What's the big deal with experience anyway? — Pt 1

Career & Education

What's the big deal with experience anyway? — Pt 1

Career Advisor

Carolyn Marie Smith

Sunday, March 08, 2020

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Dear Career Advisor:
Why does it appear that all employers are asking for candidates with experience? How are we, as young people, to get experience if we are not given a chance to prove ourselves? It can't be fair! What's the big deal with this stress on requiring experience? Why is “experience” so in demand? I really do need a job. I am getting frustrated. What's your advice; should I go ahead and apply for these jobs that require experience?

Ashley W

 Dear Ashley:

Thank you for your questions. Whatever you do, don't allow frustration to defeat you. See your current circumstance as a hurdle that you can, and will conquer.
You have not given a background of your personal preparation for the job market. Without the full context of your particular situation, please permit me to provide a generic response which potentially will also be of benefit to other readers with similar concerns.

What we hear you asking is, 'Why is having prior employment experience so often a requirement for many jobs?' Admittedly, from a scan of some job advertisements, it appears that in order to filter out underqualified and underprepared aspirants, hiring managers inflate the duration of the 'required experience' probably in the hopes they will be able to fish from a pool of job-ready prospects. This strategy allows them to spend less time and other resources on induction and training activities.

From the perspective of the jobseeker, this approach might indeed seem unfair.

But let's take a moment to reflect on some of the reasons experience is required for certain job functions. The requirement is usually concomitant to the demands of the job functions. I am sure you would admit that you would have strong reservations were you to be wheeled into an operating theatre for an emergency procedure only to be greeted by a surgeon who informs you that he obtained his credentials entirely from an online programme. Neither would you be confident to hand over your hard-earned cash if you were to find out that your assigned investment banker or advisor has never managed an investment portfolio nor ever participated in actual investments.

It is important to note, though, that the requirement for experience does not always strictly refer to experience derived from prior employment. Experience gained from activities associated with your training, voluntary service, internships, co-curricular and extra-curricular activities can all be successfully applied and used to demonstrate fulfilment of the required experience.

While a recent high school graduate might not be adequately prepared to supervise a large team, the individual could potentially be considered for leading a small team by demonstrating leadership experience, having served in roles through which team members were galvanised and organised resulting in the accomplishment of team goals. Likewise, a graduate from a post-secondary institution could advance  experiences derived from experiential learning activities, internships, coop engagements, and voluntary service as relevant, even though the individual was never formally employed.

Next week, in part 2 to this response, you will be guided in how to collate and demonstrate in the “Experience” section of your résumé the skills and accomplishments that will make a prospective hiring manager take an interest in you.

Yours truly,
Career Advisor

Carolyn Marie Smith is associate vice-president of student services at Northern Caribbean University in Manchester, Jamaica. Submit your questions to her at careeradvisor@ncu.edu.jm

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