5 years later, I’m finally qualified for the first job I had.

In the last six months, I’ve had several young women reach out to me (and then send their friends) about their careers and it felt timely that I should share a story about mine.

Yesterday — January 14th — was the first day I’ve been sufficiently qualified for any of the 3 jobs I’ve had since college. Allow me to explain:

I didn’t realize it at the time, but the first job I took out of college required 5 years of working experience. I was lucky: I had an advocate who would vouch for me and a founder who was willing to take a chance on me. When I joined in January 2014, my boss kept reminding me what a risk he’d taken hiring someone fresh out of college for his first product role. I didn’t understand what all the fuss was about: I was passionate about product and convinced that my college stints more than qualified me for the job (lol). It wasn’t until after I took the job that I saw the original job description (such is the nature of early stage startups) and found out I had been in the running against a tenured Facebook product manager.

A year-and-a-half in, an investor in a product I loved suggested I connect with the product’s founders. They mentioned they were looking for a product manager, but the job description again said “5+ years of experience” and so I was skeptical about it until the team started actively pursuing me for the role.

I ended up working there for almost a year when I expressed interest in a new position to one of my mentors. He was looking to invest in Clutter, and mentioned they were looking for a “Lead Product Manager.” I pulled up the job description, and saw “At least 5 years of experience.” I had half of that.

Apparently I hadn’t learned my lesson, because the first thing I said back to him was “I haven’t been working for 5 years yet.”

“Ignore that,” he said to me, “They’d be lucky to have you” and made the intro.

I’ve been working for Clutter since, but only as of yesterday do I have the requisite 5 years of experience the original job posting asked for.

The year I took my first job, the Harvard Business Review published an article analyzing why women don’t apply to jobs when they’re not 100% qualified. I didn’t realize it then, but I was about to make that same mistake two more times — and I would have gotten away with it, if I hadn’t been lucky enough to have advocates who pushed me over the edge.

Thanks to Jonathan Kessler for taking a chance on me and Michael Broukhim for making this all possible. Hope to open the same doors as meaningfully for other young women some day.