When I was interviewing for a staff position decades ago, the department head Al walked me around the office, introducing me to my potential colleagues. Because I had done my homework, before I met Jim I knew that Jim had been there a long time. Jim and I chatted for two or three minutes.
When Al and I walked into the next room, I commented: “I noticed that Jim has twenty years of experience here.”
Al’s answer jarred me:
“No, he has one year of experience, and he has repeated that twenty times.”
That frank analysis gave me a new slant on how we should define years of experience. Ordinarily the term refers to calendar years. Ever since that incident, I evaluate years of experience in regard to learning, progress, continuing education, professional development, acquired skills, degrees and credentials earned, and magnified usefulness to the organization.
Applying that to my career, in 1997 I left the management arena to become an entrepreneur. I learned some basic new skills that first year. I chuckle now when I remember a friend telling me in a phone conversation how to cut and paste portions of a document, despite my saying “too complicated, not sure I can get this.” Then there was another patient colleague who guided me through how to change a document’s font to color instead of black and white. Also, I have fond memories of the tech consultant who taught me how to put down my #2 pencil and operate the computer keyboard. Those were my first grade level starting points.
But what if I had stopped then, almost twenty years ago? Had I stagnated in my advancement, I would not be able to:
–produce my own videos
–video record interviews with experts
–make changes on my Web site without having to hire a professional
–maintain two blogs
–post regularly on the major social media platforms
–publish an e-book
–distribute an online newsletter
Every day, I realize I am creating a new “year of experience.” I have so much more to learn, and I’ll find the best mentors and coaches to explain and demonstrate what they have mastered. That approach will cost me time and money, yes–yet the hours and dollars invested will equip me to serve my clients with an elevated level of competence.
Now I encourage you to answer the key question–candidly and privately–for yourself: “How many years of experience have I had?”