Handling Discrimination in the IT Workplace?
There have been numerous comments made about how it isn't correct to count 5 years of work experience between ages 14-19 as "5 years of industry experience". I don't disagree with this at all-- work done in high school, especially part time and for internships, is not equivalent to coming in every day for 8+ hours for 5 years, as an adult.
So, bearing that in mind, how are we supposed to talk about experience? I'm 20 and got my first job at 15, doing data entry and document layout for a startup, and had done some volunteer tech support for my high school before then. Since then I've done various (corporate and academic) sysadmin and programming work, and some work as a data analyst. I think all of this counts in some way as experience in the field-- even if it isn't equivalent to an adult's experience, neither am I talking about mowing lawns, flipping burgers, or fixing my grandparents' PC. This was real work for real companies, with problem solving, customer interaction, and exposure to office politics.
So far, when people ask me how many years of experience I have, I tend to say that "I've been working in IT since I was 15" (demonstrably true), rather than "I have 5 years of experience" (shaky ground). My resume makes it clear that much of this work was part time while attending school. Is that acceptable?
Please understand that I'm not trying to pull a "But, but, I'm 20 years old and even though I'm /so/ much smarter than everyone else my old fogey managers don't listen to me!" kind of thing. I've had the good fortune to work for and around some stunningly bright people (enough to know when I'm sometimes outgunned), and in some ways have learned more about what I /don't/ know that what I do. But I have worked hard and made a real effort to build up experience that will make me an attractive candidate for employment when I graduate next term. Many of my classmates don't have as much work experience as I do any way you look at it, and in this tight economy I obviously want to get that across, as well as the general notion that while I'm not exactly a seasoned professional, I have a reasonable understanding of my strengths and weaknesses in the workplace, at least enough not to make a complete ass of myself politically (and technically).
I find it offensive when people discount my experience as worthless out of hand, probably like someone with 30 years in the industry gets annoyed when a 25 year old tries to play games of one-upmanship.
How can I talk about what I view as valuable time and experience in the workplace without coming off as a cocky know-it-all?