November 17, 2017

5 Times When Work Experience Beats Skills


Are technical skills a substitute for experience? Not necessarily. Even the most technically skilled candidate may pale in comparison to a candidate with a lot of work — and life — experience. Military veterans are a good example of this: They may not have the specific skills that a civilian role calls for, but their experience in the military can give them massive advantages in certain situations.

Here are five other times when experience trumps skills:

1. Project Management

I’m not sure that anyone has created the perfect curriculum to develop college students into managers just yet. I personally have a degree in management, but never once did it cross my mind that a piece of paper qualified me to manage people well.

Management is more an art than a science, and great management always develops with experience. You may be the most well-educated person in your workplace, but don’t be surprised if someone newer — or younger — than you becomes a project manager before you thanks to their previous work experience.

2. Pitching (or Soothing) a Client

The questions of skills versus experience comes into play when deciding who is best to communicate with a client. Someone with expert-level knowledge of the product and/or industry is not always the best choice for speaking directly to the client.

Clients frequently come with sets of unique issues that require experience to handle: difficult personalities, frustrating problems, and much more. I would advise against ever putting a client in a position where they feel inadequate or uneducated — unless it is completely necessary. Let your skills experts give you the stats, and let your best communicators speak to clients.

3. Strategizing

An expert in a specific field may question why they are not in charge of developing the strategy for a project relevant to their field. The fact is that any comprehensive project will need to take into account various people with various skills in various fields. Often, the best person to develop such a complex strategy is the jack of all trades and master of none — provided they have experience, of course.

4. Getting a Promotion

Timelines for promotion are based more on experience than skill sets. Often, the individual chosen for a promotion will be the one who has honed their practical skills through experience — skills like public speaking, written communication, work ethic, and the ability to see the big picture. I have witnessed this event many times from both sides of the equation.

5. The Eye of the Beholder

This is a very touchy subject, but one that should be addressed. We all come from different backgrounds; we all have different skills and varying levels of experience. Sometimes it doesn’t matter if your skills really trump someone else’s — colleagues or superiors may still trust that other person over you, because trust comes with experience. Don’t be surprised if your opinions or proposals aren’t taken as seriously as those of someone with much more time in your career field, even if your skills are stronger.

A version of this article originally appeared on LinkedIn.

Maren Hogan is founder and CEO of Red Branch Media. You can read more of her work on Forbes, Business Insider, Entrepreneur, and her blog, Marenated.

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Maren Hogan is a seasoned marketer and community builder in the HR and Recruiting industry. She leads Red Branch Media, an agency offering marketing strategy and content development. A consistent advocate of next generation marketing techniques, Hogan has built successful online communities, deployed brand strategies in both the B2B and B2C sectors, and been a prolific contributor of thought leadership in the global recruitment and talent space. Hogan speaks and writes on all career and workforce related subjects. Her clients include Fortune 500 companies and SMBs around the globe. Red Branch Media was formed in 2006 as a simple consultancy. Today, the firm is a full-service B2B Marketing Agency that serves clients in the U.K., Africa, China, Israel, Europe and North America. Primarily focused on the Human Resources and Global Workforce vendors, Red Branch Media handles clients of all shapes and sizes.
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