Early Career, Mentoring, Professional

What does “Experience” mean?

As the graduating students of today enter into the working world, there is one word that consistently haunts them wherever they apply. That word is “experience”. Whether you are applying for an entrance position or a management position there is always a required level of experience. In the end though, what does experience mean to you as a business owner or human resources department?

Does experience mean how many years you have been out of school? Or is it the experience the life the applicant has led that gives them the qualifications?  Most of all, is experience just age to you?

I can understand and embrace that I do not know everything. Nobody could ever know absolutely everything; that is the reality of situation. A wise man spoke at our graduation at Queen’s and he said that “we should never be done learning, if you are done learning then there is no reason to be living.” This is the motto I will forever live my life by. I will never be done learning.

However, I want to communicate that just because we are young and fresh out of school does not mean that we are fresh in experience. If anything, employers should be embracing the young employee. We are like a clean canvas that is ready for employers to paint. I look forward to the education of my elders. Elders that can also embrace the knowledge I have acquired and the skills that have got me to where I am today. We, as young employees, bring different knowledge and application to the table.

I’m proud that I have the technological knowledge to be bringing a few organizations into the 21st century by helping them understand and embrace social media. There is a level of understanding that I have achieved of social media, because it is my generation that began the craze of it all. So while I haven’t been in the working world for a long time, my understanding of this would be vital to your organization wherever you may be.

By now, I am sure you know that my interest lies within the field of public relations. While it was not my first choice of career, it is something that I have been doing unknowingly for many years. I began my employment at 9 years old, when I took the position of a volunteer swim instructor. Each day I was encouraged to interact with the students and parents, just like a teacher that was of age. It taught me how to interact and engage with those who could be more than 5 times your age. I learned how to plan a lesson, communicate verbally and orally, as well as the importance of brand ambassadors.

If you think about it, a happy parent is a brand ambassador. I realized that if I did a good job as even a volunteer, people spread the word about their positive experience. I also quickly learned that if they had a negative experience it would spread quicker and go to higher levels of management. At 9 years old I was dealing with crisis management. Something that some don’t learn until they enter their PR program in college.

Shortly after this I became a lifeguard, instructor and camp counsellor. I babysat in my spare time and enjoyed many team oriented sports like swimming, baseball, horseback riding as well as singing in a choir. From this I learned how to build team spirit, be a leader, and create unique activities for all ages. And again, I continued to develop my communication skills.

The education continued throughout my high school years where I continually performed in public, hosted our television show at school, taught horseback riding, swimming and music, and continued to educate myself on all the latest technology. What is PR? It is a performance. The ability to pitch effectively, communicate a message to people and teach the world what it is that you are offering. At 17, I had already achieved a preliminary education in public relations without even realizing it.

Of course my experience continued to flourish as I joined the departmental student council at Queen’s as the publicist and embraced my love for special event planning as the head of social for a charity fashion show. I also continued to take jobs that built upon my natural love for PR; like working promotions for a bar, in an advertising agency and basically taking any position where I could learn more about people (retail, aquatics, camps, et cetera).

Now I am at a point in my life where my head is flooded with creative ideas. Ideas that I sit back and think, “why has no one done that yet?” I continue to search for more jobs (hopefully contracts) that believe in my sprit and drive as a young professional. I search for businesses that don’t necessarily thrive on years of experience (aka. Age), but instead look for that combination of natural PR talent, hard work and determination. I guess this post was a bit of a rant, but I wanted to get you thinking…what does experience actually mean?

For many years people did PR with no degree or certificate at all. Their experience was their natural talent. Don’t let education inflation fool you. Age is just a number. PR comes from within a person; young or old.

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