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Learning on the job

April 30, 2013

When I was a junior doctor I worked an average of 104 hours a week. Continually seeing patients and practicing medicine. And that’s what it was. Practice. Practice. Practice. The hours were awful, but it did mean I got to see a lot of cases and got lots of experience in a relatively short period of time so that I was able to make judgement calls on appropriate treatment for individuals. I also had to know when I was out of my depth and call for more senior help. There is no shame in that – it is considered a requisite that a doctor knows their limitations and asks for help. The more you see and discuss, the more you learn and your limitations lessen. And anaesthetics was the absolute dogs bollocks for training – one to one with a more senior colleague as I already talked about.

In contrast it seems to me that many organsiations do not use this ‘apprenticeship’ approach to training, but rely on the new incumbent to find their own way without the benefit of a wiser, more experienced pair of hands to call on easily and at any time. There may be a number of online training modules to click though. Perhaps even a live training session. But that’s it really. Their boss will quite often have no actual experience of the job that the new incumbent is doing, because he or she has been promoted from elsewhere in the business and is busy learning their own new role. Or even if they know their role in temrs of being able to ‘manage’ the team (what IS that exactly?), they don’t neccessarily have the requisite years under the belt or grey hairs on the head to have seen and done enough to advise on the actual job itself.

Organsisations often seem to value youth and ambition over experience and cynicism. I can’t think why. Well, youth are often cheaper. But they are nowhere near as valuable. Unfortunately organisations don’t ever have a space on personal development forms to say “I just want to keep doing what I’m doing. Hopefully getting better and better, but to be honest I’m pretty fucking good already.”

I have blogged before about us old dogs . A bit of dirt under the fingernails from scrabbling around to make things work, or repairing stuff after a cock up, means we know how to take safe short cuts and know when we are careering towards a cliff edge. We can pass all this experience on to those less well travelled so that they learn to drive their own paths whilst we sit in the passenger seat and give them the navigational options. And always have our hand hovering over the handbrake if need be. It allows them to develop in a safe environment and gives the business the benefit of our expertise coupled with their enthusiasm. What’s not to love?

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2 Responses to “Learning on the job”

  1. Kate Morgan Says:

    Mentoring is supposed to work like this – not your direct boss but an older wiser member of the organisation. As for learning an actual job – from olders and wisers – in factories it used to be called “sitting next to Nelly” – basically one to one on the job training. It gradually disappeared. You would be a good mentor I think and would enjoy it. Xx


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