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Should I respond to a #JobOpp or RFP if I'm not really qualified?

Updated: Aug 26, 2023

The short answer is..."It depends."

virtual assistant in deep thought

You see a post with the hashtag #jobopp in one of your Facebook groups. Or you visit the RFP (Request for Proposal) board of a VA organization's website and find a few listings that interest you. You're immediately excited! Maybe, just maybe you’ll finally be able to land your first client.

Only it's clear that, based on the details provided by the poster, you really don't have the skillset they want. Bummer.

But you're desperate. Getting clients hasn't been easy for you as a new VA, and you're getting discouraged about your decision to embark upon this career path.

Do you respond anyway? Depending upon the role they are outsourcing, the answer could be yes.

I have an administrative background, for example. I've been following (and often creating) processes since my first after-school admin job. And for many years after that, I was employed as an Administrative or Executive Assistant, so following checklists and managing internal projects was par for the course. I'm also a writer, and I self-published my first book back in 2000. While I definitely needed some industry knowledge, at the core of publishing and marketing my book was being able to follow a process -- a sparse checklist of self-publishing steps I'd found on the internet way back then. Voilà! I was able to publish my book and enjoy modest success that included book signings, festivals, and event appearances in five states. Not bad for my first self-publishing effort.

So when the opportunity was presented to me years later to take on a client who was outsourcing a Publishing Project Manager role, I was nervous, but I was ready. No, I hadn't ever held that position before, not as an employee nor as a VA in my own business. What I did know was that I learned alot in my own publishing journey, and that I had always had a project management mindset in my administrative career. From my discovery conversation with this potential client, I learned that I would be 1) following a standard checklist for every project assigned to me–the same way I had always done as an admin employee, and 2) able to use and continue to build upon the ever-changing publishing industry knowledge I had learned firsthand on my first and subsequent projects.

I was willing to continue learning. That was key. And that was a major part of my pitch.

If you see a #jobopp or RFP that interests you, but you don’t have the exact skillset for it right now, consider whether there is something in your professional background that would make you a valuable resource anyway. Do you have a strong administrative background? Did you plan corporate events for your employer before starting your business? Perhaps you’re active on social media and have successfully built a following for yourself. While posting to a personal account is different from managing a business account, perhaps there’s enough wiggle room in the #jobopp description that would allow you to truthfully use language to indicate to the poster that, while your skillset in this regard might be limited, you’ve already started researching ways that you can potentially assist them in their business–and you’re willing to continue to learn.

Depending upon what the business owner has posted about their hiring needs, being honest and forthright in your pitch about your current skillset, stating very clearly the specific ways in which you feel you can help them, letting them know that you are willing to continue to learn on your own time, et cetera, might at the very least put you on their radar for another opportunity if not the one they’ve posted about.

Most of all, remember that both you and the poster are business owners. Put yourself in their place, try to see the view from their perspective, understand that they are looking to outsource in order to make their business run more smoothly and profitably immediately. If you approach every pitch (or respond to a #JobOpp) with that entrepreneurial mindset, you might just land that client...and others!

Let me know your thoughts.

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