Experience is not competence

Competence is being able to do something well.

Experience is the accumulation of knowledge and know-how that, if used well, can enhance your competence.

But while experience can enhance your competence, the two are not rigidly linked, and experience and competence do not correlate well. You can keep accumulating experience—it’s like entropy—but you can’t “accumulate” competence.

Experience is not competence, and to see a real-world example of that, you just have to venture out on the road and witness the antics of drivers who supposedly have passed tests to hold a driving licence, and for most of them, have accumulated experience, yet are seemingly incapable of mastering the simple art of signalling (or even apparently understanding what it’s for).

Currently on the hunt for my next interesting job, I’m faced with the understandable approach of recruiters who look for specific skills and experience, but have a much harder job with competence, which is more difficult to assess, although ultimately more valuable. Just like experience doesn’t imply competence, a lack of experience doesn’t imply incompetence – just a lack of knowledge and, er, experience.

About Philippe Lasnier

A French- and British-educated professional software engineer with over 33 years of broad experience and a solid history of developing high-quality software for large and small companies across a range of applications and different industries; particularly experienced in C, C++; the development of middleware, internal components, core code, and APIs; solo, in a team, or as lead of small teams. Recognised for high-quality development, great attention to detail, keen analytic and investigative skills. Bilingual, English and French, just in case you were wondering. Philippe currently works for Spirent Communications, but in any case, the opinions here are his own.
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