You can compete with "years of experience" by strengthening these skills

Are you intimidated by people with “years of experience”? Like you can’t compete with them? If you are, that’s super normal. And while you should never lie and claim you have more experience than you actually do, there are still ways to be seen and heard in the workplace as a young professional.

Although you may lack years of experience, you definitely don’t lack experience altogether.

That being said, what experience do you bring to the table? How can you strengthen the skills employers value the most?

According to the 2016 Job Outlook survey conducted by the National Association of Colleges and Employers, the top three attributes employers seek include:

  1. Leadership potential

  2. The ability to work on a team

  3. Strong communication skills

If you think about it, you don’t need years of experience to excel in these areas. Someone who has twenty years of experience isn’t necessarily a better communicator than someone who has two. They might have more experience, but as I know (from eating an entire pizza), more isn’t always better.

So let’s jump in!

Leadership potential

The single skill most employers seek is leadership. As defined by Merriam-Webster, leadership is defined as the ability to lead people. Easy, right? Maybe that’s a little too vague. If you dig further, you’ll discover that employers want leaders who are honest, willing to accept their mistakes, and accountable.

How to improve: Join a young professionals association and serve on the planning committee. Volunteer on a non-profit committee; this is an effective way to gain a 360 degree view of an organization. Lead your next staff meeting to apply your skills in a short-term, low-risk environment. Offer to conduct a professional development training based on your strengths such as public speaking, event organization, or project management. There are endless opportunities to grow as a leader.

The ability to work on a team

The second most sought after skill is the ability to work in a team. Most people think they’re good teammates, but what do you actually bring to a team? What do you contribute to a team to make it better?

How to Improve: Of course my advice requires collaboration. After all, we are talking teamwork. Ask your colleagues, “Hey, in terms of our team here, what skills do you think I bring?” Text your friend, “Hi. If you had to describe how I contribute to a team, what would you say?”. If you have good friends, they’ll probably be sarcastic at first, but ultimately provide you with a solid answer. Another great way to gain an outside perspective is to take a personality, strengths, or leadership assessment online and reflect on the results. It’s one thing to guess how you add value to a team, it’s another thing to know.

Strong communication skills

And rounding out the top three, we have our best friend, communication. The ability to communicate effectively is foundational to every business. The successful transmittance of messages creates productive teams, healthy environments, and ultimately, better businesses. Employers want to fill their companies with professionals who communicate effectively - verbally and in writing.

How to improve: Practice. Seriously. It sounds cliché, but effective communication takes practice. Challenge yourself to write better emails. Formally pitch an idea to your senior colleagues and request feedback. Present data at your next staff meeting by creating and sharing an infographic or PowerPoint. Last, but not least, have conversations with leaders you admire. Pay attention to the messages they convey and how they share them. While the actual content is obviously important, nonverbals also play a huge role in successful communication. The opportunities are out there. Get after them.

Strengthen these coveted skills and you will be a competitor in no time.

You add value. Remember that.


Laura Riley is a higher education professional and freelance writer who specializes in job search and career advice. She believes a job should make you happy and is dedicated to helping people achieve that reality. She loves to inspire professional development through writing and conversation.

She graduated from Miami University with a master’s degree in student affairs in higher education after obtaining a business degree from St. Norbert College. She is a Wisconsin native and a lover of the Midwest. She enjoys rearranging furniture, people-watching at airports, and football Sundays.


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