In the past, I’ve sought out consulting gigs while looking for my next permanent opportunity. It’s helpful both to keep my skills fresh and, of course, to keep income coming into the household. I made my personal network aware of this, and many of them came through with opportunities, which was pretty cool (apparently networking works–who knew?).
But there was a question that kept coming up that I wanted to explore. This similar question even came up in my permanent job search, too. It was the question of experience.
Do you have experience in the fitness industry? The powersports industry? With a luxury brand?
What I found interesting is that they rarely asked about skill. I have marketing skills that bear across industries. (As do many other marketing professionals who’ve had to wear many hats at a time.) No, I’ve never worked directly in the fitness industry, but I understand many of the marketing challenges that come to bear with a multi-site membership organization through my skill as a marketer. I’ve never worked directly with the powersports industry, but I understand many of the marketing challenges that come to bear with higher-priced retail recreational products because of my skill as a marketer. I’ve never worked for a luxury brand, but I understand focused differentiation and what that entails.
Don’t get me wrong: there is value to experience. My experiences in business-to-business marketing are invaluable in that setting. But frequently, when I’m looking for an innovative approach, I look outside that sector for other ideas that can be adapted to the setting in which I’m working. For example, I created a loyalty program based on the retail model for my last employer — not common in the B2B services space, but very successful in that implementation.
The Bottom Line: Skill Creates Innovation
What I’m trying to get to here is the importance of skill to creating innovations in a space. Experience can be valuable, but if you’re trapped in your own experience and not looking outside of it, it can also be a hindrance. And experience without skill is valueless.