“A jack of all trades is a master of none, but oftentimes better than a master of one,” so the old saying goes. Contrary to what one might think when reading this phrase, though, I’ve found being a contingent worker has forced me to become not just a jack of all trades, but a master of a lot if I want to be marketable.
In my BC life — before contingent — I had a decent and reliable paycheck every two weeks. Being in the postproduction television industry, my career began cutting on film, but that was quite short-lived as editorial moved into the video arena and technology developments terminated the use of splicers and grease pencils. Because the technology was changing so fast, we couldn’t use “just” one tool — I had to learn several. Not exactly concurrently, as one technology would lose its funding and then another would take its place.
After several years of “who’s going to win over the post-production market,” the industry settled on a handful of companies producing electronic solutions for everything: audio, video, graphics, storage, delivery. BC me had “people” to figure this out, and other IT “people” to help with all the techno blah blah. I gained proficiency with my electronic tools and basically only had to deal with software upgrades.
Now I’m living in AC times: as contingent. I find myself in a world of mixed disciplines and software version madness. To be viable and marketable, I can’t just know one editorial system and a couple of design programs like Photoshop and Illustrator. I have to know multiple editorial systems, motion graphics programs, several Adobe programs and most importantly, when to use which to achieve the best results — all while creating a product at a competitive rate under a crazy deadline.
Along with “riding the tide” of project ebb and flow, I have had to learn to swim in the ocean of technological advances. It’s challenging. When you’re living AC, knowledge and skill are your only life preservers. You’re your own support “people” and if you want to stay in the game, you’ve got to stay on top of all the technological changes that happen — with each system and program you use. I don’t have to be able to take a computer apart and put it back together, but I do have to speak techno-blah-blah. All this is in addition to staying sharp with my creative and design skills. This is the world we live in.
The 21st century is a busy place. Adults consume media at an average of 12 hours 7 minutes a day, according to emarketer.com. Granted, a lot of that media is cat videos shot by a person with little to no production knowledge or design skill. But it’s no longer just movie studios and television companies in the media industry; companies of all trades have been forced to rev up their marketing engines to include media and, if they’re savvy, embrace social media platforms.
In the past, working in television meant my knowledge included understanding American and European broadcast standards for color, audio and delivery formats. Now I also need to understand the standards for social media platforms. I’ve had to take a deep breath and realize this need for continuously learning new tools and systems is the new normal.
Living AC, it’s imperative that I embrace this, as overwhelming as it may feel. It’s because of the constant change that my knowledge library is more important than ever to my clients. Being a reliable expert is a fantastic feature to have on my résumé, and I’ve found that my having all this knowledge gives my clients great relief, as they have their own ocean of change in which to swim.
Living AC means being master of a lot. It’s staying afloat on the boisterous sea of trends and technology, and learning to swim with courage. It’s mastering communication between clients and managing expectations. It’s feeling confident with your skill set and knowing you have the life preserver of knowledge to see you through the creative process to fruition.