Why Industry Experience Is Overrated

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If you think you didn’t get hired at your last interview because of lack of experience, you’re wrong.

Lack of experience is a strike against you, but if that employer didn’t see potential beyond your resume you wouldn’t even have an interview in the first place.

Your resume is like a Driver’s License. It qualifies you for the job, but you have to prove your value to the company in-person.

In fact sometimes industry experience can be a bad thing. For example if you were at your previous job for 10+ years and didn’t know anything else, how adaptable and flexible can you really be moving forward?

In my current role as a Faculty Manager for an online test prep/academic tutoring company I was on the outside looking in. The tutors I manage remotely know way more about the SAT/ACT than I’ll ever care to know. So when asked if I had any experience in the education space during my interview, I responded by focusing on my strengths for the position.

Since I am managing tutors, not teaching students, I talked about leading people. As for former youth pastor I dealt with parents of teenagers (most clients are high school students). As an entrepreneur I am organized and specialize in time management (managing programs and learning the system is 50% of the job for our tutors). Knowing the technical skills of high school academia is irrelevant for me. As long as I can prove I can get the results from the tutors I add value to the company.

My situation may not suit yours, but my point is simple: know thyself.

Self-awareness is the most important trait of any leader. Know what you’re great at and also what you suck at. Most jobs ask you to multi-task, but within those responsibilities there are priorities. Nail those and now you have leverage.

Selling yourself is having confidence in your abilities and knowing who you are. Every time you decide to pivot careers you’re at the same place. You will switch careers frequently for the rest of your working life so get used to it.

An employer notifying you didn’t get the job because of lack of experience is a scapegoat. What they really meant is they don’t have the confidence that you can get the job done despite experience. If you understand that going in, you’ll focus less on what you don’t have and leverage your strengths to the fullest.

Don’t use lack of industry experience as an excuse. It’s only one if you choose it to be.

What Networking Is And What It Isn’t

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When I started my business almost 10 years ago I thought networking was something I had to do…so I did.

After joining my local Chamber of Commerce, attending two events feeling exhausted and unproductive I quit.

If this was what networking was, I didn’t want any part of it.

It wasn’t until 5 years ago I decided to create my own network event and quickly I learned the following:

What Networking Isn’t

Attending Events: Most networking events are focused around bars, loud music and free food. Not only is it hard to carry on a conversation in that setting, but you’ll find most people in two places – in small cliques with whom they came and/or near the free stuff. Last time I checked those aren’t ideal conditions for conversing.

Elevator pitch: Be prepared to tell someone what you do in 30 seconds or less. Even if you accomplish that feat, do you really believe someone is going to buy what you’re selling or hire you because of your answer? There’s no harm in professional clarity, but the result won’t end in a transaction.

Passing Out/Collecting Business Cards: Networking isn’t a competition. The distributor/collector of the most business cards loses. Contact information only comes in handy when a prospect is already looking for something you’re offering BEFORE they talk to you. Most attendees at networking events are looking/offering similar things. If you leave with less of your business cards or a collection of new ones, you haven’t accomplished much.

What Networking Is

Following Up: Networking is 10% the initial contact and 90% what you do after. Meeting someone is a lead, but following up makes them a potential connection. Marketing 101 says it takes the same message seen 7 times to sink in. No matter how charismatic you are, building a relationship takes time. If you’re not in it for the long-haul, you won’t get the results you desire.

Selling Yourself: A caveat a friend of mine said to me concerning networking is “if I like the way someone thinks, chances are I’ll keep in contact with him/her.” During a conversation you should be focused on selling you, not your product or service. Relationships have more to do with liking a person than any technical knowledge. Be likable. Share what you’re passionate about. Live with the results.

Connecting: The term networking has a negative connotation. It sounds like an exclusive club reserved for extraverts. In reality connecting is open to all. In fact, I’d argue that if done right introverts have an advantage because of their listening skills. Like dating, connecting happens over several interactions. My advice? Connect with as many people as possible and your odds start increasing in the numbers game.

How To Sell Yourself

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Face it. Selling is hard. If it were easy, we’d all be rich.

You may sell products or services during the course of your career, but what everyone sells is: themselves. After selling services for a while and now transitioning to a physical product (a bit easier), one lesson I’ve learned is: in order to be successful in sales, you have to be confident with what you’re selling.

As a relational person, I prefer to connect vs. sell. If you listen close enough in a conversation, you can identify a pain point. If you can relate to it, trust is gained much more rapidly.

A practical example is on a job interview. Your resume may qualify you for an interview, but what you say and how you say it will validate if you have a chance moving forward. Most people get nervous before interviews and that’s normal, but what you don’t want to do is be unprepared or panic. Think about your body language, tone and message you are communicating. Are you being authentic or trying to be someone you’re not?

As a career coach, the advice I give is: understand your strengths, know how you add value to the organization and be yourself. It’s difficult to know exactly what an employer is really looking for, so instead of worrying what they’ll think of your answers, focus on where you fit in.

Leaders are self-aware about their weaknesses and strengths. Not everyone is meant to lead others, but you should be able to lead yourself. One goal I set with every networking opportunity is to try and get the other person to like me. You’d be surprised how much people brag and show off just to look good, but the person on the other end leaves disgusted.

Life is a game of who you know. The less you worry about being the smartest, the better. In fact, too much knowledge can come off as intimidating or arrogant.

Selling yourself comes down to: interests, passions and values. Connect on one of those points and your chances increase dramatically.

Would you buy what you’re selling?