Sunday, January 29, 2012

The problem with experience

Most people, confuse “experience” with “number of years employed”. Wikitionary's definition of experience goes something like this - “Collection of events and/or activities from which an individual or group may gather knowledge, opinions, and skills”. The key is – experience contributes to knowledge, opinion or skills. Nowhere does experience indicate the number of years spent on job.

Experience vs Time spent

We can plot number of years employed against knowledge on a graph. As long as you are “employed” (even on bench, vacation or surfing) you continuously progress along the  X time axis. When one insists on experience, it is somehow assumed that experience = time spent on job (x=y) kind of an equation.

But is that really true? Did you learn or gain more knowledge in your last year than the year before? If you have been working for a long time already now, just sit back and think about the increase in your knowledge that happened in the first year of your job. Thereafter think about the increments every year.

If you have been doing the same job (but growing in time and consequently in positions) chances are, your knowledge level has more or less stabilised. What you are essential gaining on is the time axis.

Its funny when customers insist on having “experienced” consultants with an arbitrary number like 10+ years of industry experience without getting into the details of “what” that experience really is. I could have been doing a menial job in an “industry” for 10 years without gaining any incremental knowledge whatsoever.

The only way that you might be gaining knowledge out of your experience is if you have been profile hopping. This phenomenon occurs when you completely change your job profile every 2-3 years so that you have to actually learn completely new things to do your job. Most companies don’t encourage such kind of hopping, and if you have been lucky enough to do it, then you have “experience” in the true sense of the word!

So as recruiters or customers going forward, please don’t insist on experience in terms of number of years spent on job, but please look at what the person has done and “experienced”!

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