‘We’re looking for someone with a little bit more experience.’
Do you buy it? Neither do I.
Experience is great. In my opinion, it’s one of the few traits that can’t be faked, because to avoid the puddle, one must already have wet feet. Or in a more literal sense, to navigate your way through obstacles and troubles, you must have endured some. Experience is often benchmarked on many job openings. Often measured in years, which is where it starts to become problematic for me. Because the trouble I go through in a year, is not the same amount someone else endures. Aside from that, not everyone changes their socks after the first puddle. So, back to the old familiar truth that time is relative, and this surely goes for experience as well.
“Talent doesn’t come alone it has a group of friends; it has its own ratpack.”
Alright, so let’s pretend we’re in a slightly more logical world where experience is not a number, hell, it is not even a benchmark. What do we look for? In the creative industry most of us would probably argue that it’s talent. But the thing about talent is, that it’s scary. I hear you thinking: ‘Scary!? I don’t think it’s scary.’ And that might be true, right up until the moment where it’s supposedly ‘measured’. During a review or based on your previous work. Talent doesn’t come alone, it has a group of friends; it has its own ratpack. You’ve probably heard of them: insecurity, imposter syndrome, arrogance & passion. A varied group of buddies that don’t always play nice; It’s a chaotic bunch.
While experience is ‘measurable’, talent isn’t. It’s much more subjective, but it also makes it much more real, at least on an individual level. If there’s one thing I’ve learned during my brief but puddleful career, it’s that in bigger lines, the individual is not that different from the collective. If I feel something, chances are there are many who will feel it too, almost turning talent into a moral and emotional compass for what works and what doesn’t.
Now, this is where the two intersect. One could argue that you should be able to make the same judgement based on experience. But as you might be expecting by now, I beg to differ. While experience pulls it sources from the bottom of the treasure chest, talent is digging. While experience dodges the puddle, talent stomps its feet in it. And while experience feels like the safer bet, its biggest pitfall is that it’s not grounded in the present. It doesn’t smell, touch, or feel, it just remembers. And in that way, it’s always at least one step behind.
“Maybe experience has taught me to be intentionally less experienced.”
So, why do your rejection emails always come back to experience? Well, if I knew I would probably dedicate this paragraph to it, but I must disappoint you. In fact, the whole reason that you’re reading this, is because I’m still looking for a solid answer. Now my perspective might be cluttered by youthful ignorance, or maybe by my love for unreasonable, considerate, and highly reactive creative output, but maybe there’s more to it. Maybe experience has taught me to be intentionally less experienced when it comes to creative work, which in many cases makes it a matter of unlearning. Which is a tough predicament when you’re constantly required to be more experienced.
If talent is chaos, then experience must be order. You could say one needs the other, but you could also say one has to enable the other to be and to become. Since experience always comes last, I’d say let’s focus a little bit more on talent. But in the end, I will leave this one up to all the recruiters and employers. After all, they have the experience.