The Power of Experience
There is a quote I found recently attributed to Soren Kierkegaard which says "life can only be understood backwards; but it must be lived forwards." In many ways, our past can easily influence our present and the people we are today. We might not consciously think about it very often, but our experiences with the world around us shape our career trajectories, too. Think about the resources, relationships, and environments which have shaped you as a person. How did you learn the skills you have today? How did you arrive in the occupation you have now? Perhaps there was an "Aha!" moment; or perhaps it was more of a steady process. Even as I am composing my thoughts for this article, I recall the voices and knowledge imparted from my past experiences regarding message and critical-thought of the issues beyond the face value. From the classroom to the real world, our lives have been ripe with learning opportunities to try and understand how life works - how we work.
What do we do with all of the knowledge and experience we have gained though? In career terms, we use it - hopefully in a way that helps others and ourselves in achieving needs through positive, nurturing ways. In order to build that career though, others will want to know you and why they should grant you a role in their lives.
In a resume, share your accomplishments through your experiences by using action statements. Action statements imply movement, direction, and understanding. Get across the message of your story by being specific, yet concise.
In a cover letter, elaborate on your experiences and give examples of ways you have applied your skills and knowledge. Do not tell a life story, but give snapshots of your best possible "you" through various moments of your life. Also, go beyond what you have already done and demonstrate how you will contribute to the organization of the future opportunity.
In an interview, come prepared to talk about your experiences to give a clear picture of who you are. An employer will try to make sure that they can trust you and provide good work together.
In networking, share your experiences, but listen and learn from others as well. Find opportunities to exchange in a mutually benefiting moment and relationship.
How does one prepare for all of these areas? Do the same thing as you would do with any learning: observe, act, synthesize, etc. Reflection is key in any form of experiential education. Be honest with yourself and others as you think about ways you can grow. In recalling a saying within one of the texts I read in graduate school: mind your ideas, for they become your thoughts; mind your thoughts, for they become your actions; mind your actions, for they become habits, mind your habits, for they become your destiny. Learn from the past so that it may guide your future...this is the power of experience.
Assistant Director/Internship Coordinator
Mount St. Mary's University (Maryland)