No License Required

Today, I had the privilege of attending the Boston AdClub’s annual Edge event. It’s one of those industry events when people come to network and get inspired by speakers and panels. Overall, it was a pretty inspiring event but there were a couple of moments when the train sort of skipped the tracks around people and the License to Practice. It probably is no shock this came from a journalist on one panel, and a digital advertising agency on another.

The basic crux of the License to Practice problem is that people have this assumption that you have to spend a certain amount of time in an industry to be recognized by that profession. While I generally think this holds up in disciplines that require certification (medical, legal, architectural, veterinary, financial) it’s a figment in any other industry. You see in all the certification situations I named (and several others), if you don’t know what you’re doing, you could actually hurt people. Architects could build faulty structures, doctors could do irreparable harm, and so on.

Today, I saw a journalism exec argue stone-faced with the audience, almost indignant, basically implying that bloggers could not be “journalists”. (I’ll tell you that I’m no journalist, but other bloggers very much are.) He went on to imply that they had not received the proper training and didn’t have the proper experience. To prove his point, he made an attempt to draw all sorts of lines around what formally defines “a journalist”, it was actually quite painful to witness. While I appreciate that he and his colleagues had spent 25+ years understanding the world and explaining it us common folk, clearly the ground is shifting beneath his feet, (and the fact that his watchful eye was completely missing this obvious point sort of calls into question this time-tested journalistic prowess he was so adamant about.) This whole scene sort of led me to a little moment of clarity.

Here’s the thing, if you have to erect barriers around what you do, you are in deep trouble. If you have some romantic perception that you can’t be usurped or replaced by someone just because they haven’t travelled the same career gauntlet you have, you’re screwed. If you aren’t finding talent and inspiration from outside of your profession, your time is nigh. This goes for journalists, advertisers, managers, marketers, designers, engineers, beer brewers, ring masters, writers, photographers, sales people, politicians, and on and on.

We live in a world with ever-eroding barriers. There are smart people in the world who make fortunes out of upending your apple cart. Any of us should be so lucky to have someone from outside your industry that wants to try different things and potentially evolve a profession. If you’re good at what you do and you realize we live in an ever changing world, (I believe) you’ll ultimately adapt and survive. However, if you find yourself too busy to adapt because you’re too busy concocting arguments that someone hasn’t earned the right to eat your lunch, there’s a good chance your missing the fact that they already have.

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