Can I do that job?

I’ll be quite frank here: I am currently looking for promotion despite being on maternity leave and having 1000 other things going on. I’ve never really been the type to wait around patiently until a convenient time arises.

Trailing the job ads is one thing, but finding a good match is another. There is often that perception that you have to be good enough for the job, but the same is essential the other way around, too: a job has to match your skills and personality. Anything else just leads to misery on both sides.

To find out whether there is a suitable job out there for you, I suggest having a very close – analytic – look at each job ad. A lot of people I know – and I’ve been guilty of this in the past – just look at the obvious part: the actual advertisement in the paper/ on the website and tailor their application to that. It’s a great start and a lot better, of course, than just blindly sending off a generic form to just anyone with the right title.

But there is so much more than just an ad. In my line of work, each ad comes with at least the following: a person specification, a job description, a link to a website of the school or MAT. Each has their own merits and each needs to be considered carefully when writing an application.

I tend to go for the person spec first and look closely at each skill. Being a bit of an organisation freak, I fire up MS Word and create a table with two headings: Requirements and Experience. I then take every single part of the person specification and paste it into the ‘Requirements’ section. Then comes the hard part: matching the requirements to my experience.

Sometimes, this means trawling through files of past work places and finding relevant dates or numbers; others are fairly straight forward, but each section needs to be as specific as possible: examples prove competence, numbers impress.

I colour-code each section with the traffic light system: green means absolutely 100% confident I’ve done this (and done it well!), yellow means I have some experience in the field, red means I haven’t got a clue.

My table may end up looking like this:


Greens are no-brainers: I write them into the application and elaborate where appropriate.

Yellow may be addressed more generically, but I may omit those parts.

Reds MUST be addressed. Why? Because a) it may be specifically asked for at interview stage and you’ll feel like a fool and b) if you cannot see a way around it, you may as well not go for the job as you might prove to be completely incompetent at doing that part of the job.

The trick is to address reds head-on and say what you are going to do about the problem. I can guarantee nine times out of 10 you and your would-be workplace will find a solution.

Now, here’s the thing: you need to go through all that effort with the table and then look at it while zooming further and further out, so that the writing itself becomes irrelevant. Why? You’ll only see the colours. Mostly greens and a few yellows is great news: go for the application. But if you see too many yellows or reds, forget it; it’s not worth the effort. Not only are you less likely to be invited to an interview, but you’ll also struggle if you miraculously do get accepted for the job. Don’t do it.

So, all that effort you go to with the table and colour-coding and you end up having wasted a lot of time you could have used trawling the internet for more jobs, right?  Nope. The beauty of Word (or any similar application) is that it allows you to copy and paste. So once you’ve done one table, the next will be easier. Unless you apply for a random selection of very different jobs, most specifications and job descriptions are similar, so your workload becomes less with time.

And if you do go for similar jobs and still find mostly yellows and reads, you may have to consider the possibility that you might need more experience and training.

Once the tables are done, writing an application is easy. You already have all the relevant information and your application will become a lot more specific and a lot less blah. Way to stand out.

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