Prior Experience Not So Necessary

I recently attended the annual CBA Women in Focus conference and was fascinated to see that so many successful businesses were started by people who had no prior experience in their industry.  One after the other, I listened to these stories, and knowing my own was very similar, I was astounded and inspired by the guts, drive and risk-taking attitude so many of us had. 

Jodie Fox, founder of Shoes of Prey, began her career as a lawyer, and then moved on to a successful career in advertising before giving it up to start her own bespoke shoe design company.  Her co-founders, also ex-lawyers, came from different backgrounds with diverse skills in operations and engineering.  Combining all three unique skillsets, they found the perfect blend for an e-commerce solution that has taken the world by storm.  

Megan Quinn, co-founder of Net-a-Porter, came from an agency background before creating the world’s “premier online luxury fashion destination,” as the website describes.  She is truly a pioneer of online retail and yet had no prior experience in e-commerce.

My story follows this pattern too.  After a long career in senior marketing roles within FMCG, I became frustrated that I couldn’t find a recruiter who understood the roles I was asking them to recruit for.  So I began Market Partners in 2000 with the idea that ex-industry sales and marketing professionals would recruit for the roles they used to work in.  A simple idea, but I had no experience in recruitment at the time.  It was a steep learning curve but a journey (and risk) that I’m glad I took.

In recruitment, we hear from companies who are very specific on how much prior experience someone should have in order to work for their business.  I’d hate to think that Australia is missing out on the next great idea – the next Shoes of Prey or Net-a-Porter, even the next Facebook – because of the rigid and sometimes gratuitous requirements of a role.  We know from experience in hiring for Chorus Executive and in recruiting for our clients, that sometimes it’s the person from a different industry with the relevant skillset that can enter a business and spark innovation, development and change for the better.

It was reassuring, inspiring and empowering to hear the success stories of other risk-takers and it has bolstered my conviction that everything in life is sweetened by risk!  To everyone reading this, I challenge you to take a risk today – to push yourself outside your comfort zone, to think about something from a different perspective or approach a problem from a different angle.  You might just surprise yourself with the result.