Workplace Mastery: Are Americans Spending Enough Time at One Job?

Many employees enter an entry level job with the intention of leaving the minute something better comes along and with an unrealistic idea of how long it will take for them to advance in their field. In the book “This is Your Brain on Music,” Daniel Levitin writes:

… ten thousand hours of practice is required to achieve the level of mastery associated with being a world-class expert — in anything. In study after study, of composers, basketball players, fiction writers, ice skaters, concert pianists, chess players, master criminals, and what have you, this number comes up again and again. Ten thousand hours is the equivalent to roughly three hours per day, or twenty hours per week, of practice over ten years. Of course, this doesn’t address why some people don’t seem to get anywhere when they practice, and why some people get more out of their practice sessions than others. But no one has yet found a case in which true world-class expertise was accomplished in less time. It seems that it takes the brain this long to assimilate all that it needs to know to achieve true mastery.

Entry-level employees and interns should be encouraged to develop mastery of their job before expecting to advance to something that holds more responsibility, commitment, and skill. An employee working 40 hour work days could master their job in 5 years, according to Levitin’s calculations. In these five years, as the employee learns the ropes they might be promoted or change companies, but they will be on a learning continuum that allows them to master every step before moving on.

Too many interns enter their internships with an unrealistic timeframe of how long it will take them to be in their dream position. Employees who set out to master their skill instead of set out to make money as fast as they can, not only have a more realistic perception of how the world works, but arguably gain more from their life experiences.


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