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The Inexperience Advantage

inexperience advantageEver been shut down by someone who supposedly knows more than you? It happens to me daily. I get denied by people that are more senior, more polished, and more knowledgeable than me. I'd be lying if I said I enjoyed professional rejection, but I try my best to dust myself off and move forward, reminding myself that that a series of controlled failures are necessary for eventual success.


Not surprisingly, I'm not the only one getting ignored because of my inexperience, and the rejections can be downright vicious. Just last week, Kate called me in tears after attending a media conference with well-known industry bigwigs. After spending months anxiously anticipating meeting her professional heroes, she couldn't have been more disheartened on the day of the event. Noting that she had been working in the industry for less than a year, most executives simply refused to engage in conversation with her, and the ones that did spoke to her in a condescending, suspicious manner that made her "feel like a kid who was inconveniencing a gathering of distinguished adults." She flew home categorically disillusioned.

As a proud supporter of the young, I was disgusted at the extent to which she was repeatedly shunned for, essentially, being too inexperienced. Yes, young and ambitious people with bright eyes and open hearts need to learn to accept the cold shoulder of established industry gatekeepers, even when it seems like the only goal of the latter is to prevent new ideas and innovation bubbling to the surface of their tired companies and low-growth industries. But a line needs to be drawn between not fully engaging with the inexperienced (painful, but understandable) and making them feel like they've committed a crime with their lack of knowledge and years under their belt (not okay, ever).


More importantly, though, I'm disheartened at the response — at how those with limited experience beef up resumes, wear expensive suits, use industry jargon liberally, name-drop awkwardly, and generally try to paper over cracks in an effort to mask inexperience and appeal more to bosses, investors, or interviewers. Why are we playing dancing bear in the circus of the experienced? Everyone knows that you don't have "deep expertise in retail" when you're only three years out of grad school. Trying to sound more experienced than you are is a flawed strategy, so you need to change the way you compete.

Instead of forging the impression of experience, I'd rather we turn the tables and use our inexperience as an advantage in the organizations we work for and the companies we start. In other words, we need to start playing to our strengths. >>Read more



Source: Harvard Business Review

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