If you are looking for work especially in the technology sector, calibrate the emphasis on your working experience. While experience is valuable, the 21st century knowledge-driven business is one where hiring managers cannot just focus on assembling experiences. The key is inherent capabilities, and that means ability to learn and relearn. For some companies, they do not need doses of experiences – they need people who can understand big picture of things, and quickly learn to fix market fictions – the very essence of firms.
OFFERING employees a rewarding career used to be easy: You’d hire a bright young person out of college, plug him into an entry-level role, and then watch him climb the corporate ladder over the years as he progressed toward retirement. The company could plan for this continuous process—hire people based on their degrees, help them develop slowly and steadily, and expect some to become leaders, some to become specialists, and some to plateau.
Today this model is being shattered. As research suggests, and as I’ve seen in my own career, the days of a steady, stable career are over. Organizations have become flatter1 and less ladder-like, making upward progression less common (often replaced by team or project leadership). Young, newly hired employees often have skills not found in experienced hires, leaving many older people to work for young leaders. And the rapid pace of technology makes many jobs, crafts, and skills go out of date in only a few years.
So, when you attend interviews in those Lagos startups which are raising tons of millions of dollars, do not play the cards of the many years of working experiences unless you are interviewing for a top management job. Possibly, what they are doing may not even need your experiences, directly. They are looking for people who can quickly understand emerging patterns and adapt to provide solutions in the markets.
That is why in the interview, the hiring manager is not focusing on the past, asking you to explain how you ran a bank branch. Rather, she is focusing on how you can make it easier for a woman to pay the son’s school fees in Ghana from Lagos at the cheapest and fastest means legally possible. They are examining your thinking process to see what you can contribute over merely reviewing what you have done in the past.
But remember that your prior experience matters. Without it, they might not have invited you for an interview. But when you are before them, they want to talk about the future. Allow that flow to progress over drawing them back to the past. For most of these firms, it is not likely they need exact capabilities you deployed in your old industrial-age themed company.
So if you are not careful, too much experience can become a hindrance as you have known many things which cannot readily “work”. They may not even need people biased with those experiences which could possibly cage the mentality of breaking things and innovating at scale.
Experience matters but your capabilities for the future should be the main selling point for you as you interview before the hiring manager. For inviting you for an interview, they already know you are largely qualified. But you need to give them something extra as they make that call on the best person to join the MISSION. Discussing the past instead of what you can bring for the future will not help in that Call.
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