Last Saturday, June 4th, I had the pleasure of sharing a Keynote with Marcelo Lewin at the OC Pro Media Camp. The topic was re-inventing ourselves. This blog post is the essence of what I said in that keynote.
How do we embrace change? Wholeheartedly and with gusto. Change is inevitable. In fact it may be the only true constant. Most people dislike or even fear change, but want things to “get better”.
Fundamentally there are two types of change: Continued Reinvention & Dramatic Reinvention. I’m 55 now and, as best I can count, I’m on my sixth distinct career. Many of those were a slow transition: from being a general, do anything video production company to specializing in training and education production, which lead inevitably to becoming a training design specialist. The transition from Charisma Video Productions – my first Australian company – to Charisma Digital as the first digital post house in Australia’s sixth largest market – was a significant transition, but more evolution than revolution. But the jump from the Intelligent Assistant training tools to Digital Production BuZZ was a complete re-invent.
But why re-invent? You know change and evolution is not really optional. The world, the industry just keeps changing: there are constantly new versions of software; new formats to deal with; whole new approaches. Who saw DSLR video come out of nowhere in the last two years?
Even if you have highly valuable skills right now, they may not always be valuable, or valued in the same way. We’ve seen that to a large degree with video production skills in general. It’s a hard sell to convince some people of the value our experience brings.
For example, if you worked in feature films with typically an 18 – 24 month cycle. By the time you finish one film, the workflow you used will almost certainly be out of date when you come to set up the next one.
Re-inventing isn’t optional. If you want to work you have to be perceived as being current. And whether you like it or not, who you’re perceived to be is who you are to your clients and customers.
I must also confess two personal reasons: I get bored very easily. By the time I master something, I’m usually getting bored with it. That’s not a good reason for everyone, but sometimes our careers need a refresh, or shake up, just to keep it interesting. Get out of the box!
The other personal reason, is that learning a new skill makes me feel young again. All of a sudden there’s a vast body of knowledge that I’m sure I’ll never master – ah, high school – and yet, I now have enough perspective to know that yes, bit by bit, I’ll understand. That makes me feel young, with fresh enthusiasm, and how can that be bad?
How To Reinvent
So the first question you have to ask yourself is who are you? What value do you add that no-one else adds? This is your Unique Selling Proposition. What sets you aside from all the other people in the room? Why would someone deal with you and not your competitors? I can go on more about setting your USP and brand in another post.
While doing that, find your passion. What gets you out of bed in the morning?
With that in mind, you should do an inventory of your skills and talents and go with the opportunities available to you.
You can do this whether you’re voluntarily reinventing as you should, or whether it’s being forced on you by being laid off.
At each step you’ll need new skills. Now that’s true even if you’re not reinventing yourself. If you’re not learning new skills all the time you’re falling behind. It’s that simple. While you have the advantage of experience, those graduating from Film Schools, Universities and even Community Colleges have experience with Final Cut Pro, Media Composer, After Effects and usually a 3D application (like Cinema 4D or Maya). Photoshop skills are simply assumed: grade schoolers are now doing visual effects and compositing! Middle schoolers are submitting video reports where appropriate.
You must continually learn new skills to keep up, let alone re-invent yourself. If you’re moving into a new area, you’ll need new skills for that area as well.
If you happen to be in Southern California then UCLA Extension in Hollywood offers everything from acting and animation to television writing and visual effects. Most courses at UCLA Extension and comparable schools meet for six to 12 weeks and cost a few hundred dollars. Longer, part-time certificate programs take up to two years to finish. The various Guilds also have classes and resources for free through the Guilds’ head offices.
One major beneficial trend is toward webinars – both live and on demand. Instead of needing to travel, you get the benefit of a master trainer without the geographic restrictions of physical classes. filmmakingwebinars.com and larryjordan.biz are good resources there, but manufacturers and some of the magazines also have great webinars.
You’ll get the most benefit out of any form of visual training by working along with the trainer, or immediately putting the skills into use with your own project materials. Passively watching online video or DVD rarely improves your knowledge. Actively applying what you’ve learnt within 24 hours cements it as knowledge in your brain. If you haven’t used it within 72 hours (3 days) research shows that you wasted your time watching.
Don’t forget that most software comes with tutorials. In the Final Cut Studio 2 package there are two DVDs of tutorials included free. You’ll be surprised how many productivity tips can be learnt.
One of the best ways to reinvent yourself today is with social media. Learn and use social media. Write a blog. If you don’t want to start a blog, be a guest writer on other blogs. Join Twitter, LinkedIn, Facebook and start a RSS feed. Be involved.
I fought Twitter, and tried to keep Facebook for friends, and LinkedIn for business. That didn’t work, so I now grow my network across all. I also found a way to make Twitter work in conjunction with my blog to “trick” me into doing what I wanted to do anyway.
And read news. Go to product seminars. Yes they’re sales pitches at one level, but they are also great ways to learn what software can do. Otherwise you find yourself doing things with much more effort than otherwise required. Are you sure you’re using the most efficient, automated workflow possible, or are you working too hard? If you don’t keep up you fall behind.
One thing that has always served me well are email groups. They generally have more of a community than forums where people tend to drop in. We become an extensive resource for each other, and have been valuable as I’ve gone through several reinventions.
Get out of your Comfort Zone
Note: Marcelo had some excellent suggestions for Getting out of your comfort zone:
Do something new. Produce something unlike anything you’ve done before. If you do events, try something scripted. If you only do corporate scripted work, try making a personal documentary or music video.
Experiment with some visual effects, just because you can. Do some green screen fun with your kids! Get out of your comfort zone and the experience will teach you new skills, but more importantly it will give you perspective.
Can you write? Are you waiting for that big Hollywood break? Forget it. Make your own break! Start a blog and get noticed.
Go create that TV pilot you always wanted to make, except it’s not called a webisode!
Why not try out podcasting? Go ahead. Do it. FAIL AT IT and then get up and try again and make it work.
The point is to do something out of the ordinary FOR YOU. Something beyond your comfort zone.
Improve your communication skills
Whatever direction your career takes, communication is vitally important. Speaking, writing, presentation skills are always useful. Take any opportunity to improve them.
If there is a local chapter of the Media Communication Association – International (MCA-I), join it. You should also consider joining the Digital Video Professionals Association (DVPA) for online resources.
If you’re more focused on Event Videography, the Association of Video Professionals, or the Wedding and Event Videography Association International might be more appropriate.
Don’t just join and do nothing. The people who benefit most from any industry organization are those who contribute. Yes, it is extra work but volunteer for the committee. Help organize programs, make announcements and generally get yourself known as a helpful, knowledgeable professional.
Beyond local organizations, get involved with issues that will affect the industry. Know when there are tax changes that would adversely affect your business. Know when regulation is going to get in the way or other important issue. Right now, people are concerned about shifts in frequency allocation and the reduction of bands suitable for radio microphones that could lead to increased interference. If you use radio mics, be involved.
Get involved in your local business groups.
Whatever local business groups there are in your area, you should be in at least one and be involved. You will meet other business people, be introduced to the movers and shakers in the town (a.k.a. influencers)
Both Marcelo and I have had both gradual and dramatic transitions of careers. Gradual reinventions are easier because, generally, you can jump back and forward between them. Dramatic career changes are the hardest.
For me, jumping out of the “Final Cut Pro/Digital Production BuZZ” guy role to my current role as Product Manager for the various pieces of Assisted Editing software – and co-creator of the concept and technology – to an expertise more based on my older business experience than specific pieces of technology – was a much more complex transition.
This type of transition is harder to manage because you need to create a new perception in other people’s eyes, not just your own. You need to create a new personal brand!
One of the most important things to do in this type of transition is to say “No”, to what you’re doing. No to Final Cut Pro training; no to paid speaking engagements on that topic – and you can bet that hurts. But you can’t be properly seen in a different role with a new brand, if you constantly re-inforce the old brand!
I found writing a book or two helped!
Whatever type of reinventing you’re planning, you’re going to have to upskill beyond what you should normally be doing. Skill enhancement is a daily and weekly responsibility for everyone, because:
If you’re not reinventing yourself; if you’re not learning new concepts and skills every day, you are falling behind and becoming an “out of touch old fart”.
That’s not a transition you ever want to make!