Title: Web Product Manager
Location: Los Angeles, CA
Don’t immediate disqualify yourself from jobs or other opportunities. So often we count ourselves out too soon, without taking the time to figure out if we actually capable of succeeding.
What was the situation?
I had been working in the fashion industry as a project manager and decided that it was time to try something new. I was burnt out by the hectic pace and felt like I had reached a point where I wasn’t excited about the career opportunities in front of me.
I started looking for jobs online but was frustrated by what I was seeing. I have my AA from fashion school and I was worried that would limit me with what I could do. I wasn’t sure why anyone outside of the fashion industry would hire me, even though I knew I could do more.
I came across one job in the travel industry that interested me. Travel sounded fun, but as I looked through the requirements I was discouraged. Under education, they listed that a BA was required and an MBA was preferred.
Why would they look at me with an AA from fashion school?
I moved on, but there was something about the job posting that interested me and I went back to look at it later that day.
As I was reading through the posting again, I decided to ignore the education requirements. I spent time studying the job responsibilities and realized that most of the responsibilities in this job were things I had already done. Sure, the language was different as it was a different industry, but the basic responsibilities were the same.
I decided to apply – what was the worst that could happen?
To my surprise, they quickly called me. They asked me to take a skills assessment test and after that, I was brought in for an interview with the director. I was a little terrified – I knew nothing about the industry, other than what I had researched online before the interview. I was worried I would completely embarrass myself.
The interview was going well, but I was still feeling uncomfortable with my lack of degree and industry experience. I decided to just ask, “do you think that as a candidate for this job I’m at a disadvantage because I don’t have the right degree or industry experience? Or do you see that as a potential benefit?” I had to know. He responded that he was looking for a certain skillset, whether it comes from education, experience within the industry, or outside of it.
I’m glad that I asked that question and subsequently felt much more confident, because, in my next interview with the SVP, he asked how I planned to be able to communicate and lead teams as an industry outsider. With the confidence from my last interview, I talked about my skills being the most important qualification, regardless of industry. I must have answered well because they called to offer me a position.
How did the conversation go?
I’m not shy about asking for a salary I feel I deserve – I’ve asked for multiple raises and promotions previously – but I wanted to make sure I was asking for the right things with this job. As I was changing industries and I had done my market research, I knew I would be comfortable with a salary that was roughly equivalent to what I was currently making. I was going to get great travel benefits with the job as well as a flexible work schedule. Instead of focusing on negotiating my salary, I wanted to focus on benefits that would help develop me professionally. This was my opportunity to move out of fashion and I wanted to make the most of it.
I think I surprised them by not focusing on title and money, but by instead focusing on having the opportunity to manage a team and prioritize my personal education with attendance at different industry conferences and technology workshops. I felt like those two things were really missing from my career experience, and it was most important for me to get these so I could set myself up for success in a new industry.
I outlined what I wanted and asked them to commit to supporting these opportunities. They agreed and I started working just a few weeks later.
What advice did you have for other women?
Don’t immediately disqualify yourself from jobs or other opportunities. So often we count ourselves out too soon, without taking the time to figure out if we actually capable of succeeding. When I saw that a BA was required and an MBA was preferred, I almost didn’t apply. But when I took a second look at what they needed, I knew that I could do this job. It turns out I was their ideal candidate, even though I didn’t meet 100% of the criteria.
This article first appeared on Forbes.com