Not All Experience is Created Equal

Andy Jordan is President of Roffensian Consulting S.A., a Roatan, Honduras-based management consulting firm with a comprehensive project management practice. Andy always appreciates feedback and discussion on the issues raised in his articles and can be reached at Andy's new book Risk Management for Project Driven Organizations is now available.

There’s an old saying that there’s a big difference between 10 years of experience and one year of experience repeated 10 times. The point is that just because someone has been working for a significant period of time doesn’t mean they are automatically more experienced than someone who has been working for less time. It depends on how they have used that time, whether they have learned from their experiences, and whether they are a better professional as a result.

Experience is the most critical aspect of anyone’s career development, yet it’s not something that we tend to think about as much as things like training and certifications. In this article, I want to look specifically at experience—and consider how project managers can position themselves to gain and leverage it to build a successful career.

Before we start looking specifically at project managers, let’s consider the importance of experience generally. When we learn new skills, we are given the basic foundation for what needs to be done, but that only develops into capability once we apply the knowledge into realistic situations. It doesn’t matter if it’s a hard skill or a soft skill, the training is just the first step on a long journey towards excellence—every other step on that journey comes through experience.

When we make mistakes (which we …

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"The man who views the world at 50 the same as he did at 20 has wasted 30 years of his life."

- Muhammad Ali