76 Getting the Best Out of Your Experience

Brad C. Anderson

As you gain experience, you can draw meaning out of your environment and integrate it into what you already know to develop appropriate actions.[1] Not all experience is created equal, however. As you might imagine, terribly upsetting and traumatic experiences may shut down a person’s growth. Working with a supportive mentor can help you avoid those situations and get the best out of your experience (more on mentors in a moment).[2]

Getting the Right Kind of Experience

Students reading this section on the importance of experience may feel like throwing their hands up, lamenting the old paradox that, “You need experience to get a job, but you can’t get a job without experience.”

 

 

“Get a job” by Brad C. Anderson is licensed under CC BY 4.0 / A derivative from the original work.

 

All cynicism aside, even students who have yet to start their careers have opportunities to gain experience.

Take advantage of opportunities to work with industry partners, whether through class projects, internships, or co-op programs.[3][4][5] Select instructors who rely on experiential learning methods, which may include industry projects, computer simulations, team projects, cases, and so on.[6][7][8]

These types of projects can mimic the experience of working in the ‘real world’ under the tutelage of your instructor, making them powerful learning opportunities.

If you have already begun your career, create opportunities to broaden your responsibilities. For example, you might volunteer for assignments that push you outside your comfort zone, especially if your employer is willing to mentor you. Speaking of mentoring, let’s turn to that topic next.

 

Key Takeaways

  • Experience improves your ability to draw meaning out of your environment and integrate it into your thinking.
  • Not all experience is equal; some experiences are beneficial, but some may discourage personal growth.
  • As a student, take advantage of opportunities to work with industry partners
    • Internships & co-op programs
    • Select classes where teachers have you work with industry partners.
    • Select classes where teachers rely on experiential learning methods
  • As an employee, create opportunities to broaden your responsibilities, especially under your boss’s mentorship, if they are willing.

  1. Bierly III, P. E., Kessler, E. H., & Christensen, E. W. (2000). Organizational Learning, Knowledge and Wisdom. Journal of Organizational Change Management, 13(6), 595–618.
  2. Dewey, J. (1998). Experience and Education (60th Anniv). Indianapolis: Kappa Delta Pi.
  3. Fowers, B. J. (2003). Reason and Human Finitude in Praise of Practical Wisdom. American Behavioral Scientist, 47(4), 415–426.
  4. Schön, D. A. (1983). The Reflective Practitioner: How Professionals Think in Action. Basic Books.
  5. Talbot, M. (2004). Good Wine May Need to Mature: A Critique of Accelerated Higher Specialist Training. Evidence from Cognitive Neuroscience. Medical Education, 38(4), 399–408.
  6. Bartunek, J. M., & Trullen, J. (2007). Individual Ethics--The Virtue of Prudence. In E. H. Kessler & J. R. Bailey (Eds.), Handbook of Organizational and Managerial Wisdom (pp. 91–108). Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publications Inc.
  7. Conger, J., & Hooijberg, R. (2007). Organizational Ethics--Acting Wisely While Facing Ethical Dilemmas in Leadership. In E. H. Kessler & J. R. Bailey (Eds.), Handbook of Organizational and Managerial Wisdom (pp. 133–150). Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publications Inc.
  8. Statler, M., & Roos, J. (2006). Reframing Strategic Preparedness: An Essay on Practical Wisdom. International Journal of Management Concepts and Philosophy, 2(2), 99–117.

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Getting the Best Out of Your Experience by Brad C. Anderson is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

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