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Years of experience doesn't equal merit

Thursday, 21 June 2012 | By Niki Scevak

The commonly held assumption to measure merit through years of experience is a fundamentally bad idea.


Start-ups shines an especially bright light on how wrong the commonly held assumption that years of experience in a role correlates with expertise or merit in that particular activity.


Every single job ad requires a growing number of years’ experience that is commensurate with the seniority of the position and this encourages a really toxic by-product: That people should wait a few years to do something they really want.


This is clearly wrong.


At the extreme end, corporations like Microsoft, Facebook and Google were created by folks with no formal commercial experience and, in some cases, half a degree.


Steve Jobs had half a degree and a few months on-the-job experience with Atari before he started Apple Computer. They didn't wait.


The years of experience equals seniority idea causes all kinds of dysfunction and is probably the real reason large corporates are unable to innovate and find themselves paralysed.


The thought of giving senior positions to people with little to no experience would send shivers of horror down their spine.


But that's exactly what they need to do – disregard experience and prioritise more important factors that indicate merit.


On a people level, the fallacy that experience equals merit causes them to make bad short-term decisions like joining a law firm, management consulting company or investment bank for two years to “get experience”. Those who want to work in the world of law, consulting or banking for their entire careers should absolutely join.


But there is a large portion of those who go to these establishments out of university who simply waste years of their early career and then have to unlearn much of what they accumulated anyway.


The world is a fresh canvas. Don't overestimate the need for years of experience in doing what you love. Your passion and authentic connection to the customers of whatever you choose to pursue are so much more of a determining factor.