When I was 23 years old, I worked at a radio station that played contemporary Christian music. It was my second of three radio jobs–bookended by a 250 watt AM country station in Corydon, Indiana and a #1 Arbitron-rated classic rock/new rock radio station in Destin/Fort Walton Beach, Florida.
While I was fully qualified to play cheesy semi-spiritual elevator music (I had an FCC license card that said so!) there was one element of that job for which I was completely unqualified. Taking listener prayer requests. At 23 years old, I was not prepared for some of the problems, worries and issues people called in to request that I pray with them about. I did the best I could, and I do think prayer is a help in itself, but I always wished I had a referral list of people more qualified than me.
Qualification (and the lack thereof) has haunted me throughout my work life. I spent a really long time in “administrative” jobs that were 90% marketing jobs at admin pay, because I was convinced that no one would pay me for the work I was actually doing because I didn’t have a degree. I was really encouraged to read Amber Naslund’s post about not being a college graduate, either, several weeks ago. Apparently, it’s a trait I share with not only Amber, but Chris Brogan, Robert Scoble and Bill Gates.
The truth is, I work in a field where your only real entry-level “qualification” is an internet connection and a blog or Facebook or Twitter account. I get a little appalled at times when I hear about companies trusting their marketing to a guy with no marketing experience who just figured out how to game Twitter and get 10,000 followers. But the fact is, I have a great, creative job at a fairly prestigious advertising agency (which is currently hiring, by the way) largely due to being incredibly bored in a previous job.
I was the marketing person at a company that didn’t really want to do marketing, despite my enthusiasm for it. So in addition to designing print ads despite having no formal design training, coming up with ideas that were going to get rejected, and disappointing agencies and advertising account execs with rejections, I taught myself HTML. My boss came in one day and said “You’re good with computers, right? Can you build me a website?” So I hit Webmonkey and other tutorial sites and got cracking.
I learned how to set up, customize, and publish content in Blogger, then PHPBB, then Nucleus, then Drupal, then WordPress. (That’s not a complete list. I’ve messed with a ridiculous number of CMSs over the years). I wrote. And wrote. And wrote and wrote and wrote some more. Moderated some online communities. Learned the basics of SEO.
In short, my qualifications are largely based on “goofing off on the internet.” What I quickly realized is, there’s “goofing off,” and there’s “self-led professional development.” Aside from being more profitable, I always found the latter more fun, really. I suppose I could have devoted my down time at work to keeping up with celebrity news, but really, how many articles about Brangelina can one person possibly find interesting?
So all that self-led professional development led to a job at an interactive agency, where I got to do some fun and interesting work for cool, big clients. That lead to getting the attention of our local Business First. Which eventually lead to where I am now.
While we’re talking about qualifications, I recently received my certification as an Inbound Marketing Professional from Inbound Marketing University. Does it really make me any more qualified than I was from doing real work for real clients? Nope. But I did learn a few things from their training materials, and the nifty certificate is a nice thing to have.
As I mentioned before, Chris and I are preparing to start training in gospel counseling. Informal counseling is sort of one of those things that I’ve been doing for a long time, qualified or not. I’m apparently singularly unable to tell people “I have no idea how to do that,” if they ask me to do something for them. I just figure out how to do it anyway.
As much as I like being mostly auto-didactic, it really will be nice to get some intensive, formal training for a change.