Wednesday, June 13, 2012

What I Wish I’d Heard At Graduation, Finale: Knowledge Shrinks, Experience Grows

So things are looking bleak for our heroes…  They have been lied to from all sides, fed false dreams and get-rich-quick schemes… They have discovered that the touchy-feely artsy-fartsy profession they thought they were entering is actually a hyper-professional, mercilessly exploitative, brutally competitive visit to the thunderdome!

Can it get any worse?  Well, here’s another seemingly terrible thing you realize after graduation… Every profession is changing very fast these days, but none faster than filmmaking. 

When people advise you to get a liberal arts education as opposed to learning specific job skills, one reason they often give is that you’ll end up getting a job that didn’t exist when you started school, but now we’ve escalated beyond that.  My first real desk job, after a few years delivering pizzas, was one that didn’t exist when I graduated college: digital video editor.  And I know a lot of people with that same experience.

If you’re foolish enough to go to film school, they’re going to teach you all about the profession…or at least how the profession was when your teachers were actually in it.  Not only is that knowledge already out of date, but even the most current information will change by the time you’re ready to earn a paycheck. 

Everything you learn, and yes, that includes every rule on this blog, has a short shelf life.  If you think of your education as progress toward the goal of total knowledge, then I’ve got terrible news for you: you’re moving backwards down that path, not forwards.  Knowledge shrinks faster than it can ever grow, because every year there’s going to be more and more new things you can’t keep up with. 

On the one hand, this is terrible news!  All that education was for naught!  All the know-how and savvy that you had planned to flaunt at job interviews becomes a liability, not an asset, once you realize that it’s all out of date…

…But this is all okay, because while time can render your knowledge obsolete, it can’t take your experience away, and that’s what you’re really selling. You don’t want to brag about what systems you’ve worked with or how much education you have, you want to say to employers, “Hire me because I’ve adapted before and I’ll adapt again, the next time everything changes.” Nothing beats that argument.

Once you realize this, your whole perspective changes for the better.  Suddenly you realize that every mistake you made, every dead end you followed, every boss you pissed off …these are your assets.  There are no real career missteps, because it all gets added to your store of experience, so it all makes you more valuable.  

Okay, folks, that’s it: Twelve rough life-lessons from me to you, in hopes that you’ll avoid some of my mistakes.  So do I leave you on this harrowing note?  Of course not!  Tomorrow, I’ll put up my final post before hiatus: a list of my twenty favorite things I discovered through this blog…


j.s. said...

Thanks for this post, Matt. I was going to try and put something similar in the comments for yesterday (though I would not have said it as well) because this is the part of the story I felt was missing. Things might seem more and more complex the deeper you get into the work, but your experience -- your repetoire of resilience and problem-solving ingenuity -- also allows you to make stronger choices each time you enter into the next level of complexity. And that's the sort of thing that geniuses like Miles Davis mean when they say things like "There are no mistakes."

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