scout cookies as a kid is sales experience. You may amaze yourself with all of the things you can do."

  • What do I enjoy doing? Here again, it is important that you do not edit yourself, Radow advises. List your passions and interests, and be honest about what these are.

  • If I could have any job, what would it be?Why? Dig deep. Think about what you really want to do and what you envision yourself doing for a living. When you're honest with yourself about the kind of job you'd like to have, you're more likely to find a good fit.

  • What jobs do I believe I am qualified for, and what is the pay range for my level of experience? Based on the skills and experience you've listed, what kind of positions do you think you're qualified for? Research these jobs online and find out what the starting pay is in your area.

2. Appraise your skills honestly. Once you've evaluated your experience and goals, make an honest and well-rounded appraisal of your skills. Julie Bauke, career strategist and president of The Bauke Group based in Cincinnati, suggests you:
  • Make a list with three columns: good/very good at, can do it/adequate at and not so good at/don't ask me to do this.
  • Collect honest feedback from those you have worked with -- professors, peers and former or current managers -- and compare that with your self-assessment.
  • Accept that you are not great at everything. No one is.

"I once spoke to a group of about 75 MBA students and asked who in the room was really great at managing large amounts of detail," Bauke says. "Every hand went up. There's no way. Honestly evaluating the experiences you have already had, plus your gut, plus feedback from others, will point you in the right direction."

3. Focus on the interview. According to Stu Coleman, partner and general manager at Winter, Wyman, a recruitment company based in Boston, the difference between entitled and qualified often balances on the turn of one phrase or the choice of one word over another.

"You can't assume anything," Coleman says. "Remember it [the interview] is an interview, not a meeting. Ask questions, leading ones that will result in a conversation about how you can add value. Ask what their opinion of you is, what concerns or hesitations they may have."

Maria K. Todd, president and CEO of Mercury Healthcare International, cautions new graduates and entry-level workers to avoid coming into an interview with an entitled attitude.

"I have been plagued with these candidates who feel a sense of entitlement," Todd says. "They walk into an interview as if they are the ones who are very busy. They have no idea about our company, and want to 'cut to the chase' with their deal-breaker offer to be employed for a minimum of $70K."

As a recent graduate or entry-level worker, it is important to have and exhibit confidence with a healthy dash of modesty. Know your strengths and celebrate them, but be careful not to give off an air of arrogance or entitlement. Employers want to hire people who are confident but humble, enthusiastic and ready to roll up their sleeves to help the business succeed.

Sonia Acosta researches and writes about job search strategy, career management, hiring trends and workplace issues for CareerBuilder.
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