CAREER DEVELOPMENT / AUG. 19, 2014
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How Experienced Are You Really?

It’s hard to imagine any kind of job advert that doesn’t make some kind of mention of experience.  You know what I mean, right?  They’ll ask for five years of experience in your chosen field or some other number that they hope will reflect the skills and knowledge that you’ll possess.

Which is great, except that number isn’t really all that good a proxy for the knowledge you actually have, is it?  Of course, I’m not advocating that experience is worthless, not at all.  Indeed, the first few months in any job are often an incredibly rapid period of learning and development.

After that however, the curve can often flatten out quite considerably to the extent that the person with several years experience is barely distinguishable from the one with just a year under their belt.

Is your career like Groundhog Day?

It can become a bit like Groundhog Day in many ways.  Do you remember Groundhog Day?  The movie where Bill Murray gets caught in a perpetual loop, with that same day repeating over and over again.  Initially Murray thinks this is a great thing as he can use his ’experience’ to get one over on the people he encounters each time he re-lives that day.

The moral of that particular story however is of course that Murray’s character can only break free of the loop when he does some actual learning and discovers that the community that he’d gone to for his work aren’t quite the plebs that he’d imagined them to be.

That switch in his perceptions and outlook were enough to break the cycle, and it’s a similar thing in the working world.  ’Experience’ can often mean doing the same thing over and over again, which really isn’t that useful to anyone, and that person can easily be trumped by an inexperienced individual that possesses the right intelligence, dedication and character.

Measuring experience

If you think about it, it really is rather a useless yardstick.  I mean how exactly do you measure experience?  Does doing something now and then for a few months count as a years worth of experience?  How about that weekend job you did whilst at university?  That must be a years worth of experience in all manner of things.

Not only are many of these claims patently absurd, it’s almost impossible to actually verify any of them, so it becomes a rather pointless exercise from both recruiter and candidates perspective.  What’s more, it distracts attention from what really matters when judging the talents of an individual.

It isn’t so important how long you’ve been doing whatever it is you do.  What really matters, and what will set you apart from the rest, is how well you’ve managed to do it.  Ultimately, that’s the criteria that employers are really looking for when recruiting their next employee.

So rather than worrying about racking up the years, focus instead on racking up the wins and the examples of how great you are at your job.  That way, you won’t go far wrong.

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