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5 Reasons You Should Hire Someone Who Has Worked In Multiple Industries

Updated: May 11, 2023

At 16, you probably started thinking about what your future life would look like. You possibly perused some college pamphlets, browsed course catalogs, and had some innate notion of what you wanted to do with your life - or at least, what you knew you didn't want to do with your life. At 17, you might have taken some college campus tours, prepared for entrance exams, and poured over FAFSA paperwork, all while honing in on a direction you wanted to take professionally. At 18, if you chose the college route, you were out of the house on your own for the first time, and beginning coursework for a degree that would lay the groundwork for the rest of your professional life. By 21 or 22 (if you took the bonus semester route like me), you were out of school and on your own in the world, with the expectation that your degree had prepared you for the next 40-odd working years. All of this is, of course, if it goes entirely to plan.

Now stop and think about this. How much do you trust 21 year olds that you meet in your everyday life (if any?) Not much, right? How about an 18 year old? Now, how much do you trust an 18 year old to make the decision for what they will do for the rest of their life? It's pretty far-fetched, when you think about how much we change between 18 and 22, let alone 18 and 28.

So, fast forward. Maybe you're sifting through resumes that have been submitted for an open role on your team. You're immediately tossing out the candidates who don't have experience in your industry, or who don't have the exact "blueprint" you are seeking. But here, I'm going to stop you. I think those of us who have hired have all been there, right? I want to plant a seed in your mind now, that the next time you're making a hiring decision, you won't go for the "perfect on paper" candidate. Instead, I encourage you to look for the candidate who was worked in multiple settings and industries. Here are 5 reasons why:

  1. Multiple sets of Best Practices. If someone has worked in a similar function across multiple industries, they have acquired several sets of best practices and standard operations that can be applied to your particular use case. They may not have experience targeting your exact customer base, but their multifaceted background will have trained them to stretch their existing basis of understanding to allow for new environments.

  2. Learning Endurance. Every time you start a new job, it's a bit overwhelming, right? All that new information all at once can push you intellectually to the point of exhaustion. Now imagine doing this, but also in a new industry as well. The more you've been put in these situations, the better your learning endurance. Candidates who have experienced this will pick up new information at a greater pace, based on what is perceived as greater pressure to get "up to speed".

  3. Innovating Your Category. There's a certain sense of "we do this because it's what works", in everything we do (with maybe some entrepreneurs being the exception to this). For someone who has worked in many industries, it may make sense to take the way they've approached a certain challenge in one setting to another, despite that not being "the norm". This can allow for growth for the rest of the team and organization, and may even be the basis for new best practices in your category.

  4. The 30,000-Foot Level View. For someone who has worked in finance, it may seem like a big jump to shift to a role in healthcare, for example. However, that person now has a unique perspective on the greater ecosystem your organization operates in, which may prove valuable later. One example of this in my case was having worked in a financial services tech company which dealt with high volume invoicing and bill processing. I didn't think my new understanding of credit processing or ERP implementations would ever be needed in another role. However, years later, that experience proved valuable while having discussions with a financial services prospect during my time at a digital marketing agency. It was my "well-rounded" but unusual background that helped us close the client and make them feel understood.

  5. Open-Minded Thinking. When I see a candidate with a varied background, as opposed to a "linear" path, I see someone who was open to new possibilities, rather than focusing rigidly on one set goal or niche. I see someone who is willing to learn new things, is excited by change, and open to "the next right thing".

There will always be value in hiring someone who has a breadth of knowledge in their space. In some cases, it's unavoidable, such as in the practice of law or medicine (I don't particularly want my surgeon describing his career as "well-rounded"). But in all other cases, I encourage you to seek out the "all around athlete", who brings an unparalleled work ethic, a creative approach to new challenges, and a joyful spirit to what they do. Those things cannot be taught - the rest can.


As a writer, multi-industry marketing and program management consultant, and self-described all-around athlete, I'd love to hear your thoughts. Leave a comment below!

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