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The Experience Conundrum

I am in the midst of a job search and I am struggling with “the experience hurdle”. I am a recent college grad and most of the jobs I am interested in aren’t directly related to my majors. I am looking at creative jobs in the fields of marketing and advertising but I am “trained” to be an economist.

I might seem like a gamble for a creative agency due to my perceived lack of training but I have experience in the creative fields. I have been parading as a musician since high school, I was planning on being an architect until Sophomore year of high school (people said scary things about the major), I have taken graphic design classes and I thoroughly enjoyed and understood my marketing classes in college. If I can’t instinctively create something I see in my head I research (read: Google) until I find the answer. So yes, I am not “trained” to be a graphic designer or web programmer but I know a fair amount.

This is about more than just my job search, I promise. I think in general the “experience conundrum” is a bit of an issue. My girlfriend was recently in the midst of her own job search and I continuously told her to ignore experience mismatches on jobs she was interested in. Most companies retrain you when you join anyway. Everyone has their own idiosyncratic way of doing things, even a seasoned pro can seem like an amateur given the right situation (also known as the wrong situation).

I have developed the habit of answering the question “what are you looking to do?” or “what kind of job are you looking for?” by prefacing with “anything that doesn’t require a license”. I have proven, at the expense of my parents, that I can learn foreign concepts. I spent four years earning a degree that certifies I am “teachable”.

Ok, enough of the ranting. Innovation seems to be the buzz word of the day lately. Not least because of the impact social media is having on the world. Companies seek to reinvent themselves by getting better at what they do or transitioning into something they have discovered they are better at. I was once told that companies should rebrand themselves every 5 to 7 years. This rebrand process could grow organically out of innovation. If innovation is the goal, is experience the answer?

How often do you change up your daily routine in the absence of others? How often do you and your normal crew change up your routine? Chances are not a whole bunch. You may want to think you are spontaneous but all (at least most) humans are creatures of habit. Companies operate the same way. You may think you are inviting innovation in when you hire someone with boat loads of experience but if they are entrenched in the same field then they think the same way.

I worked my first site selection project ever at my last job. During that first site selection project ever I completely changed the way my company approached siting. I created an Excel model that my bosses deemed revolutionary. I also had to hard pitch my process to my bosses. They were used to the “usual way of doing things” and had a hard time seeing it my way. After my second, and last, site selection project my boss admitted to finally agreeing with my process despite being very wary at first. The reason I created a new model was because I looked at the old model and saw it as being really outdated. Would I have thought it was outdated if I had been doing it that way for years and knew it inside and out? Probably not.

Looking at experience when hiring is a bit like looking at SAT scores when working college admissions. Someone might be terrible at taking standardized tests and perform quite poorly while another classmate may not have to prepare at all and wake up 10 minutes before the test and score great. Yet another classmate might work with a tutor for a year or two and take the test three times until they achieve the score they desire. Someone could have lots of experience but not be great at what they do while someone else could be “underexperienced” but naturally good.

I admit, this could all be ill advice born of frustration or just a desire to land a sweet job. There could also be a nugget of truth buried somewhere in the above. What do you think, is experience all it is cracked up to be?

NOTE: In specialized industries I think experience is all it is cracked up to be. I would be a disaster in the chemistry lab my friend works at making colors. Though it would be awesome to make colors.

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  1. Pingback: Naïve Innovation | youngbloodcreative - March 14, 2011

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