Experience does not equal a job skill

By Scot Herrick | Job Skills

May 06

Experience, told by those with lots of experience, trumps everything. When angry, experienced people yell at clouds in the job market for not getting work, experience is the mantra. Not job skills. Not fitting in with the team. Not the motivation to do the work. Nope. Experience. Experience trumps everything and experienced people yelling at clouds yell it the loudest. To quote Shakespeare, I think they doth protest too much.

Now, I have a lot of experience. That experience covers an awful lot of ground. But I will also tell you this: experience is the sauce. It is not the steak. No matter what experienced people who yell at clouds about the job market may say.

Without job skills, your experience doesn’t matter

You can talk all you’d like about your thirty years of programming mainframes (and make a good living at it even today!), but programming mainframes does not mean you have a job skill for programming in a client-server environment.

You can talk all you’d like about your thirty years being a nurse in a general hospital environment, but that doesn’t mean you are at a skill level in an emergency room.

And, to go one step further, you can talk all you’d like about your fifteen years of project management skills in a small company, but it doesn’t mean you can project manage a multi-million dollar project using project methodologies in a large company.

It is easy to sit on the laurels of experience than do the work

Too often, experienced people sit on their laurels thinking they don’t need to learn new job skills. They are in the job, after all, so what is there to learn?

In case one doesn’t notice, time marches on. What was a perfectly acceptable standard in the 1970’s – not having seat belts in a car — is simply not acceptable as a standard today where seat belt use is required. Look at what children are learning in school — and the grade they are learning it in — today versus when you were in school.

Check out your resume compared to job postings (say, on Dice) and see what job skills you have versus the skills needed on the job description. If you don’t get enough check marks next to those job skills, your resume will get thrown into the trash heap. And then you’ll yell at clouds about having experience and not getting the work.

Part of job skills is learning new technology

Experience doesn’t overcome learning technology — it just shows an attitude of an unwillingness to learn. To use a personal example, my mother has never learned how a computer works, never owned one, and saw no need to learn how one works twenty years ago. Now my family — and all of her grandchildren — spend their time on Facebook, sharing stories, pictures and the events in their lives and she has no access to any of it.

Experienced people get like that in their jobs as well. “Why learn that new Microsoft Office version — I already know how to use Microsoft 2003!”, they say.

Experience counts — but not that much

If you are one of those experienced people not getting work who are out there yelling at clouds about how your experience should count, I’d suggest you change your story. Take a hard look at the job skills you are showing on your resume (all your job skills are on your resume, aren’t they?) compared to the job descriptions for the work you do now and see how well they match up. And then figure out how to get the skills you need to compete in today’s job market.

Let the sauce of your experience show in the stories you tell about the results you get from your work. Let the sauce of your experience show an interviewer the soft skills you have of working with a team. Let your experience show how much you still long to learn (you do want to learn, right?) more job skills.

That’s how to use your experience — as sauce that enhances the meat of your job skills.


About the Author

Scot Herrick is the author of “I’ve Landed My Dream Job–Now What???” and owner of Cube Rules, LLC. Scot has a long history of management and individual contribution in multiple Fortune 100 corporations.