'Let Them Tell You You're Not Qualified!'

Before my father-in-law moved to Florida he'd come over for dinner and frequently he'd tell the same stories he'd shared during his previous visits. My husband would attempt to gently remind him that we were all familiar with whichever anecdote he was launching into by saying, "Right, Dad, we've heard this one." (A futile effort to stop our teen's manic eye-rolling)

But my father-in-law, in his 80s and undaunted, would simply say, "Well, then, you're going to hear it again!" and continue.

One of his favorites was a tale about the time when he, a young teacher, was hoping to move up in academia. He'd found a posting for a job he wanted but because he believed he didn't meet all the requisite qualifications, he felt he shouldn't bother pursuing it.

Lamenting his perceived shortcomings to a colleague, the fellow, being older and wiser, told him, "Apply for it, Ed, and let them tell you you're not qualified!"

(Without the benefit of hearing it before, you know where I'm going with this, right?) He applied and got the job, which then served as a springboard to other, better opportunities.

Of his many narratives, this is probably one of my favorites as well because it feels so familiar. How many times do we doubt our abilities or talk ourselves out of going for something we want based on our fear of rejection? (Personally, I seem to do this daily, even as I can hear my father-in-law delivering the kicker: "Let them tell you you're not qualified!" from 1,200 miles away.)

In the late fall, my husband, after a year in a dead-end consulting gig in which he was promised -- but never offered -- full-time employment after three months, decided to embrace this philosophy. The small company he'd been working for, run by a modern-day snake oil salesman disguised as a PR executive, had all the stability of a 1960s revival tent. The hot-headed founder vacillated between throwing tantrums about losing clients to asking for advice on where he should take his next all-inclusive vacation.

Meanwhile, my husband spent long days sharing an office that would've made calves raised for veal claustrophobic. During his time there, he was forced to put his work to the side and hunt all over Manhattan for his officemate who'd disappeared on a Monday afternoon only to turn up Thursday afternoon in a hospital in Connecticut. Was it a coincidence that this young man had been driven to the edge after years of working for a demanding tyrant? I didn't think so.

In addition to that episode and others that probably bordered on illegal and certainly immoral, my husband, desperate for some semblance of normalcy, decided he'd begin applying to anything and everything that was even remotely close to his skillset.

Though his background is in finance, he went after a writing position with a healthcare firm, and in what could only be described as a miracle, he got it!

As you can imagine, it was an enormous relief after he'd been let go from the job that initially pulled us off the cliff. But locking it down wasn't without its challenges. He received a vague offer via phone and was told to be on the lookout for the letter that would seal the deal. Weeks passed and nothing arrived. The poor guy remained glued to his phone, refreshing with the frequency of a middle-schooler checking Snapchat.

I tried to stay optimistic but as each day passed it seemed harder to believe. "Healthcare? You?" I'd want to ask.

When we were both out of work in 2014, we'd found many an opening in the healthcare and pharmaceutical industries. But nearly all of them required "3 to 5 years of experience" and "full-understanding of AMA policies, terminology, and guidelines." Um, we're still trying to figure out how to pronounce Zyrtec (is zuuur-tek or zeer-tech?) so, no, we'll just skip over that and move on to the next posting, we'd decide.

But that was then. Now, after years of going after jobs and not getting them, "What's a little more rejection?" we reason. Our skin has grown thicker; a wise man's words echo through our subconscious: "Let them tell you you're not qualified."

After two long weeks, eventually that offer letter came through, and we rejoiced with the jubilation of folks who've just won in it all on Family Feud.

But, at the same time, I can't help wondering if this means we've been selling ourselves short all along. Surely, if my husband could spend months writing about currency swaps and exchange traded funds, couldn't he also learn and comprehend all the Medicare lingo the healthcare world has to offer? Let's hope so.

Our take-away is this: Even if you think your resume won't merit a glance from a potential employer, still, go for it.

"Let them tell you you're not qualified!"

Perhaps we're older and wiser now too.


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