The other day as I was contemplating what to include and how to position myself in a Cover Letter, I was impacted by the need to emphasize one’s experiences while not giving an impression of any kind that with those experiences comes maturity which is a nice way to say that you aren’t of mature status. As a father who has a post-college graduate son who is working his way into the corporate world it is difficult for me to make this statement but for most organizations it certainly behooves them to hire an individual with pertinent experience than one who has potential but will need some growth and seasoning.
Georges Clemenceau, the French Prime Minister during World War I and the architect of the Versailles Treaty ending the war with Germany put it aptly when he stated; “All that I know I learned after I was thirty.” Obviously age does not equate to experience and maturity is not the end-product of age but the likelihood is certainly there and the probability for robust and more impactful positive results may also be greater with such an employment choice.
My first association executive position came when I was 26. The small trade association had only 3 execs until then in it’s 47 year history. The organization had a mere $300,000 budget but my access was that I worked there in high school and college in multiple roles, including mail room and left a lasting positive impression. When the retiring exec was leaving after more than 20 years of service he remembered me and the rest is history. If anything it is another example of keeping your network operational and to never burn your bridges.
Of course that small association provided me a pathway to both self-improvement and organizational evolution. Upon my departure in 2003 the budget was much greater and I must admit that I was making much more in compensation those many years later than what I was happy to receive when I was starting out.
“Axioms in philosophy are not axioms until they are proved upon our pulses: We read fine things but never feel them to the full until we have gone the same steps as the Author.” ~ John Keats.
As a now and again consultant the only value I can provide are my experiences and what I have learned from those events. The reason organizations hire consultants is because they don’t house such knowledge within and that it is more cost-effective to bring someone who has lived such experiences in-house rather than spending the enormous expense of time and money to live what others have already experienced.
A consultant is only worth as much as he/she has lived. Though anyone can be a proponent of what has been written by many experts, there is certainly enormous value to implementing the knowledge of someone who has already fought the good fight and has survived. Though I am not advocating that you can’t be a consultant to an organization’s CEO if you weren’t a CEO yourself, but I must admit that it certainly can be a plus.
As I move forward and position myself for future employment it becomes immediately obvious that the marketing of an experienced executive has its pluses but certainly can indeed provide negatives dependent on the attitudes and expectations of the hiring organization. Though every organization desires a knowledgeable administrator, no one wants a know-it-all.
In today’s demanding and ever-changing world, the administrator must be a team-player. Though all knowledge is not centered in one person on earth it is imperative for a self-confident executive to always give the impression of knowing where they and the organization is going. It is also important for an effective executive to admit errors and to know when they should acknowledge when they are “over their heads.”
Experience is a very marketable asset, one that when positioned properly can open the right doors to future success. Unfortunately that experience can also be a detriment to employment. That long list of achievements can give the impression of being “over-qualified,” too expensive, set in their ways or not a team player. Of course all those excuses are exaggerated but that still doesn’t eliminate the need to address those items upfront in your discussions with potential employers. Those discussions will certainly provide you the opportunity to paint a complete and positive picture but preparation and contemplation are vital for such success.
Though some equate experience to mistakes made, Mark Twain puts it all into perspective: “We should be careful to get out of an experience only the wisdom that is in it – and stop there; lest we be like the cat that sits down on a hot stove lid. She will never sit down on a hot stove-lid again – and that is well; but also she will never sit down on a cold one anymore.”
Dan Borschke is a Certified Association Executive who has been a CEO for 3 distinct trade associations in his career. He currently is between positions and has written more than 50,000 words or 75 blogs on the topics of job search and career transition. He can be contacted at: firstname.lastname@example.org.