Work Experience Levels (Definition, Importance, and Tips)
Updated February 2, 2023
Whether you decide to advance your career or start a new one, looking for a job means considering your level of experience. Most job postings list their desired skills, qualifications, and experience. Understanding how companies determine experience levels can help you assess your own work history and how it relates to the job requirements. In this article, we explain levels of work experience and why they're important, describe how employers determine the job experience needed for each role, define the different levels of job experience, and provide tips to help you relate your work history to a job opening.
What are work experience levels?
Work experience levels refer to the amount of practical knowledge you gain through time working in a position. With experience, you gain more knowledge of your job functions and can perform more complex tasks with growing areas of responsibility. As you progress through the different jobs throughout your career, you can expect your performance goals to have a more direct impact on company results. Eventually, as you gain more experience in your job, you are eligible for a higher salary.
Why are levels of job experience important?
Levels of job experience are important for the following reasons because they:
Help you measure your career accomplishments. Moving through different job levels is a way to track your career advancement.
Help you gain confidence to move to the next role. Once you become comfortable carrying out the routine tasks of your current job, you are ready to take on more complex duties associated with a more senior role.
Help a company assign the right job duties. Assigning tasks to the roles with the appropriate level of relevant experience ensures that the most qualified person is working on the task.
Help a company determine the right pay level. Having jobs that align with different levels of experience helps a company assign the proper salary ranges.
How do companies decide on the level of job experience needed?
When deciding on the level of job experience needed, a company considers the following aspects of the role:
The objectives of the job: A senior-level job with objectives closely linked to an organization's overall results requires someone with more experience than a job that has less impact on overall business results.
The skills necessary to do the job effectively: Jobs with complex skills that are learned over time have a higher experience level than jobs that require minimal training.
The level of responsibility of the job: A role that involves overseeing a team usually lists previous management experience as one of the job requirements.
The type of decision-making: A more experienced senior employee typically occupies a role that has a higher level of complex decision-making.
The type of interactions within the organization. Staff with more experience would typically be in a role that involves interacting with senior management.
What are the different levels of job experience?
Companies categorize their jobs into the following groups based on the level of experience:
An entry-level job requires minimal professional experience and training. An entry-level job is a great way to become familiar with the company's culture and activities. You can expect to have a direct supervisor who assigns you work and assesses your performance. An entry-level job is also a good way to build connections with other people in the organization.
Once you have mastered the tasks of an entry-level job, you may be qualified for intermediate-level jobs. Jobs in this category require less supervision and give you exposure to a wider variety of tasks that are more complex. You can also expect your work interactions to expand to more colleagues. Your performance is also more visible to senior members of the organization, which can lead to other opportunities for advancement.
Employees in mid-level jobs can expect work that is closely aligned to achieving a company's strategic objectives. Mid-level jobs include management positions that direct a team of people. If you're in a job at this level, you can expect more interactions with senior leaders in the organization. This is also a great opportunity to build a wider network of peers outside of your company.
Senior or executive-level jobs
Jobs at the senior or executive level set a company's strategic direction. If you're in this role, you can expect to lead one of the functional areas of an organization, such as the finance, operations, or sales. Employees at the senior and executive levels have in-depth knowledge of their job functions and are more accountable for an organization's success.
If you are someone with specialized technical expertise, such as a scientist or a lawyer, you can pursue a career path based on your technical knowledge without assuming a managerial role. This means that a company bases your salary on what the external market pays for your specialty and the number of years of experience. Employees who build on their technical experience add value through the advice they provide to their organizations.
What are some ways to get more work experience?
There are several ways to gain work experience in your preferred industry:
Post-secondary co-op placement and internship programs.
Co-op placement programs allow students to earn course credits while gaining valuable work experience related to their area of study. Students can apply classroom learning to a work setting under the supervision of a manager. Co-op placements can last one term of four months in a combined work/study program, while internships can take longer. When applying for a co-op or internship position, research the company and prepare a list of questions for a potential interview. Before accepting a placement, make sure the company commits to assigning tasks that are related to your area of study.
Job shadowing gives you the chance to see the practical realities of the job to determine if it's right for you. You can ask someone in your network who works in a role that interests you to see if you can shadow them for a day. Before you start, do some research on the role and the person you may be shadowing. Being prepared with questions shows you value the opportunity and the person's time.
There are many charitable organizations that offer unpaid opportunities in a variety of different roles. Besides bringing a sense of fulfilment and purpose, volunteering is a great way to improve existing skills and develop new ones to add to your resume. You can find volunteering opportunities with an industry's professional association or with a charitable cause that you are passionate about.
Read more: What Are the Benefits of Volunteerism?
Hackathons are common in the tech industry, where companies partner with post-secondary schools to host a day-long competitive event. Hackathons give students the chance to collaborate with other like-minded peers on a project assigned by the host company. At the end of the event, each team presents their results. The biggest benefit of a hackathon is the work experience that's gained and the network of contacts that are built over a short period.
Starting your own business
Having your own business allows you to build your work experience with smaller clients. It also showcases your capabilities in other areas, such as the sales, marketing and finance. Being self-employed also requires a commitment to transitioning to a new career.
Read more: How To Write Work Experience in Your Resume
How to choose jobs that match your experience
A company categorizes job postings as either entry-level, intermediate or senior roles, with a minimum number of years of prior work experience. You can assess whether you want to apply for a job using the following criteria:
1. Consider the number of years you've spent in an industry
If you're looking to change careers or have recently graduated from school and don't have any experience, an entry-level role is a great opportunity to get you started. If you've been working in a job for two years or more, you can expand your search to intermediate-level jobs to see if the qualifications match your criteria.
2. Research the company
Research a company's organizational structure to understand their job titling method and how they define the functions of each role. This can help you assess whether your experience fits the job requirements. Connecting with someone in your network who is familiar with the company is another way to learn the expectations of the role, which can also help you determine if the job matches with your qualifications.
3. Review the skills and qualifications section
Some companies might be interested in your application if you have a skill that is in high demand. Review the qualifications section of the job posting. Consider applying if you have expertise in one of the essential skills of the job, even if your experience doesn't match the exact requirements yet.
4. Consider transferrable skills
If you've gained experience from a job in a different industry or through volunteer activities, you have likely developed a set of skills that can make you successful in other roles. These skills include:
attention to detail
You can highlight these skills in your cover letter and describe how they relate to the requirements of the job.
Now that we've explained levels or work experience and why they're important, described how employers determine the job experience needed for each role, and defined the different levels of job experience, you'll be in a better position to relate your work history to a job opening.
Explore more articles
- How to Choose the Best Employment References (With Tips)
- 15 "Thank You for Your Help" Examples (And Why It Matters)
- What Is Expository Writing? (With Different Types and Tips)
- 5 Types of Financial Report Examples (An Overview)
- What Is a Data Journalist? (Steps to Become One and Skills)
- What Is a Book of Business? (How They Work and FAQs)
- What Is a Supply Chain? (With Stages, Tips, and an Example)
- What Are Product Listing Ads? (Types, Benefits, and Tips)
- Types of Products (With Definition and List of Products)
- Understanding Business Casual vs. Smart Casual (With Tips)
- How to Create a Budget Worksheet (With Template and Example)
- E-Mail Etiquette Examples for Successful Communication