I Wasn't Really Qualified But I Applied Anyway and Landed My Dream Job—Here's How

Photo:  Jenna Peffley

When I was a young girl, I had a voracious appetite for books. From the age of five, you could find me nose deep in a book—my mom even has a photo of me holding a giant hardback copy of Roald Dahl's Matilda that was the size of my head. I’ve always had a passion for prose—I hope to pen my own NYT best-seller one day—so becoming a writer was an inevitable career path.

Fast-forward 20 years or so (with a bachelor's degree and some soul-searching travel in between), and I eventually found myself back at university studying a post-graduate diploma in journalism and mass communication. It was time to make it happen. Of course, by this stage, I was considered a little late to the game (aka old). Most of my peers had started fresh out of high school, working as cadets for the local newspaper while they studied. But I wasn't going to let that stop me. I called the paper's editor-in-chief every week (I ignored the rejection letter in the mail) until he gave me a job. Within four years, I had worked my way up to fashion editor, curating the weekly style magazine. Oh, and I had a baby during that time too. But that's another story.

It's safe to say a lot has happened along the way, and the course of my career has been far from smooth. But as I typed away on a computer in Melbourne, I often peered out the window and dreamed of the day I would be working in my dream job. After all my hard work, career setbacks, and fierce determination (not to mention the thousands of miles I'd just flown to be there), I feel like I have finally arrived.

Now I have the insane privilege of working among some of the most talented women as the editorial director at Create & Cultivate (previously I was the editorial director of MyDomaine, former sister site to Who What Wear). So how did I do it? Ahead, I share a few simple things that worked for me.

CREATE A VISION BOARD

There's one thing all female leaders do to achieve their goals every year: create a vision board. I swear by it. But don't take my word for it, even science agrees. Studies have shown that pictures and self-affirmations do in fact have the potential to make us feel more positive and “buffer stress.”

According to Harvard University researchers, an optimistic outlook helps people cope with disease and recover from surgery. So imagine having a board with all your most powerful phrases, motivational mantras, and inspiring imagery to empower you and propel you into a positive headspace every day? It might sound a little far-fetched for those who are uninitiated, but I am proof that it works.

I like to cut and paste images of the place I want to live (including the neighborhood or city) and the office I want to work in, along with the words that define how I want to feel when I get there (and along the way). So get out the scissors and glue gun, have fun, dream big, and make it happen.

WRITE DOWN YOUR GOALS

While it's generally linked to the beginning of the year, I rewrite and reassess my goals all year long. Defining the major milestones and accomplishments you want to achieve is key to making them happen. Just ask the incredibly successful celebrity hairstylist Jen Atkins. She's a self-professed goal-writing devotee. "I'm a huge believer in writing down your next year's goals and have done it since I was little," she wrote on Instagram. "Personal, professional, health, etc. Check in with yourself every three months and I promise you really will thank yourself."

The key is to be specific about what you want, where you want to be, what you want to achieve, the health changes that need to take place, how much money you want to make, and what will make you truly happy. Then mark a time in your calendar every month to go over it and see what's been actioned and how to move others along. The co-founder and CEO of Clique and Versed, Katherine Power checks in with hers once a week.

CONNECT WITH THE FOUNDERS ON SOCIAL

While it might seem intimidating at first, following the founders or CEO at the company of your dream job is crucial. Displaying a vested interest and passion for their business publicly goes a long way toward being taken seriously when you do get that interview.

I was a long-time follower of Clique co-founder Hillary Kerr on Twitter while I was still living in Australia. We often exchanged tweets back and forth, and it was always a thrill. When I did eventually move and score the job at MyDomaine, she was so excited to see me, and we immediately connected, chatting about Australia and how I was settling into my new L.A. life.

Of course, if you are going to follow and converse with your potential employers and mentors on social, be sure to keep things fairly professional and consider having separate profiles for your personal life that are private. Because if you're looking at theirs, it's very likely they'll peek at yours too. So make a good first impression, because it will be a lasting one and could set the tone for any future relationships.

APPLY FOR EVERY JOB YOU QUALIFY FOR

Even though I lived in Australia and didn't have a visa yet, I would still apply for every job I felt qualified for. I knew the likelihood of me getting it was slim, as was the chance of them offering me a visa and flying me out for an interview, but I did it anyway. It's all part of the process and gets your name in front of the people you want to work with. I never lost track of my goal and continued to apply, no matter the odds. Sometimes, a little blind faith helps push past any self-imposed negative barriers; it certainly helped me. It's also a good education in filling our different application types.

Eventually, our small family moved to the U.S., and the first thing I did was apply for the job of lifestyle editor at MyDomaine. I received an email response almost immediately, and within two weeks (after a couple of interviews), we relocated to L.A. and I got to work. All those applications paid off.

DON'T BE AFRAID TO START AT THE BOTTOM

When I finished my post-graduate in journalism, I was unsure how I would get my foot in the door. In my mid-20s at this stage, I didn't have any published work, bar a few local rags, and I desperately needed to hone my skills. But I knew I was capable, and I was prepared to work hard; I just needed to swallow my ego and start from the ground up. So I got on the phone and started calling the editors at the newspaper. They didn't have any interest in me at first (well, I had zero experience and wasn’t really qualified) but it was my job to make them believe they did. And after weeks of calling and a rejection letter, I got a call that a position on the copy desk had opened up.

The salary was dismal, and I wasn't even writing (it was mostly an errand-runner position), but I took it eagerly. It was electrifying being a part of a newsroom. Seeing how the well-oiled machine of print works in real time was exciting, and I got the bug immediately. I was quickly offered a cadetship working in news before being moved to the features department and eventually writing fashion articles for the paper's style magazine. I was even flown to Sydney to report on Mercedes-Benz Australian Fashion Week, where they featured my coverage in a two-page spread. Life, made.

INCREASE YOUR SKILL SET WHERE POSSIBLE

While I worked at the paper, I never stopped learning. They offered online courses in sub-editing, which I happily took on, and each week we learned the skill of shorthand (although I completely forget it all now). I also started teaching myself about online publishing and the power of social media in distributing content (now I'm really showing my age). With the rate at which online media was moving (and bloggers causing a scandal by being invited to sit front row at fashion week), I knew the future of print was in jeopardy, and with it my job. This is where my next tip comes into place.

KEEP A SIDE HUSTLE

Knowing that online was only going to grow, I started my own blog on Blogspot (remember those?) and taught myself how to navigate this new digital landscape. It was during this time of experimentation that I first discovered Who What Wear and eagerly awaited its weekly newsletter with stylish collages and celebrity news. It was so exciting. I fell in love with this new-media approach and went to work finding a job in it. This passion project on the side actually helped me get a job as an online editor after I left the paper. So fire up your inner hustler, and turn your hobby from a side gig into a full-time dream job. You never know where it will take you.

DITCH THE FEAR

Fear plagues all of us at some stage of our lives, and while it's a normal human reaction, there comes a time when you have to decide if it's at a healthy level or if it's holding you back and hindering your success. For most of us, it's the latter, and we'll prefer to stay inside the comfort zone then step into the unknown.

But the leap, in reality, isn't as scary as it seems in your mind. At some point, you need to realize that and ditch the fear once and for all. One phrase I learned a long time ago that not only stops it in its tracks but also helps me to propel forward is "I'll handle it." It's simple but effective, and it's true. At the end of the day, whatever happens, I'll handle it. And you will too!

If I didn't let go of my fears, I would never have left Australia to live in L.A., and I wouldn't be surrounded by this incredible group of women who truly inspire me every day. #Blessed.

Would you ever apply for a job you weren’t qualified for? Share your experience below.