Job Interview: Candidate #1=18 Years Old, Baseball Cap, Laptop And Candidate #2=MIT Graduate

June 21, 2007 at 8:38 pm 1 comment

One of my predicted 7 business trends of the future a few days back was the following:

“Equalizing of workers with graduate degrees and those that don’t in the corporate world as online personal branding becomes more and more important.”

With the massive interconnectivity of the internet,  ease of information access and dissemination, and a wide variety of productive online applications available, it is becoming easier and easier everyday for an “amateur” to, well, become a “pro”.

One of the reasons I believe that this will happen, if it is not already, is the sheer number of articles and blog postings related to DIY (do-it-yourself) culture today.  The first article I came across that really made an impact was in the Mar/Apr edition of Print magazine.  Written by Virginia Postrel, “Your Design Here” discusses some of the things amateur designers may be able to teach the pros.  While she concludes the article stating that “little of today’s DIY design is a substitute for the real challenges of professional practice”and that it is the “equivalent of home-style cooking, not a four-star restaurant meal”, Postrel does concede a few things in the article.

  1. “Designers no longer have a monopoly on design. These days the tools are cheaper, more powerful, and easy to find online. They’re also more likely to have skill embedded in them, whether that means the embroidery stitches programmed into a sewing machine or the standard layouts of a blog template. As a result, DIY work doesn’t have to look crude, and it can take on just about any style”.
  2. “the stylistic paradox of today’s do-it-yourself: homemade products that strive to look store-bought, made possible by tools that let amateurs recombine predesigned modules to produce professional, or semi-professional, results“.
  3. “With enough experience and enjoyment, playing with design tools can turn amateurs into professionals“.

What these statements tell us is that everyday more and more tools are available in design, with enough skill programmed into them, to allow a novice to do professional level work with a little bit of tinkering.  To me, it almost seems that graphic design jobs could be a step away from automation if computers were given the ability to process creative thought!  But anyways, the article also discusses how professionals with formal design education under their belts are more than a little upset with this “rise of the amateur” phenomenon.  Do their persistent cries for the formation of certification and licensing bodies indicate something?  That perhaps the educated and the uneducated are beginning to find themselves on a more level playing field?  If so, the ability to disseminate amateur works on the Web in addition to developing the personality behind the the said work allows the amateur as much opportunity as the educated professional!

What about this article posted by The Luddite, Tony Long of Wired magazine this morning: entitled “Internet Smackdown: The Amateur vs. the Professional“, Long’s article centers around the ideas put forth by Web 2.0 critic Andrew Keen in his controversial book “The Cult of the Amateur: How Today’s Internet Is Killing Our Culture“.  The central idea being that the “rise of the amateur” and the resulting devaluation of the professional is actually a cultural and economic Pandora’s Box.  Tony Long states that the books main idea is the internet and “its all-inclusive nature and easy access, opens the door to amateurism-as-authority while at the same time devaluing professional currency”.  Here again, we have a 200-and-change page book grieving the closing of the divide between amateur and professional.  I take this as further evidence to illustrate my own point.  I haven’t read it, but it must be a fairly passionate argument for the rights of the professional, being that long and all.  Why the worry?

Tony Long takes the Keen’s concepts into the realm of his own profession: journalism.  Once again, he starts off with a passionate defense for the educated writer.  Here’s some interesting Long quotes taken from this morning’s article:

  1. “Whatever problems facing the business today, I’ve never doubted the ability of the professional journalist to 1.) get the story and 2.) get it right, even if that means fixing some mistakes now and then. I would not trust an amateur journalist to do either”.
  2. “The amateur is not equipped to attack a story in the same way. The amateur lacks both the tradecraft (locating sources, cultivating them, chasing down the facts, evaluating them, writing clearly and concisely, etc.) and the professional detachment that keeps a reporter at arm’s length from the subject. More prosaically, the amateur is also unlikely to devote the time needed to developing a complicated story, since, by definition, an amateur is unpaid, or at least poorly paid”.
  3. “Bloggers who scour the web looking for evidence to buttress their agendas, then post their findings as some kind of news analysis, aren’t reporters, either. They’re bloggers. No shame in that. Just don’t confuse blogging with journalism“.

Obviously a Keen supporter, and that’s justified as everyone is entitled to his or her opinion.  But why so many heated justifications online and in the press for the professionals?  Are they that worried about the gap closing? I would have to say that the trend indicates a resounding YES.

But I mean, it’s got to difficult to deal with all the work done to achieve an expensive education and a reasonably successful career being outdone by some amateur upstart with a computer, creative mind, and knowledge of a few good online apps.  Definitely tough. 


Entry filed under: Blogging, Design, Personal Branding, Thoughts.

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1 Comment Add your own

  • 1. shwibbs  |  June 22, 2007 at 7:28 am

    I agree with many of your points, but don’t overlook that some are more gifted that others and even with the right resources, networking is the real key to success.


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