“Not only do you have to pass a written test to prove you have the requisite level of knowledge, you also have to fill in a log book showing that you have driven a certain number of hours under supervision in a variety of conditions. This acts as practical proof. It supports the conclusion that you are ready to drive independently and qualify for the designation as a licensed driver.
“After all, if we’re going to trust people to drive around our streets, we want to know that they have the experience to do it independently without someone sitting beside them ready to pull the handbrake if something goes wrong.
“We want to know that every driver has not only passed the written test to prove their knowledge, but has also proven they have the experience to drive independently.”
Drawing on this example, Dr Sanders explained it’s no different when it comes to the experience component of professionalism.
“A professional must be able to prove that they not only have the knowledge, but can also operate at the required level, independently and consistently,” he said.
Competence and experience are different
Dr Sanders explained that there is a difference between experience and competence.
“Competence is a term we use in the context of vocational education,” he said. “To be deemed competent, you need to show that you can do something at the time of assessment. Your competency is assessed at a moment in time. Two days later, when everything you crammed into your head for the assessment is forgotten, you might no longer be competent.
“Professionalism requires evidence of competence – and that’s where experience comes in. A professional is competent and experienced. And the experience component proves that you’re able to perform the required functions independently and consistently, without supervision.”
In many professions, evidence of experience is captured through supervision and mentoring. Some professions have formal supervision standards that must be met. Others require a supervisor or mentor to sign off on experience.
“To be recognised as a profession, the Professional Standards Authority looks at how experience standards are codified, monitored and signed off. What does it take for the profession to agree that someone meets the requisite experience standard to practise consistently and independently?”
Dr Sanders said one of the reasons experience is such an important component of professionalism is because it “brings out the whole person”.
“This is critical. Many professions, including real estate, put a great deal of emphasis on interpersonal skills and other non-academic behaviours,” he said. “Someone might excel in the more academic and technical aspects of their chosen career, but fall short when it comes to the practical application of capabilities in the real world.”
Dr Sanders recalled an earlier time in his career when he was training to be a psychologist.
“To become an independent practising psychologist, I had to undergo two years of mandatory supervision,” he said. “That supervision didn’t mean I had someone watching over my shoulder every minute of the day. But it did mean there was someone there who I could talk to, ask questions of or discuss any issues or patients I was struggling with.
“And over the course of my internship, I realised that becoming a client practitioner psychologist wasn’t the professional role for me. It wasn’t what I wanted for my career.
“So experience is an important way of developing, and also testing, a person’s real world capabilities – and it’s these real-world capabilities that we’re looking for in the context of professional experience.
“The experience component of professionalism provides an opportunity for personal discovery. It’s as much a time to develop skills and capabilities as it is a time to make an informed decision about whether to commit to a career in the profession.”