What’s a Year of Experience?

We’re teaching my older daughter to drive. She’s had her permit since late August, and we try to make sure she drives 2-4 hours/week. In reality, that’s not a lot of driving. Just commuting to work most likely takes you 5 hours/week. But this past weekend, my daughter drove back from our ski weekend in Vermont to Boston, in the nor’easter.

Here in New England, nor’easters are a fact of life. In the winter, they dump a bunch a snow, or frozen slush which turns to ice. In the fall and spring, they dump a lot of rain, which sometimes turns to ice. Because some form of precipitation is a common part of driving, New Englanders who learn from their driving experiences tend to be fairly good at driving in snow, ice, and rain. It’s not fun, but it’s doable.

There are people who never learn from their driving experience in snow or ice. Every year, they’re surprised by the snow or the ice, and they drive too fast (or too slow). These people may have plenty of years of driving experience, but it’s the same year repeated over and over again.

Some parents want to protect their kids from driving in treacherous conditions. I have to admit, that was me on Sunday. But Mark said, “Do you want her to learn how to drive in the snow and the ice with one of us in the front seat or by herself?” Ok, Mark is clearly the thinking one here :-)

You’ve probably met people who claim 5, 10, 17 years of experience doing something, and you’d like to make sure they really do have that experience, not one year of experience several times. If you’re not sure how to detect someone with the same year of experience several times, here are some questions you can adapt for your needs:

  • “Tell me about the first time you did that kind of work…”
  • “What was similar and different about this last time (use the candidate’s resume for example projects)? …”
  • “Tell me a about a new skill you learned.” … “What steps did you take to learn it?” … “How did you know you’d mastered that skill?”
  • “How can you tell you’ve learned this skill/technique/practice?”

People who know the difference between the same year of experience multiple times and multiple years of experience have answers to these questions. People who do the same thing year-in, year-out don’t have good answers.

We’re trying to help our daughter gain that full year of experience that the graduated driver’s license requires, without putting her or other people at risk. She’ll have a year of experience driving. She still might not like driving in ice and snow, but she’ll be able to do so. How about you? Can you see differences in your work now and last year? If not, make sure you’re not acquiring the same year of experience all over again. And when you interview people, ask questions to see how a candidate has learned and grown in their work over time.

About johanna

I help managers and leaders do reasonable things that work.
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7 Responses to What’s a Year of Experience?

  1. Mike Kelly says:

    Johanna, how would someone with many years of experience (which I am not) effectively communicate the distinction you make on a resume?

  2. I can relate to how difficult it is to understand that people who live in areas with snow and ice can get SURPRISED by the weather. Here in Finland (northermost corner of the European Union) we have 3-5 months of icy driving weather per year, and people STILL get surprised by it! I don’t get it. How does one’s mind work if repetitive observations and experiences are a surprise??
    When I had to choose, after estimating my long-term survival likelihood, I chose to learn to drive during the winter. It was not an easy or pleasant experience, yet I will recommend it to my kids when they grow old enough. And I will be gnawing my nails off every time one of them is taking a driving lesson, I’m sure…

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  4. Rich Stone says:

    on Driving: I have always taken my kids to a frozen/snow filled parking lot, and forced them to practice losing and regaining control of the car so that they can “feel” what it is like to lose control, and how easy it is the get it back – without putting themselves or other drivers at risk. Learning to drive under difficult conditions requires technical and mechanical skills as well as judgment gained from experience.

    On resources: if you have someone with many years of experience, you can ask them what they would do different now, than they would have 5, 10 years ago and why. define it as a bd — tell me about a time recently that you xxx – and how does that differ from the way you would have – in 1999?

    If you want to see it on a resume, you look for growth in responsibility, and different roles of increasing influence and contribution. – It’s harder for contractors and consultants ‘cuz they take what they can get more frequently, so the path to more responsibility is less clearly defined.

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