Career Realism: How to Know if You’re REALLY Qualified


Recently, I was working with a client – an obvious go-getter with a bright future ahead – who had designs on getting into digital marketing.

The trouble: this job seeker’s work experience, so far, only includes retail sales in a sporting goods store.

After they sent over several job targets to me, I had to break the news: they didn’t have any of the required  job qualifications. Not a single one.

Reading job postings and, with an objective frame of mind understanding what the employer is really after, is a skill everyone needs to learn. If you don’t evaluate each job qualification and align it to something you offer, you’ll be spending valuable energy on a proverbial wild goose chase.

Do it correctly, however, and you create a magical match between what an employer wants and what you have to offer!

Let’s break down a sample employment opportunity and find out what a real-world job qualification process – and that magic – really looks like:

Step 1: Select a Target Job

For the purpose of this exercise, the applicant is looking for a marketing coordinator position exaclty as shown in this marketing coordinator job from (this is a typically long job posting; feel free to scan!):

We are looking for a Marketing Coordinator to join our growing team in the Portland, Oregon office. The  marketing team plans and implements all corporate marketing initiatives along with providing marketing services to a number of our clients. The Marketing Coordinator will lead a variety of B2B and B2C marketing initiatives and act as a contributing team member on others. We are seeking a highly collaborative and creative individual; a pro-active problem solver who can generate new ideas and improve on past performance.

The ideal candidate will be comfortable working in a fast paced environment, excel at multi-tasking, and have a passion for the mission of our organization. Experience with leading edge marketing tools and techniques is a plus. The ideal candidate is a marketing generalist who loves to work across marketing disciplines. We are looking for someone who can expand and grow in this role, taking on increasing responsibility, and continually develop skills and marketing aptitude. The Marketing Coordinator reports directly to the Director of Marketing and is part of a team of 6 in various locations on the West Coast.


  • Develop, implement, and evaluate marketing communications campaigns.
  • Work with the Creative Services team to design marketing materials.
  • Create, deliver, edit, and optimize marketing materials.
  • Track milestones and deadlines in an online project management tool (Skylight).
  • Promote our company and our clients through social media including LinkedIn, Twitter, and Facebook.
  • Write newsletter articles, press releases, web content, and direct mail pieces.
  • Promote products and services through public relations initiatives.
  • Create thought leadership materials.
  • Plan and manage events for our company and clients.
  • Work with manager and business units to manage expenses and track to a budget.
  • Requirements:
  • BA/BS in marketing or related field.
  • 3-5 years developing and implementing marketing campaigns.
  • Experience contributing content to social media platforms in a professional capacity is highly desirable.
  • Strong writing experience with a sharp attention to detail.
  • Proficiency in Microsoft Office Suite (Excel, Word, PowerPoint) and Google Apps.
  • Ability to work within budget and deadline demands.
  • Strong project management skills and ability to manage conflicting deadlines and priorities.
  • Must be a team player and creative problem solver, with a passion for delivering excellent work products, exceeding client expectations, and going the extra mile.
  • Passion for sustainability and the environment.

Step 2: Extract the Job’s Required Core Skill Sets and Competencies 

In reading this posting, the skill sets that pop out to the objective, realistic job seeker might include:

  • corporate marketing initiatives
  • marketing services
  • B2B and B2C marketing
  • problem solving
  • new idea generation
  • leading edge marketing tools
  • different marketing disciplines
  • marketing communications
  • campaigns
  • marketing materials design
  • project management
  • project tracking
  • deadline management
  • social media (LinkedIn, Twitter, and Facebook)
  • newsletter articles
  • press releases
  • web content
  • direct mail
  • products and service promotion
  • public relations
  • thought leadership
  • plan and manage events
  • expense and budget tracking / management
  • BA/BS in marketing or related field
  • proficiency in Microsoft Office Suite (Excel, Word, PowerPoint) and Google Apps
  • team player
  • customer service

Step 3: Cross-analyze What You Offer Versus These Skill Sets

As an applicant, you need to have that honest conversation with yourself about how well you need these criteria.  Ask yourself these questions:

  1. Can you perform, or have you had experience performing these types of skills?
  2. If so, how would you rate your competency level on a scale of 1 to 10, with 10 being expert level? Are you 100% qualified? Or only 20%?
  3. Can you cite specific examples of situations or accomplishments where you put those skills into practical application, and have a measurable outcome?
  4. Where do you think you rank in terms of other people competing for the same job opening?
  5. How much of a learning curve would you need for any skills that you don’t have?

The purpose of these questions is to understand your candidacy from an employer’s perspective. Are you answering their specific call or solving their particular need? If so, are you able to do it 100% or just partially?

It’s important to always be your own career advocate and stretch towards your goals, but there’s a fine line between fantasy and fact.  Being reality-based can help you reach your goals more quickly rather than spinning your wheels running after something for which you never had a chance.


For this post, YouTern thanks our friends at Pathfinder Writing and Career Services!




Dawn Rasmussen 3About the Author: Dawn Rasmussen, CMP is President of Pathfinder Writing and Career Services, a provider of results-oriented résumé, cover letter, and job search coaching services.

Dawn is also the official “Get the Job” columnist for One+ Magazine distributed to over 26,000 meeting professionals worldwide and, a job resource site for creative and marketing professionals. Dawn is also a recognized career expert on – a top 10 world-ranked career advice blog – and a regular contributor to’s #TChat. Follow Dawn on Twitter!



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