It is a New year and a time for reflection. In 2021 I decided to embark on a new chapter in my career. The journey started with getting ‘comfortable with the uncomfortable’ by putting myself out there.

Now, I am not the most confident speaker and am a little quiet. You could call me anxious as well at times. So when it came time to start my search, a flurry of thoughts whisked through me. First, ‘what am I looking for in my next role?’ ‘What are the essential things that are non-negotiable?. Then the search, carving out those following opportunities. Some CV prep, rewrite, update and redesign. Then last but not least, applying for those opportunities, with the possibility of a cover letter or two.

As I read through each job advertisement, I find myself rating each of my skills or lack thereof, ticking the boxes as I read through the shopping list for the unicorn employee. As algorithms of the job search engines still match me as a ‘Strong Applicant,’ I find myself cringing on the inside. My ‘imposter devil’s advocate’ takes a seat on my shoulder, and the whispering starts. The internal dialogue, ‘Ooooo maybe I am not suited for the role,’ silently being my most prominent critic. But is this really what employers are looking for?

As an interviewee and a hiring manager, I have enjoyed being on both sides of the table.    

Careers are a jungle gym not a ladder.

Sheryl sandberg, Lean in:woman, work and the will to lead

It starts with you

Get comfortable with being uncomfortable. Taking that leap is the first step. Seek out a support person who will be with you on this journey. This person may be a mentor, your partner, or a friend. They can help run you through mock interviews, being your soundboard for potential opportunities. Having a support person is an excellent way to start building up confidence and streamlining your thoughts and any areas of growth.

Embracing the uncomfortable

Many job descriptions advertised by multiple organisations are almost similar. Use these as your stepping stone, interview for those opportunities that you are not necessarily on your top 5, or you feel you don’t tick all the boxes. Use this to test your skills, become familiar with various scenarios and questions, reflect, and see where you can improve your engagement and/or emotional expression. You never know until you try!

Could you keep it simple? You know what you bring to the table, be confident, and never be afraid to answer with ‘I am unfamiliar with …….’ lean in with attitude, interest, and thirst for knowledge.

Don’t Settle

Know what your non-negotiables are. Think about the areas you value: organisational values, community, diversity, inclusion, learning enablement, and growth opportunities. Again, a little secret of hiring managers is that the job descriptions are a wish list; some of the requirements are nice to have.

So next time there is an opportunity that matches your non-negotiables, and the only thing stopping you is you do not tick all the boxes, I challenge you to lean in. Step out and show up as the unique person you are in this world.