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Five tips to prepare for your dream job

by Ana Lopez
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Dr. Mary Mason is the CEO and founder of Small Medical School.

I remember in the early years of my career seeing a job opening for a well-known public company that required a few years more experience than I had. I decided to apply anyway. The recruiter was very nice when we spoke and asked if I could introduce her to my boss as he would be “more what they are looking for”.

Like a high school senior applying to “reach” schools that usually accept students whose GPA and test scores are well above the candidate’s score, should job seekers apply to “reach” jobs that require more work experience and educational requirements than they to own?

While educational requirements and degrees, licenses, and certifications for a posted job can be challenging to get around, you may have some leeway regarding the work experience required, especially if you bring other desirable skills. This is especially true if you are an atypical candidate coming from a different industry.

Here are some tips when considering and applying for the “reach” job.

1. Invest time researching the position.

This goes beyond just skimming the job description posted by the company or search agency. A simple Google search will often find articles written by business leaders in similar positions discussing the challenges they faced and the opportunities and professional rewards of filling that position. These insights are incredibly valuable when writing your cover letter and preparing for your interview.

2. Take stock of your skills.

Often you are so busy with your work responsibilities that you need to take a step back and see how much you have personally developed in the areas that you do not consider your primary expertise. Especially if you’re considering more prestigious positions, recruiters are looking for those soft skills that go beyond your main areas of expertise. These include networking, communication, public speaking and mentorship.

3. Use your network.

Particularly if you’re thinking about changing industries or moving up the career ladder at your current company or a competitor in the industry, look for trusted friends, former classmates, and co-workers with whom you can talk confidentially. Often these informal conversations can not only identify opportunities that are realistic, but also give you a good insight into your strengths and attractive qualities.

4. Find your support group.

We all need cheerleaders who build us up and encourage us to hit our stretch goals. My former CEO used to say, “If you don’t reach for the stars, all you’ve got is a handful of mud.” Like a guidance counselor or a supportive parent who encourages a high school senior to apply to a top university, we need those same kinds of support groups that tell us that it’s okay to go for the dream job and that we can do it.

5. Develop a thick skin.

There’s no better feeling than opening a letter or email or getting the phone call that you’ve landed a high school senior or been hired for that coveted position. But you also have to be realistic and prepared to be passed over. Don’t take it personally; maybe you don’t have the profile or you don’t fit well with the company culture. Don’t let that one defeat stop you. Instead, use it as a learning opportunity, regroup and identify the next opportunity.

Landing the dream job can be an intimidating experience. It requires inner reflection on what you have to offer and the confidence to put yourself out there as a potential candidate. But with careful and proper preparation, you could find yourself in a career where you live the dream every day.

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