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Careers Café

Putting skepticism on hold


Working within academia has likely helped you develop a strong sense of skepticism. Can these results be replicated? What are the holes in this methodology? Where does this argument fall short?

That’s good for the researcher, and bad for the job seeker or career explorer. Too much skepticism can lead to extremes at either end of the confidence spectrum. Some turn their skepticism to employers: how could any employer turn down an applicant with a PhD? (More on skepticism towards employers in the next post.) Other job seekers seem to make themselves the object of their own skepticism. How many more qualified candidates must be out there? Who would want someone with so little experience?

Questions about yourself can be paralyzing. Why bother with the job search if you already know it won’t work? Happily, just as research brings some surprises, so does the job search. Treat your skeptical questions about yourself with the same respect you’d give to untested hypotheses that somehow got published in Uncle Bob’s Non-Peer Reviewed Journal of Goodly Research. And don’t be dissuaded if your first results aren’t the ones you want; that’s just the nature of the job search.

The truth is that it’s not up to you to decide whether you’re sufficiently qualified. That’s the employer’s job. You may indeed have little more than your curiosity, enthusiasm and a handful of transferrable skills and experiences to propel you into a new field. In the eyes of some employers, this will not be enough. But you don’t need to be seen as the perfect candidate by every employer – just by the one who gives you your next job. In fact, you’ll gain a lot from employers who don’t see you as a perfect candidate, but who have enough interest in you to share some good advice. And, the more you seek opportunities, the more you will find out what you can do to make yourself a more competitive candidate.

Liz Koblyk
Liz Koblyk is the associate director of the Wilson Leadership Scholar Award at McMaster University.
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