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Rachel Ryan Headshot

Experience Is Overrated

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Event Coordinator: At least 2-5 years experience building relationships with businesses and community members.

Marketing Manager: Minimum of three years' experience in nonprofit development.

Advocacy Associate: A minimum of five years of advocacy experience.

Above are the "experience criteria" for entry- to mid-level jobs listed in the Craigslist classifieds. Experience in this job market is the golden ticket, which really sucks for the 53 percent of jobless or underemployed recent college graduates whose 4-year degrees mean nothing when compared to their minimal experience.

"Oh, you spent 4 years learning from expert professors, graduating with a degree in _____? That's great, but what experience do you have?"

A friend of mine who recently graduated from Johns Hopkins University with a degree in Economics bemoaned, "It was so hard to even land an internship at top banks because they want to see that you have experience interning at other top banks. How was I supposed to even get started?"

We have an unfortunate tendency to equate "more experience" with "better quality." Emphasis here on "more" and "better," that -- when joined together in the phrase "more is better" -- seem to epitomize the American value system.

We just simply value more. The candidate with more experience gets the job. The student who writes the lengthier essay gets a better grade. The longer the struggle, the more deserved the reward. The older, the wiser. What a stupid, backwards way to derive value and legitimacy.

Certainly there are many things the young can learn from the old. As there are things the old can learn from the young. What is more pure and unadulterated than a child's perspective, after all?

Bill Gates left Harvard at the age of 20 to form Microsoft. Fitzgerald wrote The Great Gatsby at twenty-eight. Hemingway wrote The Old Man in the Sea in 8 weeks.

An informed, worthwhile perspective or idea clearly does not ipso facto require more experience or time.

As newspapers around the world shutdown their printing presses, Internet publications like BuzzFeed and Gawker are flourishing. What do you need in order to be a candidate for employment at Gawker Media? Inexperience.

In January, Nick Denton, the Founder and Publisher of Gawker Media, wrote Inexperience Required, noting:

Newspapers and magazines -- their ranks clogged by veterans with nowhere else to go -- are not hiring. We are recruiting -- and we value raw talent and attitude over the long resume.

Good for you, Gawker. Clearly your business model is paying off. Hopefully other employers will hop on your bandwagon and take advantage of the wealth of worthwhile, unemployed, inexperienced perspectives out there.