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How To Change Careers... When You're Not Qualified

Aug 17, 2007
In some cases, you're right to be worried. Some careers do require you to possess specific qualifications and experience. But on the other hand, perhaps you don't need to be concerned at all...

You see, you may be a victim of "credentialitis" - where you're convinced that you need to get a credential or qualification to get a new career, job or promotion... but you really don't.

It's really quite strange. The way I look at it, credentials like certificates, diplomas, degrees and the like are just convenient communication devices - they instantly communicate that someone has a certain body of knowledge. But they're not the only means of communicating someone's knowledge, and often not the best either.

For instance, let's say you're a high school dropout who's built and sold a business and now wants to get a job as a marketing manager within another company. If you're a credentialitis sufferer, you may be worried that you lack the qualifications to be the marketing manager. So much so that you seriously consider going to business school and enrolling in a marketing program.

But will studying really be all that beneficial, considering you've already acquired hands-on business and marketing skills? Couldn't you present yourself as someone with unequalled business experience, skills and knowledge - someone who has built and sold a company, as opposed to someone with theoretical knowledge acquired from a business school?

Obviously, in some instances, you will need to do a course to be qualified for a certain career, like law or medicine. However, for many other new careers you want to venture into, you don't need to do a formal course. You probably already have the foundational skills and knowledge needed for the job, and anything else can be picked up on the job.

I know, I know - you may be confident in your own abilities, but how do you convince a potential employer who wants to see that certificate, diploma or degree? After all, it seems our entire society has credentialitis. Well, although it's difficult to change people's beliefs and attitudes... it's definitely worth attempting. Especially if it saves you time and money and gets you the job you deserve.

So, firstly, even if you're changing careers, I urge you to develop your self-confidence, and in particular, your confidence in communicating that you have the required skills and abilities for the new career. And if you still think that a formal course or program might be worth doing, ask yourself this question: Will you be undertaking the course to acquire new knowledge and skills or to acquire a credential that proves your possession of that knowledge and those skills?

You see, overcoming credentialitis and becoming more self-confident will not only save you money, time and energy... but it will also enhance your sense of self-worth and happiness.

Now, if you are ever questioned over you lack of credentials, you simply reframe your background and experiences to show how they have ideally positioned you for the new job. As an example, someone once asked me why I didn't get an MBA. I just said that I had a "real-world" MBA acquired through hands-on experience working in advertising, marketing, law and my own business.

Of course, not everyone will be satisfied with an answer like this. In that case, you need to ask yourself whether working for people and companies that have credentialitis is really for you.

In turn, when you're the one doing the recruiting, don't let credentialitis get in the way of making a good hiring decision. Sure, consider qualifications - they do have value - but also consider alternative backgrounds and on-the-job experience that may be just as, if not more, indicative of an individuals abilities.
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