Jerusha Rodgers (aka "The Plot Whisperer") of Rabid Badger Editing in a post prompted by a conversation about agism in publishing, which I see from the perspective of a, um...let's say "experienced" author/book doctor in my 50s and she sees from the perspective of a fresh new face in her mid-20s. Ironically, yes, she had to explain to me about "the struggle is real."
Shortly after graduating, a friend of mine posted the greatest Facebook status ever: “I would love to reenact some the of the fantasies in Fifty Shades of Grey, specifically the one where she gets a full-time job straight out of college.”
With an economy that clings to safety (read: tradition and money) and a workforce and community that strives for advancement (read: cooler, more accessible stuff), applicants whose limited practical experience is backed up by open minds and inherent expertise in the use of technology often get left out of the running. It’s the struggle forcing many Millennials to create career paths instead of follow them.
I was lucky enough to grow up in a house where I was taught the value of what my mom calls “the tangible intangibles.” Did my year backpacking the world add a highly sought after internship or years of dutiful service at a publishing house to my resume? No. It left a discouraging gap in my renter’s history and an intimate knowledge of third world medicine. But it did teach me how to solve problems under pressure and in the face of complications. It made me find ways to bond with people whom, on the face of it, I had absolutely nothing in common. It changed the way I see opportunity and the way I define advancement. It made me realize that taking a business call at 3am Malaysian time is really not the end of the world; it’s just doing your job well, and that’s worth it. All of these are traits that employers want brought to their projects, but they want them to be learned from twenty years of climbing the corporate ladder. It’s not because there’s anything inherently better about it; it’s just that that’s how it’s been done in the past.
The problem with this line of thought is that the times, they are a-changin’. We no longer live in the world we did twenty years ago, and no one is better prepared to work in the current climate of technology and connectivity than the people who grew up in it. We have a different (read: better) understanding of how things work than what people can learn in an SEO class, but there isn’t a way to put that on your resume. There’s no spot to say, “My social media experience goes back to when you needed a college email address to sign into ‘The Facebook,’ and I knew what MySpace Angles were before there was a name for them.”
Artistic fields are always a gamble, so when the going gets tough, the bosses stop taking chances. They’re less open to “Well, no, I’ve never done that, but I know that I would excel in that project because of X, Y and Z,” because to them sounds like, “Hold my beer and watch this.” It’s totally understandable that employers are nervous to stick their necks (read: wallets) out for a newcomer, but the behind-the-scenes reality is that projects suffer for it. Newcomers push boundaries, bring fresh perspectives and incorporate an understanding of the technology-based world we live in that has taken a lifetime to learn.
And we can never explain why that’s better than twenty years of corporate experience, because if you don’t already know why, you’ll never understand. You’ll just have to hold our gluten-free craft beers and watch this.
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