Are You Experienced?

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? At the end of the day, if they have the right personal qualities they will be worth investment in training, which will give them all the relevant skills they need anyway.Just as how in business one company would turn to Impel Dynamic or a similar educational facility to imbue sales skills, leadership qualities, and other forms of training unto their new hires, so too should every industry understand the barrier of access for such material. There are plenty of great training providers out there for every industry, just go here for an example.

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 middle 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.

Otherwise claiming credibility because one is experienced is the equivalent of saying I am entitled to lead because I ain’t dead yet.


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  1. For those of you who have a life hope you are out having fun.

  2. … 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.

    I think experience is important and you’re kind of proof of that.  Because you have experience you’re able to train folks “smarter than you.”

    I know what you mean by that — I work for lawyers who are smarter than me, and the first-years always turn to me for advice, even on drafting their legal documents; even the partner I work for has asked my advice at times on what he wrote.  I know how to help them because I have experience.

    I think there are definitely qualifications to be president and vice president, especially now, when our national leaders are acting on the global stage.

    I think education counts as experience, and you certainly wouldn’t hire someone who hadn’t studied medicine, be it as a nurse or a doctor.

    I do agree with you that experience in and of itself isn’t enough, and often can be harmful if the experience has been one of making the same mistakes over and over and still being “promoted” to higher and higher positions.

    • Robyn on September 7, 2008 at 4:42 am

    She’s a new teacher.  I gave her an insight (possibly):

    There will always be new ideas coming down from above.  And there will always be another one to correct the most recent one.  Bear that in mind while you do what you think is right.

  3. is being used as shorthand for something else when democrats criticize Palin for “lack of experience.”  Shorthand (or polite-hand) for lack of knowledge; lack of intelligence; lack of wisdom.  

    Palin doesn’t have bags of experience — well, sure, that’s one thing you could say.  Another thing you could say is that she is in control of decisions about wildlife and she apparently believes that animals were all made by God about 6000 years ago.  There is something wrong with that — namely that it’s false, and leads to a lot of false beliefs about the right way to handle species extinction.  

    It is one thing to be wary of hiring a new nurse because he lacks experience.  That may or may not be a disqualifying factor.  On the other hand, if the prospective hire thinks that the human brain is an organ whose purpose is to cool the blood, or if he keeps talking about the four humors, then hiring him is likely going to lead of bad decisions in the workplace.

    “Lack of experience” is not necessarily a happy choice of shorthand.  You’re completely correct, I think, anyway, that “lack of experience” taken literally is a strange charge to level at someone who is running for President.  One imagines, perhaps, a simulation like the Kobyashi Maru on Star Trek, meant to give new leaders the experience of leading in a tough situation.

    But something about our political culture makes it impossible to level charge “this candidate believes a lot of false things and is pretty demonstrably a damn fool when it comes to issues we expect him or her to be up-to-speed on.”  I suppose the fact that this is not an obviously disqualifying factor is related to the completely correct and laudable American resistance to wanting “experts” to make policy decisions.  Suspicion of experts is good, when they come around claiming that they know what everyone should do.  But that is not the same thing as demanding a base-line level of competence with the modern world and society.

    I dunno.  This is kind of a rambling comment.  I’m not sure if it came to a point.

    First days on the job are scary, for sure 🙂

    • Edger on September 7, 2008 at 5:17 am

    to add a “rec” button to this essay, isn’t there? 😉

    • kj on September 7, 2008 at 5:38 am


    • kj on September 7, 2008 at 5:50 am

    but I can recognize a ringer.  McCain is too tired to play.  So media has made race the between Palin and Obama, except Obama is too smart (and dare I say, experienced? lol) to play that game.

    Experience is living with our eyes at least part way open, I think.  

    Great essay. Looking forward to reading the comments this generates also.

  4. when youre dealing with the mundane.  done it, know how its done, get it done, done…

    you can separate the ‘big brains’ from the little in the minute something doesnt go according to script, and a little thought or ~gasp~ creativity is required, some of the ‘smartest’ and most experienced people i know get the deer in the headlights look…

    let’s face it, for mccain to run on experience was basically to concede the mcsame accusation.  he’s done it, he’ll continue to do it…  for him to even suggest that he’ll be different is an admission that his experience is flawed, that what he’s done and been doing isnt acceptable…

  5. mmmmmmms!  

    Awesome graphic ucc.  

    And that kind of experience would do Miss Wingnut Alaska a lot of good, imo.  

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