Your Career Q&A: Gaining Relevant Experience to Land the Job You Want

By Martin Yate Nov 7, 2017
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​Best-selling author Martin Yate, a career coach and former HR professional, takes your questions each week about how to further your career in HR. Contact him at the e-mail address at the end of this column.     

I was wondering if you could provide some insight on how I can get a promotion from HR analyst to HR manager. I have more than 15 years of experience working in HR in school districts and community college. I have a master's degree in human behavior with an emphasis in HR and am currently working on my dissertation to complete my Ph.D. in industrial organizational psychology.

I've been successful at getting a couple of interviews, but apparently I lack experience, as I have not been offered a job. Do you have any suggestions on how to land the job, even though I may not have the desired experience? Thank you in advance for your time and expertise.

Anonymous 

Your pursuit of profession-relevant credentials is admirable. We live in a world of work where ongoing education and professional certifications are necessary for maintaining employability and climbing the career ladder. The impact of technology on all jobs means that if you are not developing new skills and capabilities every year, your skill set is steadily becoming obsolete. This lessens your job security with a current employer as well as your employability elsewhere. 

Further, without attainment of required levels of education, including profession-related certifications, you can be ruled out of consideration before your resume is read. Your resume is destined for storage in resume databases, and when a recruiter identifies certifications or levels of education as being required, not having those attainments can mean your resume will likely not show up in the search results. 

Given that you have the educational requirements, your resume has a much better chance of being read by a recruiter and passed on to a hiring manager. However, it is all too easy to mistake ongoing educational pursuits as the only necessary requirement for promotion; the reality is more complex. 

The Other Side of the Desk

As a rule of thumb, you need at least 70 percent of the skills and experience required by a target job to have reasonable odds of landing that job. It helps to understand this from the hiring manager's point of view: as a manager, your job is to get work done through others. If you don't hire effectively, you can't manage productively, which foretells the end of your management career. 

Consequently, hiring managers look for credentials rather than potential. Ask yourself, as if you were a hiring manager, which of two candidates would you hire, keeping your own job security in mind: The one who has much of the experience required in the job you need to fill, or the one who doesn't but would like to gain that experience? 

How to Gain Relevant Experience

If you don't have real know-how in delivering the majority of a target job's requirements, landing that job is unlikely. So, it's up to you to gain the real-world experience. Identify the deliverables of your target job by comparing several job descriptions for that job and listing the requirements and priorities employers hold in common. Then compare them to your current responsibilities and experience. The gaps you find are skill-building opportunities that will give you the experience required in your target job. 

Develop these skills, and you'll increase job security and the opportunity for internal promotion. With internal promotions, credentials are still key, but you are a known quantity and your potential, as proven by a track record of seeking and assimilating new skills, carries more weight. If that internal promotion does not occur, you are far better qualified to make a successful strategic career move to your target job of choice. 

Have a question for Martin about advancing or managing your career? From big issues to small, please feel free to e-mail your queries to YourCareerQA@shrm.org. We'll only publish your first name and city, unless you prefer to remain anonymous—just let us know.  

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