Isn't '10 years experience' a bit excessive?

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You know the kind. Awesome job description. You’re reading it and saying to yourself, “Oh, I’m so qualified for this. I’ve totally got this job in the bag. Might as well clear out the corner office now, cuz here I come!” and then it hits you like Mike Tyson, right under the line that says “qualifications”: 10 years experience.

Not 4 or 5; but 10?! Seriously, is that really necessary? Nothing makes my blood boil more than seeing “10 years experience” on a job description. It says three things to me. 

1.) The employer has absolutely no faith that anything  can be learned on the job – at all. Even something that only comes up, say, every 10 years. Like that time Greg, the computer guy from upstairs, streaked through the finance meeting and then quit in a blaze of swear words? Came up in year eight, and the last director handled it nicely. But if she hadn’t been there since the age of snap bracelets, she might have panicked and ruined the entire meeting. 
2.) The employer hates the young. OK, maybe that’s a bit harsh, but, here I am, I’ve already made at least one major career move in my life, changed jobs several times, am old enough to have a child that knows long division and have been in the work world long enough to win awards, get screamed at on the phone, supervise others and participate in organized office sports. But for me to have “10 years experience” in one field, I would have needed to start in homeroom. Never mind that the job description also inevitably includes buzz words like “fresh ideas,” “dynamic” and “change.” They’re looking for fresh ideas – as long as you’ve never changed careers and are at least 32 years old?
3.) The employer should be subjected to some kind of forced hazing. Like having their best suit run through the wash with stickers on it. Or having their entire workforce replaced with 12-year-olds with new braces. Or being the only one in the office not invited to lunch at that new garlic lovers’ restaurant…every day for a week.
Employers of the world, please explain yourselves. Because it seems to me that by writing “10 years experience,” you’re setting yourselves up for a lot of missed opportunities.
Donna Del Giudice, a career specialist at DePaul University‘s Career Center, says that just because a job description asks for 10 years experience, and you don’t exactly have it, doesn’t mean you shouldn’t go ahead and apply anyway.
“That’s their wish list,” she said.
If you don’t have it, she said, address it right away in your cover letter. “Point out the red flags.” Explain that while you don’t have 10 years experience, you do have a combination of experience that would still make you the right fit for the job. 
“You should look at your combination of experience,” she said. “Maybe it’s not all in one area, but it still applies. Maybe they are looking for 10 years of project management, and you have six years with other management experience that wasn’t a part of your job title.”
Depending on the screening process, you could still get screened out anyway, but it’s worth a shot, she said.


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  • I see it as total and complete age-ism propogated by the very people who rebelled against so much discrimination themselves: BABY BOOMERS!!!

    The very generation who enacted so much social change is now stubbornly resisting the next wave. Their egos get in the way of accepting that yes - the pace of life (and work, and learning, and all the structural and social adaptations that follow) has sped up exponetially. They are no longer the poster "children" of revolution and change, therefore it serves their interests to keep Gen Y under their thumb.

    Who the heck stays in one job for 10 years anymore? Someone whose skills have grown stagnant and has very little ability to adapt to not only their immediate surroundings, but the world as a whole. In otherwords, a business manager's WORST NIGHTMARE.

    If anything comes out of this unemployment "crisis", I think it'll be a total restructuring of how we define terms and concepts like "success", "skillset", "education", and "experience"... at least I hope!

  • In reply to Courtney0326:

    As a baby boomer myself, with colleagues (and children) in Gen Y whom I have *no* interest in keeping under my thumb, I find these generalizations a little harsh. Not to mention as someone who has just rounded out nine years in the same job--or the same job title anyway--and, like most of my colleagues in an environment where the job is never exactly the same from one year to the next, has been updating my skills continually and adapting fairly respectably, thanks.

    A more realistic reading of ads like that, in my opinion, is that some employers put a lot less thought into their job descriptions than they ought to. And some employers think a tough job market means they can ask for the moon and offer moldy green cheese in return. And some employers are idiots.

    All of which was as true back when I started out, when everybody spoke Latin and the woods were full of dinosaurs, as it is now.

  • In reply to rastewart:

    I think perhaps one of the saddest things about a down market is the way it seems to pit generations against one another. Job seekers just out of school are frustrated that experienced people are taking their entry-level jobs. Folks with several years experience are frustrated that they are being passed up in favor of younger job seekers who are willing to work for less pay or even no pay.

  • In reply to JulieWernau:

    Very true, Julie.

  • In reply to rastewart:

    And some employers* are going to look at someone who actually comes in with ten years' experience and think, ten years? If you're a college graduate, ten years means you must be 31 or 32 at least. Way too old. And overqualified.

    *Quite possibly some of the same employers who put "10 years' experience" in the requirements. See above: some employers are idiots.

  • I've seen many low-level positions asking for at least 2-3 years experience but that's hard to get when no one will give you the job in the first place (and when they don't count internships or coursework).

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