Experience is not what happens to you: it’s what you do with what happens to you. – Aldous Huxley
Experience is only a chance to learn. It does not guarantee any lessons or skills. You can have many experiences where you learn nothing, or the wrong things. Only when someone studies their past honestly, and periodically throughout their lives, is there a better chance their experience will have value in the future.
In the working world, a resume for someone who worked at a company for ten years, even a fancy one, ensures only that they learned how not to get fired. Maybe they slept with the boss, or were the low performer others kept around so they’d look good. The quantity of their experience alone promises little. The experience of a proud parent with 5 adult children many mean little about their parenting skills if they’re all in prison and hate their Mom and Dad. A VP at a Fortune 500 corporation whose division succeeded in spite of their incompetence, has a deceptive track record that does not tell you the important parts of the story.
We make decisions about people based on our positive assumptions about the quantity of their experience, denying our knowledge of experienced people in our lives who are bad at what they do for work. We also look down on people who have moved between fields, assuming this gives them less experience. Yet it’s the ability to compare and contrast different experiences that makes each one more powerful. Often for this reason people who have worked in more than one field have more reliable wisdom than people who have only worked in one.
Many on this planet go through life being mediocre at most things they do – it’s not a shortage of experience that’s the problem. Sometimes someone who is smart, honest and motivated but has no experience at all, will perform better than someone with a superficially impressive career we can only judge from the most biased source possible: their own opinion.