Here’s the Not-So-Secret Way to Gain an Edge in Your Career

It’s tough being in school. Whether you’re in high school or college, you’re surrounded by peers, classmates, and upperclassmen who are all studying hard to get a job and somehow make it in the real world. It’s a vicious environment of competition — whether directly or indirectly — where everyone is battling it out for higher grades (or a passing one) and piling your CV with extracurricular activities.

But beyond the straight A’s and teacher recommendations, what else can you do to gain an edge? What other ways are there of pumping your CV up? If we had to simplify the answer in one word, that word would be: experience.

It’s a weighty word, that one. Some employers don’t really look at grades as an indicator of whether you will be a good fit or not for their company. What’s more important to them are the experiences you gained in high school and college that you’ll be able to utilize on the job.

But it’s not simply a matter of getting multiple experiences in different fields that will be a telling factor in how you succeed. It’s the kind of experiences you fill your life with that matter. More importantly, it’s the people you experience it with. You want to be able to get experiences from and with experts to be able to gain even just a smidge of the tacit knowledge they possess.

Hang on, what is this tacit knowledge you’re talking about?

If you look online, there are a multitude of definitions you can find. However, we’ve broken it down to this simple one: Tacit knowledge is the intuitive knowledge and know-how that is rooted in context, experience, practice, and values. Basically, it refers to the knowledge, skills, and abilities you gain through experience that is usually difficult to put into words or communicate.

Bloomfire gives a pretty good example of this: “… think of learning how to make your grandmother’s famous recipes. Sure, she gave you the recipe card, but when you try it on your own you feel as if something is missing. After years of experience, she has learned the exact feel for the dough, or exactly how long something should be in the oven. It’s not something she can write down; she can just feel it.”

Other examples of tacit knowledge include the ability to speak a language, ride a bike, play a musical instrument, etc. If you’re looking for examples in the workplace, they include the confidence to certify a high-risk design, the ability to organize people, the skill to create an innovative structure, knowing which specific product or content to pitch to a client based on their expressed needs, and so on.

So how is this different from ‘regular knowledge’?

If by ‘regular knowledge’ you mean the knowledge you learn in school, that too has a term. Explicit knowledge is codified knowledge; the kind of knowledge you find in documents, books, and databases, and that which you can learn, memorize, and repeat. This is the kind of knowledge teachers teach you and that you can find almost anywhere.

By contrast, tacit knowledge is generally speaking, the intrinsic know-how you gain through experience. Tacit knowledge is difficult to gain because it’s so hard to communicate. However, it is ultimately more valuable than explicit knowledge.

Why? Because anyone can fill their brain with knowledge that’s available on a textbook or even on the internet. It’s the experience that turns that knowledge into highly desirable products and services that is unique and will set you head and shoulders above everyone else.

As Project Engineer puts it, “It’s easy to send a person to a training course to obtain explicit knowledge, and lots of organizations do (like your competitors). It’s the development of that knowledge into personal experience that sets companies apart and creates competitive advantage. The resulting tacit knowledge is difficult to replicate by competitors. It increases product quality, production speed, maintenance costs, or any relevant and measurable metric for success. Hence, it is worth something.”

But if it’s so hard to communicate, then how do you learn tacit knowledge?

You might be thinking, “I’m a young high school student with no experience whatsoever. How can I even begin learning or gaining tacit knowledge?”

It’s true, students don’t have as much opportunities to experience things as much as adults do, but don’t let that mindset stop you. There are many things you can do to gain even a little bit of tacit knowledge.

You can find a mentor, get an internship and job shadow, and you can even consult and discuss with experts, seeking their feedback on your work and portfolio.

Where and how do I start?

At this point, you’re probably thinking something along the lines of, “But I don’t have connections. How can I find a mentor, get an internship, etc.?”

You don’t have to have connections. You just have to find a platform that does. OWN Academy is a career and future exploration platform that partners with industry experts to help students explore different career paths and gain industry insights straight from the professionals.

The transference of tacit knowledge is one of OWN Academy’s guiding principles. We make it a point to help students who are feeling lost or unsure about their future. We train industry professionals to help teach students through mentorship programs, internship opportunities, live Q&A, online classes, offline experiences such as field trips, bootcamps, and more.

We provide you with access to our network. All you have to do is take the initiative to come with an open mind and a willingness to learn. Are you ready to gain an edge to take ownership of your future?