I’m Not Qualified for Anything, But I Do It Anyway.

Written by Hollye Dexter

Amy Ferris and I had this  conversation the other day and decided we’d blog about it together. Mine is below, and Amy’s is linked at the bottom.

Every time I start to panic about money, and start looking for “real jobs”, I am daunted by how unqualified I am – for everything.  I truly am. I’ve joined every networking and job search site. I spend hours going through the job opportunities but don’t qualify for a single one.

You see, back when I was a youngster in college, I believed I wasn’t as good as the other bright young kids. I was damaged, flawed, hiding a terrible secret about who I really was -the daughter of a convict. I let that feeling overtake me, until the anxiety attacks caused me to drop out of college. So I never got a degree. And these days, you can’t get any kind of decent paying job without one. I was a college dropout with no experience, other than waiting tables. I ventured out into the world with nothing but my heart’s desires to lead me.

I had no business experience, but at 20 I started a craft business, selling at fairs and local shops.

I had no design degree and couldn’t sew,  yet at 27, I started a children’s clothing business. When I couldn’t find fashions I liked for my two kids, I designed my own. I didn’t know anything about the clothing business, but I asked. I learned. I read. And within a few years my fashions were in Fred Segal and Macy’s and in the window of Barney’s New York.

I don’t have an MBA or any music education. I can’t even read music. But at 32, when I couldn’t find anyone to put my music out into the world, I started my own record label. I ran a small ad in the local paper stating that I was doing business (DBA), and got a business license. I found a manufacturer who did small runs at a decent price. I had a friend who wanted  an “executive producer” credit, so he paid the $3000 to manufacture the Cds. I had no right to, but I put out two albums on my own record label, and got them into Tower records and selling worldwide at CDbaby.com.

I’m not a licensed teacher, have no degrees in social work. But at 37, I wanted to use my music to help kids, so I started a nonprofit, teaching music and art to teens in foster care. I knew nothing about nonprofits, how to set them up, how to run them. I found a free seminar put on by L.A. County and they taught me everything I needed to know.  I called the head of music therapy at Cal State University of Northridge, set up a meeting, pitched my idea and we shook hands on a deal. He put his faith in me based on not my experience, but my intent, my sincerity and my true desire to help. Later that year, we put on a fundraiser. I had never done a fundraiser. I had no marketing degree or experience in that arena. I bought books. I called people who knew how to do this. I took them out to lunch and asked questions. What I’ve found is that, generally speaking, people are happy to share their knowledge. We got Michael Mc Donald, Christopher Cross, Dave Koz, Karla Bonoff and Stephen Bishop to perform at CSUN, for free! We raised enough money to provide a full year of music therapy to autistic children.
All from a girl with no qualifications.

I don’t have a BA in English or MFA in creative writing. I just write. Every day. Ten years ago, I found the only writing group in town- a Senior Citizen’s community writing class. I went every week for two years, just me and all my adopted grandparents. Eventually, I wrote a book, and started a blog, and sold some essays.  And now Amy Ferris and I have sold an anthology.

Would all this have been easier with a college education? Hell yes. But just because something isn’t easy, doesn’t mean it isn’t possible.

I’m not qualified for anything, but I do it anyway.  And yet lately, I feel depressed and worthless because I don’t get callbacks from the jobs I’ve applied for, because according to them – I’m not qualified. Six months with no response. I’ve let it make me feel worthless, even though, when I think of my past accomplishments, I know rationally that’s not true.  But when life knocks you down, it’s easy to forget what you’re capable of.

I think it’s important for all of us to keep a mental running list of the things we HAVE done, the things we never believed we could accomplish: Raising a kid, keeping a marriage together, surviving disasters, landing jobs, volunteering, working, refurbishing a home, learning a skill… I mean, think back to when you were young. Did you ever in a million years think you’d _______(fill in the blank). We all surprise ourselves by doing things we  never knew we were  capable of. And yet society, and even well meaning friends and family, will try to dissuade your from following your dreams. I say f*ck that. Do what you want to do. If you’re not qualified, and have no money, and no one supports you, do it anyway!

If we limit ourselves by what society wants us to believe – that there is only one way to success, that we don’t have the qualifications it takes, that our dreams are impossible –  then we  miss out.  As far as I know, this is the only life we have, and all those “one day…” and “someday…” dreams? If you’ve hit middle age like me, Someday is Today. Right now. So do what you have always wanted to do, and don’t let anyone tell you you’re not “qualified”. 

You are here,  you’re alive,  you have dreams- that qualifies you.
Step into your full power. I dare you.
(are you listening, self?)

Please share with me today…I’d love to hear about something you’ve done in your life, that you never imagined you could. 

For Amy Ferris’ brilliant companion blog “When I Grow Up”, click here:

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  1. alex

    Hollye, I can only say you are ahead of the times. In the arts, sometimes a degree in life experience, in work experience, seems to truly outweigh a degree framed on your wall. And I see more young people grappling with the realities of the economy, I am wondering if it's a return to old fashioned apprenticeships that will replace higher education for many. We'll have to wait and see.

    But I do believe incredible opportunities are coming your way.

  2. Anonymous

    Hollye, when I was unhappy in my marriage I went to work in my pediatrician's office. I was always a calm mom and he loved that about me. That led to other management jobs in doctor's offices. Then a position as a program coordinator for a 5 hospital program all because I started working for someone who knew I would be great at it. I started painting and writing the same way after watching and listening to my heart. I love the way all my adventures lead me back to me and my self worth. Now I am confident that I can do anything. I wish I had had this confidence in my 20's as I would have probably been a great doctor by now. But as my life twisted and turned I learned most importantly I could count on myself. It works for me.

  3. Susan R

    I got divorced at 50 years of age (after 25 years of marriage) and it was not by my choice. I was depressed for two years. I kept a journal which I hope to share with the world one day! I grew strong, networked with girlfriends, gained confidence that I never had when I was younger. I fought for my independence through transitioning into this new wonderful life. I went back to school and got my special education credentials. I am so proud of myself on so many levels. I never imagined I would be here now, as a happily single woman (looking for a full time job, positive it will come my way), I have had more fun in my 50's then I ever had in my whole life!!!

  4. Hollye Dexter

    Hooray for you, Susan and Madge! You rock and are an inspiration to all of us. Thanks for the great thoughts Alex!

  5. Anonymous

    I was divorced at age 39 and didn't want to be married or live with anyone. If I had said yes to the 3 who asked I would now be divorced 3 more times. My loneliest day single didn't come close to my loneliest day being married. Kudos to you Susan. I wanted my divorce.

  6. matters that matter

    this is amazing…you have countless moments of feeling inadequate and yet you are an inspiration to so many others. If I were you, I would more proud of that than a Phd.
    My husband became ill years ago. Chronically, desperately ill. I was a stay-at-home mom and suddenly tasked with supporting our family. I started to think about what it was that I loved with all my heart and soul. I opened my heart (terrified as it was) to anything that involved my greatest love…one morning my feet hit the floor and this miraculous title flashed thru my mind…Letters to Our Daughters. I wasn't a writer, I was timid and rather shy…and yet…one year later LTOD was in book stores. It still represents what I love most of all, and it still represents a JOB…a real friction job.

  7. Hollye Dexter

    You are amazing Kristine. You inspire me every day.

  8. Judy N

    Hollye, You have such an honest, unexaggerated, and generous way of sharing hope. It's so true that one can have successes in the past and still feel like a beginner. Thanks for sharing this.

  9. Debra DeAngleo

    Oh Hollye… you're wrong! You are qualified for EVERYTHING! You've proven it! You just reach out and do it, obstacles be damned! I have had the same path with writing. I had no education or training in journalism – I was supposed to be a clinical psychologist by now! I think sometimes life puts you where you're supposed to be rather than where you think you belong.

    Hollye, you have a determination and vision that you can't teach in college. You can't bottle it or sell it or buy it. Like Lady Gaga says.. You were born this way, baby!

    Believe in yourself… screw the degrees or how things "should" be. Your track record speaks louder than a piece of paper on the wall.

    You are imminently qualified to do whatever you set out to do. You've shown it over and over. YOU GO, GIRL!!!! 🙂

  10. Michael Ann

    Unbelievable. You and Amy have written about a HUGE theme in my life right now. A friend and I were just have a conversation about not being "qualified" even though we have all this life experience and we have talents and natural abilities in certain areas.Don't those count for anything?

    I have a food blog but no culinary degree. I am a musician with no music degree. I am a teacher without a credential. I am a writer without an Enlgish degree. I feel like a fake and a fraud. (Amy wrote about this previously too, and I could relate so well.) Why do I feel like such a fake, instead of taking pride in these talents and accomplishments?

    Thank for both for these essays. I plan to save them and re-read them for inspiration.

  11. Debbie

    Hey Hollye – I was layed off in 2008 at age 51 and was out of the work for the next two years. I worked ALL MY LIFE as a legal secretary. I COULD NOT GET A JOB ANYWHERE and I am a highly qualified legal secretary. I also applied a Macy's, Target, Borders, and on and on. I started my blog From Venting to Viggo to VENT! Never ever thinking I'd meet someone like Amy Ferris! Amazing Amy. And then I'd get fans who liked my funny stories. And then I'd make blogging friends and now I write, write, write as much as I can. Reading your story, you are amazing. Children's clothes? A Memoir, a singing career. YOU ARE AMAZING. The World will always tell us what losers we are. You have no degree, you have no talent, you're not thin enough, you're not tall enough, you're not smart enough. F em all. You showed them girlie! Good for you!

  12. Hollye Dexter

    Debra- I feel the same about you- your impassioned and often hilarious writing, the love you have for your husband and family. I'm cheerleading for you, too, Debra! Cheering that everything goes your way!

  13. Hollye Dexter

    Michael Ann-
    I am so happy you found some inspiration here. Isn't it amazing how the words we need seem to show u at the just the right time? That happens to me every day- and then I blog about it. : )

  14. Hollye Dexter

    Deb- Thank GOD you were laid off so you have time to write your hilarious blog "Venting.." That was one f*cked up blessing, but a blessing nonetheless!
    Adore you, girly!

  15. Anonymous

    Wow, what an inspirational post! Thank you so much for sharing your story. I was feeling really down about being unemployed and this was exactly what I needed to hear to become motivated again.

  16. Hollye Dexter

    Oh I 'm so happy you felt motivated! Don't let those negative voices in your head take up any more space. Figure out what you want to do and be RELENTLESS in your pursuit of it.
    Good luck!

  17. dan

    I’m a 37 yr. old guy with no qualifications and a long criminal record from my teens/early 20's, I found myself homeless & in jail on many occasions. I had absolutely no respect for family or friends, all my friends were moving on and growing up-I was aged 24 and hadn’t even had a girlfriend, suddenly I met a girl, almost overnight I changed, we started a family and I had a desire to provide, how-ever, my mistakes continued to follow me, my lack of qualifications teamed with my record made me a very bad bet for prospective employers, I had no choice but to employ myself!
    Now, with 13 years of self-employment, our relationship and two beautiful children we are so proud of, I believe I have achieved success, I have fulfilled my personal goals, my life now is so far detached from the one I lead before and so close to the one I always wanted. -if only they could see me now ;D

  18. MangoLime

    "I’m not qualified for anything, but I do it anyway."

    Thank you so much for this one line. Ir won't solve any problems but it does motivate me that much more to continue trying to find my own solution.

  19. Anonymous

    Abstract Qualification:

    a global/abstract qualification is a simple inner voice for long time to chat inside the mind to do the things which one has started, and finish it 100%.

    let the other people decide for you which is right and wrong on each step, judge the statements and divert mind in right direction for next actions.

    share,celebrate your success, knowledge with people who are involved in the process, also welcome the new ones.

    sleep peaceful everyday.

    still "I'm Not Qualified for Anything, But I Do It Anyway."

  20. Pradeep

    You bought tears to my eyes 🙂 thanks you !!

  21. Hollye Dexter

    I love that story Dan. My father was in prison for 15 years. Now he is a family man, a baptist preacher, and has held a good job for 20 years. Everyone in his small town adores him. Anything is possible if you follow your heart.

  22. Hollye Dexter

    Pradeep, I hope they are happy tears- in recognition of the greatness in you and all that you can accomplish. : )

  23. Pradeep

    Hollye !! Off-course , tears of gratitude, tears of freedom, tears of hope.

  24. Pradeep

    Hollye, off-course happy tears, tears of gratitude, tears of hope, tears of freedom..

  25. Nina

    And what of us young ones, with our BAs and MAs yet no qualifications good enough to help us into that entry level job– somehow we are expected to have both studied the daylight hours and worked the night hours to achieve both the education and the word experience.
    I can't say I'm not grateful to have any job– but folding clothes with a Masters degree can feel very unfulfilling.

  26. Anonymous

    This is a huge inspiration for me! I always get bogged down in thinking I can't do something bc I'm not qualified on paper, and yet I can pick things up and learn them easily and succeed… if only I can persuade somebody to give me a try. You've done it. You're amazing.

  27. Hollye Dexter

    You are amazing. We all are amazing, we just have to remember that. xoxo

  28. Hollye Dexter

    Nina- you are part of a really difficult generation, but I believe because of what your generation has gone through, with student loans soaring and jobs not available, you will turn the tide and change our culture. Good luck, and don't forget your inner greatness. Go out and shine in the world!


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