Three to Five Years of Experience


As a member of the millennial generation, I think I can speak for most of us who faced the dreaded “3-5 years of applicable experience” requirement on job applications… There you are, in your senior year of college, wielding a plethora of knowledge about your soon-to-be field, and the time has finally come to apply for the job you have dreamed about for years. But wait… what do you mean I have to have 3-5 years of applicable experience? Did I somehow manage to completely miss that course in the required curriculum? How could an employer ask for something so seemingly impossible?

But wait, was it really…impossible?

In my freshman year at Clemson, I remember receiving some of the best advice that I never wanted to hear from my dad.

“Son, there is a lot more to learn than what you will glean out of that text book. You need to start now finding work that relates to your field.”

So, that’s exactly what I set out to do. Towards the end of fall semester, with nothing but General Education courses under my belt, I approached the head of the Clemson Experimental Forest and asked for part-time work. As I had expected, I was met with a simple dismissal of “Come back after Christmas and we will see what we have available.” My first job with the University would end up requiring extreme persistence and skillful convincing to obtain.

Through my time with the Clemson Experimental Forest, I met several key contacts of the Forest Industry while building real life, on-the-ground experience. Ultimately, my efforts paid off with continued employment each school year, followed by summer internships across the state in various sectors of the forest products supply chain.

Since graduating and starting my career in the Forest Products Industry, I have found that success comes with the same formula as before, persistence and skillful convincing! However, I have been able to significantly enhance this formula through taking on a “Yes Man” mentality. Just like the 2008 Jim Carrey comedy, I have pushed myself to saying “Yes” to all opportunities that have presented themselves in my career. Don’t get me wrong! I am no different than anyone else that experiences the constant plaguing question of “Where in the world will I ever find the time?” But trust me, through intense time management (and a lot of coffee) the work always seems to get done.

Taking on a “Yes Man” mentality feels like pure insanity at first, but it aids greatly in learning all the different aspects of your industry. I specifically recall that the first several years of my career were spent learning the ins and outs of the “hands-on dirty work”. However, that investment of time and willingness to learn is what ultimately afforded me the opportunity of Fiber Procurement Manager of a paper mill at the age of 25. Through gaining a deep understanding of both the up and down stream flows of our industries supply chain, I am now capable of making decisions that can positively impact the company while not negatively impacting my colleagues or those that execute daily on the ground.

Climbing any company ladder takes time, dedication, and a willingness to learn. If you look hard enough, your daily life presents you with opportunities to showcase your capabilities. (Most of the time these opportunities come in the form of work that none of your colleagues care to take on!) These opportunities are also your chance to expand on those capabilities and build upon your experiences. Staying agile and accepting of these opportunities will ultimately lead to personal and professional growth. Haven’t yet taken on the “Yes Man” mentality? No problem! The good news is that you can start today. Whether you are still in school, starting your career, or several years into the industry, it is never too late to capitalize on what the day has to offer.

As Emerging Leaders, it is our time to pick up the rope and carry on the legacy of those who built this industry. It may start with 3-5 years of experience, but it will grow with our willingness to seize the opportunities of today.