Building Work Experience

Building Work Experience

Throughout our career, work experience is a consistent part of our professional development and growth. In the first stage of our career we hear, “This job will give you great work experience.” In the second stage of our career we hear, “This job will help you broaden your work experience.” In the third stage of our career we hear, “This job will help you pass on your work experience to other people.” In addition, most of us are also told in between one of our career stages that, “You do not have enough work experience for this job.” So, what is work experience and how should we think about it in the context of our career goals?

Experience is knowledge and skill acquired through observation and participation in activities and events. There is a difference between building experience and time in role. Time is not experience. Because you are in role for five years does not mean that you are five years better than when you started. Experience means continuing to increase your knowledge and skill in an area while gaining multiple points of view about it. Doing your role for another year without intentional change is not experience, it is passing the time. You can either gain five years of experience or you can gain one year of experience five times.

You have to be intentional about building experience. Building experience does not mean constantly changing roles. It means continually seeking to understand an area or issue with greater breadth and depth and within the proper context. It also means continually seeking to define success. Evaluated experience (emphasis added) is the key to professional development and growth. Unless you know the how and why behind your failures and mistakes, you are destined to repeat them. Through evaluation and reflection, you will also gain insight into how to build on your successes and increase your effectiveness.

Can experience be accelerated? To some degree, yes. How? By constantly seeking multiple points of view on how to accomplish something. Multiple points of view are helpful in eliminating mistakes. They make you aware of things you had not considered. For almost anything you do, there are multiple ways to accomplish it. It is important to avoid the career trap of having only one perspective on something. Even if what you are doing is right, the people working on the project or team may not be enjoying the experience. When you try to hold on to only one perspective, people will often say, you need more experience.

Continue to seek and understand multiple points of view even when you know the first and obvious way to do something. Ask the following questions: Is there another way? Is there a better way? Is there a different way? What do you think? Your goal is to build an inclusive environment where you are a participatory member operating for the betterment of the team. If you are not making the most of the perspectives of the people around you, you are limiting your effectiveness. Seeking greater breadth and depth about an area or issue, as well as the context and definition of success will help you obtain bigger and broader positions.

All contents copyright © 2010, Josh Lowry. All rights reserved.

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