Tips for Applying to a Position Above Your Current Level

by Sari Friedman

Moving Up Ladder

There are a variety of things that motivate people at work. For some it’s the social affiliation, this can be in the form of working with colleagues on projects, enjoying social events or simply being part of a larger group with a shared purpose. Many are motivated by compensation which can be as simple as covering basic needs and for some it includes achieving a salary that they associate with success. Others may be motivated by upward mobility which likely entails a higher salary, more accountability and an opportunity to learn and apply new skills. If you are considering applying to a role that is above your current level, these tips can help you achieve that goal.

In Your Current Role

Review postings for roles that you’re interested in and determine which relevant skills and experience you already have. The key is to identify requirements that you may not have and see if you can gain some of that experience within the context of your current role. For example, if they’re looking for someone with managerial experience and you have not had direct reports, is there an opportunity to oversee an intern or mentor someone? That way you can utilize that recent responsibility as transferable or relevant experience. Ideally you are in good standing in your current role, so it could be easy to take on new duties or initiatives that will help to expand your career portfolio. In some cases, you may want to consider moving up within your organization. Particularly if there are things about your current organization that you enjoy and are consistent with your work-related values, then consider applying for that next level role within your organization. There are many benefits of a within organization move. They will likely greatly value your intellectual capital including knowledge of the company, industry, stakeholders and products or services. You have ideally already established relationships with key stakeholders which may consist of peers, potential direct reports, clients, suppliers and management. Promoting existing talent is widely practiced as it has many benefits. It can be a valuable part of the employers’ brand to promote from within and show you and others that there are opportunities to grow within the company.

Key Words Are Key

You’re applying for a role that is more senior than your role, so you likely don’t have all of the required responsibilities or qualifications. This can be a barrier to making that move. One way to help overcome that obstacle is to put a lot of effort into optimizing your resume for what is often the first gateway, applicant tracking software. Conduct research on how to develop a resume that is applicant tracking software friendly. This often means avoiding headers, graphics, italics and tables. Best to avoid fancy looking templates and rather, elect to stick to one that is professional looking and easy for applicant tracking software to decipher. Beyond the look and feel of the resume, the next important factor are the key words. Review postings you are interested in and make sure you have the related key words in your document, providing they are representative of your skills and experience. The key words are important for applicant tracking software and as well, to ensure that you are catching the readers’ attention when your resume gets to that stage.

Professional Development

Some roles require a certain level of education and perhaps even some certifications. You may think you are capable of doing the role despite lacking that requirement, but if you don’t have it on your resume, then applicant tracking software may put you directly in the ‘no’ pile. Best to do your research beforehand and that way, if there are some courses you can take or certifications you can attain, you can begin working towards that.

Transferable Skills

When applying for a role that is above your current level, you want to use every opportunity to compel the reader with your transferable skills. You will need to think creatively about which of your skills are a good match or at least somewhat relevant to the requirements for the role. For instance, they may be looking for someone who has ‘led’ a large-scale project, and perhaps your experience has been ‘participating’ on a project with a similar scope. While you hadn’t played a leadership role, you can tell the reader about your exposure to leadership in that context, or ideally, perhaps you led a component of the project. It would be wise to tell the reader about that related experience using accomplishment statements and key words. You want to make sure you are parlaying this experience on your resume and on your LinkedIn profile. The key areas will be the resume Profile, the About section on LinkedIn and the detail of your most recent work experience on both the resume and LinkedIn Profile.

Endorsements, References and Recommendations

In a time of career transition, it’s always crucial to have references, endorsements and recommendations. This is even more important when you are hoping to gain a role that is beyond the scope and level of your current role. This is consistent with so much of our behaviour as consumers. When we are considering a new restaurant, contemplating buying a new car, deciding what movie to stream or what camera to purchase, it is very likely that we will read reviews – some expert reviews and many reviews from other consumers. In this case, we are hoping that a potential employer will consider us for a role that is beyond our tried and true experience, so it is very helpful to have other respected and credible professionals vouch for us. These endorsements, references and recommendations can reduce the hiring manager’s ambiguity and better help them to envision us in the role.

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Applying to a role that will bring new challenges, skills and expertise is very exciting. Be sure to utilize the above-mentioned tips to help turn that application into a job offer.

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