Experience continuum

How much experience do you need to be characterised as a new professional; mid-career; and master? Answers on a postcard (how quaint!) or by email, tweet, Snapchat or Instagram.

I ask as I’ve been thinking about this for a while, in both a work & professional capacity. At CILIP conference I was wondering how people classified themselves and others in terms of experience. When does a new professional become mid-career? What stage do you become master and senior professional?

I have also had two opportunities to reflect on experience & how it’s measured during stints judging awards for SLA & CILIP this year. In  particular, SLA Awards involved nominations for all stages: Rising Star (new professionals); Fellows (mid-career) and Hall of Fame (recognition of whole career).

I was struck by a Twitter chat this week, from teachers starting their summer holidays, & discussing how many years experience was needed to qualify them as experienced teachers. There is some synergy between info pros & teachers: both require postgraduate study, on the job experience & training plus importantly subject (for info pros read sector) expertise.


Screen Shot 2017-07-25 at 21.47.07

So how do you rate this answer? And where do you sit on the experience continuum?

It’s 30 years since I got my MSc, & set off for my first post qualification job. I’d say I hit most of the marker points outlined in this tweet. By that reckoning I’m a rock star! I do feel I’ve achieved that this year as CILIP President. I’m proud, honoured & lucky to have served as President of my two professional associations: SLA and CILIP.


8 thoughts on “Experience continuum

  1. I don’t think you can measure it in years alone. Surely the quality of one’s experience is important too? After all, 25 years of shelving books isn’t going to give you a wide range of experience (other than possibly knowing Dewey off by heart!) whereas ten years of a variety of tasks (cataloguing, purchasing, marketing, promotion, customer service, etc) is more likely to result in a “master” level. I’ve known teachers who have only been in the profession for a few years and yet are more experienced, and better teachers, than others who have done the job for thirty years.

    1. Barbara – thank you for taking the time to comment.

      You make really valid points about qualitative nature of experience, which of course needs to be balanced by quantitative experience. As with a lot of things context is key.

      I will ponder how best to update my post to include this.

  2. Another consideration is taking breaks from work be it health, travel, family, etc. and then returning to work. One may be qualified for a length of years but keeping up to date with current processes and trends in the profession varies.

    1. Thanks for this comment Graeme. It’s very true that you can be qualified but have time out for any number of reasons. Most people, and I include myself here, who do have time away from the profession still stay in touch via networking events, reading journals and attending conferences.

  3. Hi Kate
    In addition to Barbara’s excellent point, I also think the question needs to be asked ‘experience or master of what?’ and ‘in what context?’ For example, after over 25 years as a recruiter I would say I’m a master of some aspects, ‘mid career’ (or ‘middle-ing-ly (not a word, i’m sure!) experienced’ ) in some, but very much a novice in others. Also I would feel more of a ‘master’ of some of those functional areas in some settings than in others (small vs large organizations, different industry sectors, etc).

    1. Hi Nicola,

      Thanks so much for your comments.
      All of the comments I’ve received have made me think about this subject further. It’s quite a complex issue defining what we mean by experience: a mix of what stage people think they’re at, combined with where they are in their career and in their organisation. It underlines how subjective it all is, as well as how complex it is.

      I suspect it’ll get more difficult to define as more and more people have portfolio careers. But then that could be positive, as we may move to defining what we mean by experienced in terms of transferable skills.

      1. I agree. It’s also a constant dialog to try and get hiring managers (and HR) to think of requirements on a job description in terms of skills, attributes and aptitudes, instead of ‘xxx years of experience’. Number of years doesn’t really equate well to how skilled someone is at something; instead it is a ‘quick and dirty’ shorthand used in place of the (more time consuming and mentally challenging) process of assessing what skills, knowledge and behaviours (competencies) are really needed to be successful.

      2. Really valid points Nicola and underlines the importance of considering what competencies and skills you’re looking for in an applicant. It is very important to be able to define that as accurately as possible and to establish how the candidate fulfils that. I’m quite keen on applications which ask you to outline how you fulfil competencies.

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