I may be offered a job that I'm unqualified for
October 19, 2016 9:32 AM   Subscribe

A colleague (X) that I have closely volunteered with at a separate non-profit for a couple years recommended me to apply for a job at her workplace from which she is soon departing. This job (technical in nature) is in the same department that X works in and she also sat in on each of the interviews as a part of the interviewing team. I've had a couple interviews so far, and based on my advancement, now believe that I may actually be offered this position, and my long-held impostor syndrome is actually now warranted.

This is an amazing opportunity but I am very unqualified for this position. I fear that I will fail at it, and that X may not understand all of the technical requirements and that the skills gap between my current skills and their expectations is wider than she thinks it is, X is overestimating my overall technical/programming skills and my ability to learn these mostly new to me languages and frameworks, and adapt to this environment. I have mentioned that I would be under-qualified to X and she said she believes in me that I would be able to learn based on my existing skill sets. I listed X as a reference in my application so the employer should be aware of it.

There's several additional wrinkles to this:

This new position would increase my current salary by 100%. Although we have no credit card debt, my partner and I, combined, have student loan debt that is roughly to what would be the total of my new salary and my partner's salary.
I'm in my early 30s and have been trying to break into a specific industry within tech (but not this one) for almost 5 years. In this time, I've had a couple part-time contracts, conducted some pro-bono workshops, and completed spec work as a hobby in my free time in such ideal industry.

This new position is also very autonomous. I would be considered the tech expert in my department, and I would be completely on my own if I needed any help with any technical questions related to my job. I would be completely separate from IT which manages the hardware, telephone, and networking at this place.

My current non-profit gig is program management and defacto IT for our tiny non-profit with less than 10 employees. There's no more advancement here and I'm not attached to it. I am fearing that by staying in my current position even longer, my programming and tech skills (which are less than 5% of time spent of my current job) will fall into atrophy more so that this may even be my last chance to jump ship, especially at this pay grade and the ageism in tech.

If you would like to talk in a private manner, email me at thisisametafiltersockpuppet at gmail period com
posted by anonymous to Work & Money (15 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
So the worst case scenario is: You get the job, you take the job. You're right in that you are hideously under-qualified and after 5-7 months you get fired or quit.

In that time you've been earning 100% more money. That should afford you 5-7 months to find the right job and advance your career.

That's a pretty great worst case scenario.
posted by French Fry at 9:53 AM on October 19, 2016 [30 favorites]

I would take the job and do as much of a crash course as I could about the technologies I felt weak on before the job started, continuing to study as much as possible on the job until I felt more comfortable with the tech.
posted by zug at 9:56 AM on October 19, 2016

"She said she believes in me that I would be able to learn based on my existing skill sets" <- Believe her. I have been involved in tech hiring. It's difficult to find someone with the right attitude and cultural fit (not to mention, you can write!) It's often better to hire someone who is smart, a good fit, and willing to learn. You are obviously that person. Look for local networking opportunities to help you with the technical parts, like coding meetups. Find some online resources like codeacademy or Lynda. But do it!
posted by beyond_pink at 9:57 AM on October 19, 2016 [22 favorites]

I took a job I didn't feel super qualified for a few years back. I made it quite clear to the boss that I was very confident in areas a, b, and c, I didn't have a lot of experience in d and e. And she said no problem, and I've been working there for two years now and learning lots and everyone's happy.

So... go for it! Don't mislead them about your qualifications (and it doesn't sound like you are), but make it clear that you're keen to learn. If you find there's a steeper learning curve after you've begun, could you ask for them to fund some sort of training/workshop for you?
posted by twirlypen at 9:59 AM on October 19, 2016 [2 favorites]

"Qualified" doesn't always mean that you already have the experience under your belt. It can mean that, but I've heard more often than not from previous (and current) managers that they hire on potential. They have no idea how a new hire will work out. IMO the answers above are spot on - believe her when she says you'd be able to learn. She said it herself - she knows you're not 100% there in terms of skill set, but that doesn't mean you won't get there. I'd take the position and learn all I can, through Lynda and other people, as others have suggested above.
posted by onecircleaday at 10:08 AM on October 19, 2016 [3 favorites]

Have you talked about this stuff in your interviews? Like, "I know you're looking for someone with experience in Y, which as you can see from my resume/our previous interviews I don't actually have, although of course I'm interested in learning or I wouldn't be here! What kinds of support would I get for learning Y? What kinds of work would you be expecting me to do on Day One, three months in, a year in?"

If they don't have a plan to support you in learning these new languages/frameworks/whatever, that's a bit of a red flag for me. But if they know what they're getting into and have a plan that sounds realistic, go for it.
posted by mskyle at 10:15 AM on October 19, 2016 [5 favorites]

My husband was in this situation a year and a half ago - offered a job he wasn't qualified for, huge raise & promotion, lots of tech skills required - but he was crystal clear about his limitations and capabilities in the interview process and they hired him anyway, willing to teach him what he needed to know. It has been a fantastic, career-changing experience. As long as you're completely honest with them about what you know right now and are willing to put in the work to get where you need to be, I'd go for it.
posted by something something at 10:24 AM on October 19, 2016 [4 favorites]

A friend was recently offered a programming position they were underqualified for, and only lasted seven weeks there. There were other red flags - they didn't pay to outfit friend's home office (working 100% remotely), they didn't fly friend out to meet other staff. So watch out for stuff like that. They should be investing in you.

The part where you say you'd be completely on your own to answer questions worries me, and I'd probably want to address training / mentoring in interviews.
posted by momus_window at 11:31 AM on October 19, 2016

Almost every job I was offered was one that I had no experience in or that I was unqualified for. However the hiring manager had faith in me that I was hard working and would figure it out. So I took these roles in as a refreshing challenge that could move me to a new place. I was enthusiastic about accepting and upfront that I would need training and supports to ramp up. This showed I was contentious and eager and they appreciated that even more. So figure out what you'll need to be successful and make it happen.
posted by PeaPod at 12:45 PM on October 19, 2016 [2 favorites]

What everyone else said. It's fine to be under qualified as long as you aren't lying to your potential employer and make it clear both what your strengths are as well as your limitations. And make it clear that you will need time to get up to speed on whatever X, Y, or Z may be. And you should totally believe the person who says that you'll be able to get up to speed quickly Because that person knows you. And if it doesn't work, it doesn't work. I say go for it! Good luck.
posted by Bella Donna at 12:58 PM on October 19, 2016

A different field, but I took a job I was underqualified for a few years ago, and to be honest, I still struggle on the learning curve. I would say I knew about 60% of the material when I was hired and I know about 75% two years later. I have to look stuff up constantly and almost every week someone asks me to do something I have no idea how to do.

AND YET, my team is very happy with my performance. I am honest about my deficits, I seek outside professional development to help me learn (mostly at no cost to my company, I mean like free online tutorials) and I make my best effort all the time. Nobody expects me to know everything and they are understanding when it takes me a day to figure it out. It has turned out fine. I expect to know 100% by next year.

So, I think as long as you are being honest, take the job. You'll grow into it. And if you don't, which is unlikely, you will still have the extra income and will have learned quite a bit anyways.
posted by epanalepsis at 1:22 PM on October 19, 2016 [2 favorites]

Dude. This is a great situation, seriously, if you are willing to put in some work. I did this two years ago with a new job in a new field, and spent the first six months Googling/Lynda-ing/furiously learning. My boss knew my background, and believed in me and my ability to figure out what I needed to know. Now I am so much happier than I was at my old job.

Nobody goes into a new job already knowing everything. You'll do great.
posted by zoetrope at 1:44 PM on October 19, 2016 [2 favorites]

Go for it. Your short term stress level will go up, but make a plan.
Seek out technical assistance or ask your employer to send you to relevant trainings for the tech stuff. That can all be learned, and someone you know and respect is confident that you can do it.
Also, consider starting some kind of talk therapy or CBT for the imposter syndrome. It can be helpful to have a sounding board to help you get acclimated to this new place.
Do something nice for yourself and your partner. Again, there will be short term stress. Stuff like a cleaning service or massages or a boxing class, whatever kind of thing will take pressure off you will really help.
Last but not least, you're worth it!
posted by mrcrow at 2:19 PM on October 19, 2016

You don't have experience in something until you do it. It is perfectly normal to be hired to do a job tools or techniques you don't yet know yet.
posted by so fucking future at 3:42 PM on October 19, 2016 [1 favorite]

Not in a technical field, but I took a job a few years ago that I was definitely unqualified for. It was a research job on a book project, and I literally knew no more about the issue and period in question than an undergraduate survey course. I made this very clear to the person hiring. I also made clear that I am intelligent, learn quickly, read quickly and can get to the meat of a book's argument and analyze it, and have advanced experience in the field in general (just not in the particular subfield), etc. I also made this clear to the person hiring, and had the CV to back it up. I ended up being the pick for the job. It was a pretty good experience, although I did feel that the learning curve was pretty severe: despite my warnings, the researcher expected me to have advanced knowledge of the topic in question, and didn't want to pay for the time it took to get me up to speed on the subject. That said, I'm glad I worked on the project, as it was interesting and it was a good experience to learn to get to grips quickly with a new body of material. I would recommend the job provided you're really clear with them about what you don't know (that you'll need extra time to master those areas), and provided you like your field enough to put in the extra time (which may or may not be paid).
posted by ClaireBear at 8:25 AM on October 20, 2016

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