Clean Thinking

Expertise vs experience: Knowing the difference is how you further your career efficiently

Expertise is something to be applied. It is knowledge, it is context, it is wisdom. It’s diagnosis and problem-solving and flexibility.

Experience is nothing more than just… what happened.


Some people feel intimidated in situations in which they feel they need experience and don’t have it. You might have heard of that internal HP survey released in 2014-ish that revealed that women only apply to jobs when they feel they have mastered all the duties and responsibilities for a role, and men apply when they feel they have mastered about 60%. Many have speculated about what these findings might mean (“the confidence gap!!”), and I will throw my opinion into the ring: women in the survey appear to be putting more stock in experience, while men appear to leverage expertise. I don’t think confidence is an issue at all.


Using this framework, “I’ve never done that before” loses weight as a reason for why you can’t do something.

Plenty of tangential experiences, with proper application of lessons learned, may lend the necessary expertise to succeed without the specific experience under your belt.

Especially as individuals move up the ladder in an industry, having very specific experience to perform simply becomes less realistic. The specialization often required at higher levels of performance means that it is less likely that a position can be filled with someone who has done the exact same things in their past. Expertise, then, is at a premium.

I bet you have TONS of expertise. We all do… even though our experiences differ considerably.

Come on! Tell us what you're thinking.

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