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February 2014 Mid – Month News Letter

February 14, 2014

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Dear Friends and Colleagues,

Welcome to the mid-point of the shortest month, the fiscal quarter and, even more romantic, Valentine’s Day. May Cupid be good to you. In keeping with the shortest month, I’ll keep my mid-month musings minimal.

Go Canada!

This month’s original content is provided by our new guy, Edmonton Managing Director, Rick Vogel.   Though Rick may be our newest member, he’s our oldest one, too.   Fitting then that he would pen a piece about Experience and the difference between it and expertise.  While Rick brings both in abundance his article explores the difference between the two and what it all means.

We’ll be back in a couple weeks with news of new hires at the firm, a plea for support of the Pekarsky Stein Pro Bonos hockey club as we lace ‘em up for the fourth consecutive year in support of Alzheimer’s and hopefully a recap on much Olympic gold.

Regards,

Adam Pekarsky

Experience vs Skill Set

So you are 10, 15 or 25 years into your career.  You have been successful and have a solid reputation in your field. You read or hear about an opportunity that intrigues you, because you have been thinking about making a change.  This new opportunity interests you but you don’t have the “right experience”.

Does it matter?

There are obviously some careers/jobs that require specific and specialized experience.  A company in need of an Engineer with geo-thermo-nuclear-bio-engineering (I made this up…I think) experience will want someone with, well…exactly that.  But many exciting career moves can be extremely successful even if the industry experience is minimal or non-existent.

How often have you read (usually in the U.S.) about a COO of a company in one industry (ie. telecommunications) move to become CEO of a company in a totally different sector (ie. industrial manufacturing)?   Okay, maybe you don’t reach much so trust me.  It happens.  A lot.

How is this possible?

In the hypothetical case just mentioned, the manufacturing company is not looking for an expert in manufacturing.  There’s already an experienced senior team in place that understands the industry, their competitors, the sector and corporate history, the challenges ahead and failures of the past.  The organization is looking for someone with outstanding leadership qualities.  Can he/she “engage” the entire organization in the corporate strategy?  Does he/she possess a proven track record in strategic development and implementation, mentoring, team building, process improvement, reputational enhancement, etc.?

The foregoing example illustrates a critical point as we assess our current and future career moves.  We are all very quick to identify, discuss and promote our experiences, but how conscious are we of the skill sets we have developed along our career journey and their potential transferability into a different industry or even functional area?  When you are presenting your past experience, be sure to elaborate on the skills you used and/or developed in that role.  When was the last time you took time to contemplate what you are truly exceptional at instead of what you have done?  Sometimes the “how” is as or more important than the “what”.

There is a line from the 1987 movie “Broadcast News” that has stuck with me since the day I saw it in the theater (trivial note: movie ticket was $3.75, gasoline was $0.52/litre and gold was $$446/oz…but I digress).  William Hurt played a man who felt his destiny was to become the anchor of a major evening newscast, even though he had never attended journalism school nor did he have the appropriate experience.  When asked by a news network President “what makes you think you can do this job” his response was “what I don’t know – I can learn; what I do know – can’t be taught.”

This applies to all of us in varying degrees.  It is important for each of us to know what it is that makes us unique.  What can you bring to a new challenge, or to your current role, that is unique, effective and successful because it is you?  What is it that you know that can’t be taught?  It just might be the quality needed and required for that bright and shiny new opportunity you see there off in the distance, but have dismissed it because of experience.

The next time you are reading a job description or preparing you resume for submission, take some extra time to discern whether or not you possess some skills that are more relevant to the position than industry experience.  You may well discover that the interviewer on the other side of the desk finds your perspective refreshing and your approach to problem solving unique and you just never know where that will take you.   Think also about Fred Smith, the entrepreneur who wrote a school paper, received a C grade because the professor did not think the idea was feasible, and then, turned around and implemented his ideas, creating a global sensation (Federal Express) and making himself a billionaire in the process.   Or perhaps, Warren Buffet who owns, among other things, Dairy Queen and Fruit of the Loom.   Or perhaps even think of Jack Welch who, before becoming the youngest ever CEO of GE, graduated university with a degree in Chemical Engineering.   Heck, I’m heading up the Edmonton office of the Pekarsky Stein empire after starting out as a humble stock broker.   Anything is truly possible!

 Rick Vogel is Managing Director of the Edmonton Pekarsky Stein office.  You can read Rick’s entire bio by clicking here.

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Check out more great material at pekarskyco.wpengine.com/blog