I recently participated in the overly burdened multi-stage process that my place of employment uses for hiring. We were looking for a new manager for one of our Hem-Onc units, we have a relatively democratic atmosphere. Case in point, while doing rounds last night in the middle of total chaos the new fellow introduces himself to me and says so you’re my Leukemia expert and I said,” No that would be you.” He laughed and sad ,”Well X informs me you’re going to keep me from making mistakes while I am new.” Because, well, he is right. I will. I supervise the RNs but I also have to shepherd the new docs who know far more than me. I have plenty of experience doing this: dealing with people far smarter than I. If somebody asked me to put a one liner on my resume that would be it: I can recognize when somebody is smarter than me and in my workplace I am surrounded by them. It happens in a research institution.
We had five candidates and the one I favored is very young, inexperienced and male, still a big minority in nursing. My belief was that if we did not hire him another institution was going to snap him up and apparently for once in my career I was on the same side as the big dogs who decided to he was the right choice.
His big negative was a lack of experience. And we are already talking about experience in this charmingly obtuse political season. Who has it. Who doesn’t. What kind of “experience” do we want?
Think about how many big steps in life we take with no experience. The first time you get married, have your first child, drive a car, go on a date. Think about all the incredibly bad advice you got from those so called “experienced” people. Sure I am guilty of playing the middled aged “experience” card myself when I doll out my advice and I am just as often wrong.
The only relevant experience for being president is being president. Of course it ends up that I am defending the choice of Palin by saying this and actually her lack of experience doesn’t bother me: it is the crazy packaged as middle America that irks me. That is the genius of American cultural hegemony. It is so broad and vague that almost anybody can be made to seem just like you and I when they aren’t.
We are taking a chance on a new manager at my workplace. I don’t know what change he is bringing but I just coherent enough to know change is coming and I can either rely on my old patterns of thinking and risk becoming professionally irrelevant or learn to surf in the new ocean. People often say that change for the sake of change isn’t necessarily better but nor is it necessarily worse.
What good is experience if it is just used to enforce an existing and decaying order? What good are leadership skills it they are merely a repetition of worn out tunes? Most leadership skills are acquired when one becomes one anyway. Of course I have had plenty of leadership training at my work place but it happened long after I took my position and after I basically asked for it.
Experience in politics, at work, and in life is only a useful tool if one actually decides to learn from it, to admit mistakes and formulate new approaches.