Most Experienced Professionals Misunderstand Work Experience (How About You?)

I was at a workshop when someone made an annoying comment. He said, “We could never give a contract to a person with 6 years of experience over someone who has 15 years in the field.” I nicely responded, “It all depends.

You can guess the looks I got from audience. Luckily, a few other people from the audience sided with me. And together we did our best to explain ourselves. Here’s a summary of our explanation:

Years of experience don’t equate to expertise. In other words, experience and expertise are not synonymous.

“Would you elaborate?” Yes, give me a few minutes.

More explanation

The assumption that an employee with 20 years of experience is more qualified or has more expertise than someone with 5 years of experience is misleading. Certainly, 20 years of experience sounds good. But in reality, it might mean that person is following a process over and over again that has been seen before.

What do I mean?

Twenty years of experience simply might mean that person has been doing a job for 20 years without seeking to improve her skills. Whereas someone with five years of experience might have worked intentionally and consistently to innovate, and to increase and improve her background knowledge, performance, and skills.

Here is an example

For example, having 35 years of driving experience does not qualify you to chauffer the U.S. president. Why?

POTUS’s driver is an expert driver. He or she specializes in driving around dignitaries and their high-level security and has worked continuously to keep his or her skills as sharp as a razor.

Is experience valuable? Yes, indeed. In fact, experts have a lot of experience. But their experience alone does not make them the expert they are.

Unlike the average professional who has adequate skills and performs work on autopilot most of the time, experts are outliers and “weird.”

In other words, experts constantly think how to optimize their decision-making process and performance, driving innovation. That is, they think carefully about how to fix what they don’t do well.

Next time you are thinking about experience and expertise, think and ask yourself, “How will my teaching decisions keep my adult students engaged and motivated?”

Don’t forget to share the post with your favorite L&D colleagues.

The coach
Coach Teddy Edouard develops Continuous Improvement(CI) processes and systems to help individuals and companies increase productivity, reach peak performance, maximize their impact, and save time, resources and energy.

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