Young entrepreneurs don’t have a lot of experience. That’s a given. And in many cases this is rarely brought up as an issue. But in certain industries (especially in “older industries” or B2B-related industries) that lack of experience will be a sticking point. At least for many people inside the industry.
It’s certainly been a point of discussion around Standout Jobs. We’ve received a fair amount of good press, but one of the sticking points we see consistently is our lack of experience in recruiting. None of the founders are recruiters. We haven’t lived the last 15 years of our lives in HR.
Experience is valuable. There’s no question about it. But it’s not a guarantee of success. If that was the case, very few startups would ever succeed. And there are ways of getting around a lack of experience.
- Do Your Homework. Before diving into an industry that you’re not intimately familiar with, you better do some research. Luckily, it’s not hard. You can find a ton of information online – be it from analysts, industry trends, blogs, etc. Research and understand the problems in an industry. Talk to people. Get a feel for the space so you can form intelligent opinions based on more than just whimsy.
- Find Great Advisers. You can never have all the answers. No one can (I don’t care how much experience they have!) Surround yourself with great advisers that fill in the gaps in experience you have. In the case of Standout Jobs we’ve been working with a number of veteran recruiting experts for many months, it’s just not something we’ve announced publicly (yet).
- Solicit Lots of Feedback. You can’t be afraid of feedback. One of the advantages of being green is that you have fewer strong opinions than the grizzled veterans of your industry, and are more apt to listen. Speak to the experts. Speak to other entrepreneurs. Collect lots of feedback. Ask for it. Engage people for it. Just don’t get bogged down in it.
- Find Believers. Unless you’re completely wrong and your idea is absolutely brutal you will find believers out there. Go get ’em! Believers turn into evangelists. Evangelists turn into customers. Evangelists turn others into customers. That’s all good. Of course, if all you look for is positive feedback you’re doing yourself a disservice. You need a more balanced view of things, but believers are great for providing support, pointing you in the right direction and buoying your spirits.
- Go Faster. Be Flexible. Test More Often. One of the downfalls of experience is getting locked into one way of thinking. It happens all the time. How often have you said to someone (or thought it), “I’ve been doing it this way for years, and that’s the way it’s supposed to be done. End of story.” That rigidity can kill you. For young entrepreneurs it’s much less of an issue, and you can turn that lack of experience and “stuck thinking” into an advantage. Do things faster. Be flexible and adjust quickly. And always test & validate your theories and practices.
- Admit What You Don’t Know. There’s no shame in admitting that you don’t know the answer. Go find it.
- But Stand Up For What You Believe In. At the same time, don’t be afraid to express your opinion. You’ve done your homework, brought on great advisers, collected positive and negative feedback and are actively experimenting with your ideas to see what works. Don’t be ashamed of your opinions and beliefs. Whether you’ve been in an industry for 10+ years or not doesn’t mean you’re incapable of understanding it, the problems it faces and coming up with solutions.
No matter what I do, I can’t turn back the clock, get a job in Human Resources, spend decades in the industry and then rush back to the present to start Standout Jobs. Neither can you. But don’t be disheartened by a lack of experience. If you’ve got enough brains in your head to look at problems analytically, surround yourself with people smarter than yourself, work insanely hard and accept the bumps and bruises of failure you’ve got as a good a chance as anyone else. Even the grizzled veterans of your industry.