The Imaginary Obstacle

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One of the things that continues to surprise me at my workshops is that once people have identified what they really would like to do with their lives, when they have finally discovered their own life purpose, quite often they will immediately begin to put obstacles in their own path.

For example, there was an occasion when one person told me he really wanted to be a teacher. He told me that he had always wanted to teach so it didn’t take much thinking about what he wanted to do for this deep inner desire (calling or vocation) to resurface. Naturally, I asked him why he had not gone into that profession and his answer was that it was not well enough paid.

Now I can completely relate to what the young man said. The way he saw things was that he had a responsibility to provide for his family and he did not see how that responsibility could be compatible with the idea of taking a job doing what he really wanted to do with his life. You might be thinking that his family would be better off with a man who was happy in his work even if the pay was not as good as it might be, and that might be true. But I wanted to open his eyes to the fact that the obstacle he perceived was entirely in his own mind.

So actually, I pointed out to him that there were teaching jobs that were very well paid. A friend of mine earns around £1,000 ($1,627) per day teaching, for example. He teaches adults as a contractor working with various training organisations – a very good return for his investment of time, by most people’s standards. Of course, I don’t know if this person ever decided to think more seriously about his desire to teach. It might have been very easy for him to have identified further obstacles that would continue to prevent him from making progress.

In fact, one of the most common perceived obstacles is a lack of suitable academic qualifications.  Of course, there are many jobs for which you do need the relevant academic qualifications, but in many other cases, despite being stipulated in job adverts, you don’t. So again, in many cases they are simply a perceived obstacle. What all employers are looking for, when they place a job advert, is someone who is capable of performing the job on offer; someone who can do it well and fit in with the other staff.

The best person for any particular job could indeed be a person who does not hold the qualification stipulated in the job advertisement. You might have a ton of relevant experience and you might be more than capable. But the presence of that little line that says, ‘must have xyz qualification’ holds you back from applying when, in this case, it shouldn’t have, because you might actually be the best person for the job.

Staying with the example of applying for a job for which you don’t feel qualified, remember that the advertiser is describing their ideal candidate. You may not be the ideal candidate, but you still might be the best candidate. In many cases the stipulation of an academic qualification is not as important as you might think. It is there only as a filtering mechanism and it works well. It will be keeping many other people away from applying, so it is actually helping you.

If you think you can do a job well and especially if you have the necessary experience, then my advice would be to go ahead and apply. You can handle the qualification issue in the interview quite easily. When asked about your apparent lack of qualifications, you can explain to them how your years of dedication to the role at another company has taught you what is needed to perform your duties. Will you get the job? Well, of course, there are no guarantees, except that I can guarantee that you won’t get it if you don’t apply.

There was something that Randy Pausch said about obstacles, in his last lecture, that I really liked. As I recall, he said to remember that the ‘brick walls’ are there to keep the other people out. That is a wonderful life lesson. Randy’s last lecture is over one hour long and it can be viewed here. If you have never watched this video, do yourself a favour and invest the time. You won’t regret it.

One thought on “The Imaginary Obstacle

  1. winslouse wakasiaka

    Am currently a Radio Presenter I Went into the profession not because i have the qualifications but because i knew i was the ideal person.I am now planning to go for Masters in communication.One can do it once they remove the obstacles they create .

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