“Not My First Rodeo:” Does Experience Matter or Not?

not my first rodeo

It’s a saying you may have heard a number of times. “This is not my first rodeo.” It’s meant to remind the listener that you’ve been here before. You know how this works. You know what can happen, perhaps what will happen, and what can be done to make it all work out for the best.

It’s meant to reassure, and usually it does. Sometimes, though, depending on the listener, it can come off as condescending or even a bit ‘boomerish.’

Let’s look at the whole issue of experience. Does it matter? Should it matter? And if so, to what extent?

There are two sides to this coin. If you’re about to go into surgery to have your knee repaired, you probably want a surgeon who’s done this before many times. Right?

Then there are those who give experience a bad name. These are the people who say things like, “We’ve tried that before, it won’t work.” Or they start sentences with terms like, “In my day…” Or, “Back when I start out, you didn’t have….”

You get the idea.

But you also have the flip side to that coin. It’s those with less experience who have had some success in their career to warrant a promotion or two. Maybe they’re on their public relations association’s local board of directors or some PR committee. They’ve enjoyed this success on the wave of emerging capabilities, like straight social media marketing, live streaming, or perhaps through influencer marketing. These are disciplines that didn’t exist five or ten years ago in the way they do now.

Most did not become experts in these niches on the basis of experience because it was all so new. Some of these individuals even give speeches or write articles discounting the whole notion that experience should matter.

The Irony in Their Iconoclasm

There is some irony to be found in their iconoclasm. While they discount ‘experience,’ they are often the first to point out how much experience they have at doing whatever it is they do, and for how long.

So, what gives? Does experience matter or not?

If I may translate, what they are really saying is their experience matters, yours does not. But they don’t say this strictly for ego purposes. They feel this way because in order to justify their lack of experience in many PR disciplines, they feel they must discount the value of experience in those longstanding public relations disciplines, such as media relations, writing, even strategic planning or crisis and issues management.

No matter how it’s been done before, that’s not the way to do it now, they seem to feel. Think about that. How much different is the person who makes this claim from the old curmudgeon who says, “We’ve tried that before, it will never work?” Either way, you have someone killing an idea or an approach before giving it a chance.

Again, there is a method to this. They think they have to discount areas where they are light or weak in order to elevate perceptions of their own strengths.

This is a mistake. To borrow from the phrase at the outset of this post, “This is not my first rodeo.”

My Experience with Experience

Since I’ve been in the public relations business, I’ve seen much change, sometimes led change and routinely have adapted to change. I’ve developed solid skills in areas I never anticipated needing five, 10 or 20 years ago. What’s the big deal?

You evolve and adapt. You take the best from whatever innovations come along, and you learn which ones may not require your focus. With the right attitude, change is not difficult, and experience is only truly obtained when you are open to change.

The key is never to discount experience. For me, experience at managing change is in fact perhaps one of my strongest areas of experience.

Over the years, I have seen a large number of inexperienced people not make it over the ‘change’ hurdle. They criticized experience and as such they have refused to build on their own, and their careers faded.

If you want to get ahead in PR and have a career that lasts decades, you need to build your experience in areas that will not change. Good writing never goes out of style. Becoming a strategic thinker and problem-solver can’t be replaced by artificial intelligence. AI can aid it, but not replace it. You have to be good at building human relationships on a personal level. You need to learn how to be a steady, senior-level counselor for organizational leaders who are stressed out by the challenges they face.

This just scratches the surface. But if you don’t start to appreciate the need for experience, especially that which you don’t have yet, you will likely be passed up by those who do.

Is this something on your mind? Feel free to get in touch. I’d love to talk.

Posted in Corporate & Strategic Communication, Crisis & Issues Management, General, Marketing Communications, PR & Media Relations, Workplace Communications and tagged , , , .