A talented, enthusiastic young woman who was recently hired to work in social media admitted last week that it’s sometimes difficult to speak up in meetings because everyone else has so much experience.

I asked how much experience the other people had, “20 years” she answered.

“Is that 20 years of increasing responsibility and doing increasingly complex work or 20 years of doing the same thing every year?”

Her expression showed that this a revelation; she suddenly realised that not all experience is equal. We talked more about the difference between experience and expertise; she was hired for her expertise and she’s developing so fast it’s crazy to feel intimidated because her time in the job is relatively short.

I’m not alone in thinking that years in the job shouldn’t be the only thing that’s valued, Daniel Gulati at HBR sees inexperience as an advantage. I don’t think it’s always an advantage – but the fresh perspective is worth listening to, and we should look at expertise as well as experience.

By the time we ended our discussion I could see her perspective had shifted. She no longer sees herself as lacking experience in meetings, but as bringing her expertise and a fresh perspective to the discussion. I guarantee her contributions are more valuable because of this change in perspective.

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