What to Do When You’re Not Qualified for Your Own Job

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I’m not qualified to be a CEO.

Two years ago, I had never run a real business. Never managed more than three people. Didn’t (and still don’t) have an MBA. The list of “why I’m not qualified” goes on. And yet, I just completed year number two as the Founder & CEO of a digital marketing company. In two years, I’ve helped lead our company past the seven-figure mark in revenue and now have fifteen employees with clients in four continents.

If you’re reading this, you probably feel the same way as I do. You recognize your own inadequacies as they relate to your job responsibilities. But, the reality is the same: you have a job to do.

What can you do when you’re not qualified for your own job? Here are five things I’ve practiced to help bridge the gap between being underqualified and meeting performance expectations.

Extreme Ownership

Extreme ownership is a mentality. It’s an agreement you’ve made with yourself. You will find a way no matter what. You’ll deliver and leave all the reasons why you fell short at the door. No excuses. You’re the first one in, last one out if that’s what it takes to find a solution and solve a critical issue. The full responsibility of whether something gets done or fails is willingly taken on by none other than yourself.

Most people aren’t willing to take Ownership. The excuses are endless. “But I’m waiting on the client! But I didn’t get training for this! But, but, but…” When you’re not qualified for your job, you eliminate the word “but” from your vocabulary and do what needs to get done. Plain and simple.

The mentality of Extreme Ownership is the best way to gain the qualifications for your role. By accepting the realities of your role, and taking ownership for the results, you always can find a way to make things work.

Be Humble

We all have a lot to learn. Being humble allows for those learnings to take place. There’s a tendency to overcompensate for a lack of qualifications by “faking it ’til you make it.” Employees, clients, yourself – everyone sees right through that if there’s not some real logic attached to the reasoning.

Listen to the people around you. Accept and communicate that you don’t have all the answers. And then practice Extreme Ownership to find the solution. It’s better to be truthful and ask for forgiveness with the people who rely on you instead of defending yourself and acting like you’re right. Get humble or be humbled.

Bias for Action

The reality is that decisions need to be made in your role. The higher you climb in an organization, the greater the impact your decisions make. That can be some scary stuff if you feel like you’re not qualified to make those decisions. I’m here to say it should be really exciting.

The analogy I love to reference is about fainting goats. These are goats that actually faint when experiencing a boost of adrenaline caused by fear. This same temporary paralysis can impact business leaders too if fear creeps in.

The amazing thing about fainting goats? The babies don’t faint. They haven’t learned fear yet. The same is true for people who are unqualified for their role. You don’t know any better! That’s your biggest asset and competitive edge that you have over more qualified peers. You have a license to take action without fear getting in the way. So, calm yourself. Look around. Make a call. Your role requires it.

Rely on Resources

You’re not going to succeed doing it all alone. Learn quickly from all of your resources. Rely on the internal assets around you – your spouse, your team, your interns, your customers, the data. Rely on the external resources available – people in your role at other companies, books, Google!

Possessing an insatiable curiosity on how to be better is an asset that accelerates your progress. Seek the right resources and find answers to the questions you don’t know.

Be Disciplined

Your learning curve puts you at a time disadvantage. You simply cannot go at the same speed as someone who is qualified for their job. Being disciplined bridges that gap.

Be disciplined with your time. Prioritize tasks. Plan each day down to the minute. When you are that disciplined, you accomplish what you set for yourself and grow.

That’s what I’ve learned in two years of not being qualified as a CEO. Extreme ownership. Be humble. Bias for action. Relying on resources. Be disciplined. All that stuff is powerful that helps bridge the knowledge gap in a role you are not qualified to work.

If we all practice these five things, then one day we might all just be qualified for our respective roles.

Brett Farmiloe is the Founder & CEO of Markitors and an advisor to an organizational leadership EdD program. Google “digital marketing company” and you’ll most likely find Markitors on the first page of search results nationwide. Other things Brett is not qualified for – but still does – backyard chicken farming, parenthood, driving recreational vehicles, and making hiring decisions.

3 comments

  1. All the five steps that you mentioned there are important steps in the professional ladder, I would like to practice all and grow as a person, manager, and part of the team, or any position that will start. Thank you for share with us.

  2. There is the mentality that one is not qualified to do a task if one has not been officially trained for it. It supposedly justifies having to be spoon fed on how to do things. It’s an excuse for a lack of professional curiosity and researching something independently.
    HR types also fall into this trap. I have worked with programmable logic controllers, yet had little in the way of training, more understanding the fundamentals and reading the manual. Yet since I do not have the “certificate” for that task (even though I have an engineering degree and a professional engineering license), I am not “qualified” according to some, even if the systems I commissioned met or exceeded client expectations.

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