As business people, we are always subjected to scrutiny and investigation by our potential clients. And the question that we get asked most often in our business has to do with how much experience we have doing our job. People that we do business with are always interested in knowing how long we have been practicing our craft. When someone applies for a new position, the hiring company wants to know how much experience the applicant has in the industry. When we buy something online, we always look to see how long the seller has been in business, and what kind of reviews their previous clients have left regarding their experiences with that vendor. Whenever someone is considering hiring you, it is only natural that they want to know how much experience you have in your field.
In general, when we ask someone how much experience they have at something, we are looking for insight into how much accumulated knowledge that person has regarding that subject. We correlate time on task with experience. Without too much investigation, we would typically assume that someone who has been a home inspector for 15 years would be a better home inspector than someone who has only been in the industry for 2 years. As humans, our default mental setting is to believe that the person with more time under his belt is the person who is better at his job. This default setting typically serves us well, as generally this assumption is close to reality. In our hectic lives, we often lack the time and resources to adequately vet every individual that we encounter in every one of our casual business relationships. Unfortunately, for business people that are new to an industry, this way of thinking, this default mental setting, can pose some problems.
Whenever you enter an industry, you are automatically at a competitive disadvantage, as you do not yet have the experience of your competition. Whether you are a new home inspector trying to get business or an architect attempting to get hired by a firm, your employment possibilities will often be governed by the amount of experience that you have. The architect firm is going to require that you have two years’ experience before they hire you. The Realtor is going to want to know that you have done many home inspections before she will trust you with her clients. So, for the new business person, the conundrum is this: how do you get the necessary experience without being able to get the job? How do you get two years’ architect experience if the firm won’t hire you for the job?
In this case, the responsibility falls on your shoulders to create your own experience. This may require some creative thinking on your part to manufacture the experience that you need in order to succeed. The architect may need to set his sights on working at a smaller company, or offer to perform in an unpaid or reduced salary role in order to garner some of the needed “time on task.” The home inspector can offer to perform some free home inspections on homes listed for sale by a local Realtor while also doing free inspections on the homes of friends and family. The key here is to actually get some time on task, perfecting your craft and gaining that invaluable accumulated knowledge that every one of your clients will be looking for.
Working for free can be a painful experience, as it does nothing to immediately help pay the bills. This fact is often too big a hurdle for people to overcome, which ultimately leads to their failure. However, this experience can be an important stepping stone to a successful career. To be successful, your business must be viewed as a long-term proposition. Think of your journey towards a successful career like you think about saving for retirement: it cannot be done all in one fell swoop, and must be done incrementally by saving a small amount of money on a regular and consistent basis. Your investment in a successful business cannot be done overnight; instead it takes small, incremental gains, deposits in your experiential savings account, that ultimately accumulate and turn you into the experienced business person that you are striving to become.
I will leave you today with two ideas. The first is a direct quote from Randy Pausch, an American professor of computer science: “Experience is what you get when you didn’t get what you wanted. And experience is often the most valuable thing that you have to offer.” The last is a paraphrased quote from author Cassandra Clare, which states that, in one way or another, all experience hurts.
Go out today and “hurt yourself.”