Interior designer Bobby Berk has become a household name as a member of the Fab 5 on the hit Netflix reality show "Queer Eye."
But Berk's career path was dotted with obstacles, especially early on. He dropped out of high school and had to live in his car for some time. To make ends meet, he worked a slew of retail jobs including stints at Restoration Hardware, an Italian linen company, Bed Bath & Beyond, and Target, where he now sells his own line of stick-on wallpaper.
Berk credits part of his success to his ability to land jobs, letting him work his way toward the career he wanted. "I don't think I ever interviewed for a job I didn't get," he tells Grow.
His secret: Sell yourself, rather than your skills.
"I wouldn't go in and sell my skills, because oftentimes the jobs I was applying for I didn't have the skills for," he says. "I had to go in and sell myself as a person and my drive and my ambition. That's how I usually ended up getting a job that I was absolutely not qualified for."
The hiring process does not necessarily favor those who have more qualifications over those who have fewer. In an oft-cited Hewlett-Packard survey, men reported applying for jobs if they had 60% of the qualifications, while women only applied for jobs when they had 100%.
This gap is usually framed as an issue with confidence, but a 2014 Harvard Business Review survey found that the most common reason both men and women don't apply for a job they don't have the qualifications for is that they didn't believe they would get hired — not because they didn't believe they could do the job.
"What held them back from applying was not a mistaken perception about themselves, but a mistaken perception about the hiring process," according to the report.
Berk's take: Personality and framing the skills you do have can all help you get a job, even if you don't have some of the qualifications. "Keep pushing yourself," he says. When a prospective employer asks you about certain tasks you can't yet do, he says, "figure out how to do that."
Video by Courtney Stith
Keita Williams, owner of career coaching service Success Bully, says that while you don't want to mislead anyone about what you can do, you absolutely can project confidence that you will be able learn on the job.
Be cautious, though: "I would not recommend misrepresenting your level of proficiency," she says. "It could bite you later."
So, if an interviewer asks about a skill you don't have, what do you do? Pivot to skills you do have. "Give yourself the gift of preparation," Williams says. "Think of three or four great examples where you can comfortably use the SBI model," which stands for Situation, Behavior, and Impact.
Give an example of a situation, the behavior you exhibited, and then the impact it had. For instance, if a job listing calls for someone who has held a managerial role before, and you haven't, you can still show your ability to manage using the SBI model. Williams gives the following example:
"I led the comms team on a recent product launch. I developed the strategy, got buy-in from key stakeholders, and organized the team tasks and deliverables resulting in $2 million in launch day sales."
This demonstrates past success without directly saying that "manager" has never been in your job title.
And remember, you need to be your biggest advocate.
Part of the reason Berk got bigger and better jobs, he says, is that he believed that he could. "There are so many misconceptions and thought processes of, 'If I'm poor and if I don't have education, I'm always just going to be making crap money and not be able to go any further.'"
But Berk was able to overcome those hurdles: "I dropped out of high school when I was 15, I lived in my car and now, I'm doing OK."
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