If you’re job hunting and you find a potential job where you only meet some of the requirements, go ahead and apply. Worst-case scenario, you don’t get the job. Best-scenario, you get hired—and find yourself in a position where you can grow.
To quote cognitive scientist Art Markman, writing in the Harvard Business Review:
Organisations expect people who are new to a role (and particularly people who are new to a firm) to grow into the position. They want new hires to ask a lot of questions, to seek out mentoring, and to even make a few mistakes as they get acclimated to a role.
That means that you should look for positions that will stretch you, not ones where you can already tick all the boxes.
Markman notes that you need to have at least some of the skills the job requires—and from my experience both as a job applicant and a person who spent a few years reviewing resumes, it helps if you understand which skills already need to have been mastered vs. which ones can be learned on the job.
For example: I got hired as the executive assistant to the vice president at a think tank after working as the assistant to the artistic director at a Shakespeare festival. Although I didn’t have any experience in the policy world, I did have experience assisting someone at the top level of an organisation. That skill was essential to the position; the other skills could be learned after I started working.
In other situations, having worked in a particular field or industry might be more important than having a specific skill. Being a good writer does not necessarily equate with being a good grant writer, for example. Previous experience in fundraising/development—knowing what a well-written grant looks like, understanding what potential donors need, etc.—might be the essential skillset you’ll need to get hired.
When you’re deciding whether to go after a job, ask yourself whether you have the core skills required to be successful in the role. Then ask yourself, as Markman suggests, whether this job will provide enough challenges to help you move into the next stage of your career.
If you don’t meet every requirement on the job posting, don’t worry—and don’t let it prevent you from applying.
After all, the worst thing they can do is say no.