Don’t Count the Years; Make the Years Count

How long has it been since you scrolled through a list of job ads? Go to your favourite job seeking site now and take a look at a handful. Do you see a pattern?

Chances are, most, if not all, of those job ads ask that the applicant have some number of years experience in a similar role. It seems legitimate, right? If you’ve been doing something for a certain amount of years, you should have that many years’ worth of experience. Simple maths, right? Wrong.

Before I changed professions to do Graphic Design, I worked in Engineering Consultancies for 12 years. During that time, I noticed how quick the years pass and, before you know it, those jobs you could never apply for before because of that one condition “3 years in a similar role” are jobs you’re suddenly over-qualified for. But, are you really? Are you really over-qualified or do you just have a number of years under your belt?

I put myself under a strict self-review and realised that in a 6 month period that I had really applied myself, I had learnt so much more and progressed much further than a whole year preceding it. Of course, having someone from whose experience I could learn helped a great deal; but, the fact of it still remains. It’s easy to go on auto-pilot mode and let the years count while your progress remains stagnant. In that case, you may have worked for 5 years in a role but your real experience and growth only amount to 4, or even 3.

Was it just me, though? I entertained that thought in my mind and reviewed those I was working with. Some colleagues had great mentors around them; but, rather than learn and leech information and knowledge from them, they were piggy-backing off their experience. Let me rephrase that but in plain English; rather than use every opportunity to gain knowledge from those more experienced than them, I noticed some people weren’t solving problems themselves but opted to have others spoon-feed them information and direct them every step of the way. Here I was helping someone with double my years in experience. Did that make me smarter? Not so much. It just meant that I made my years count a little more.

That’s what I want to leave with you. Don’t count your years but make those years count. Use every opportunity to grow, to learn, to give value to your experience.

How, then, do I propose that employers look for candidates? That’s a topic for another post.

What are your thoughts on this subject? Let me know in the comments below.