prof. e.

Mass Communication, [multi]media, methodology and much, much more!

How to turn pro

Posted by prof e on March 15, 2009

This post continues the theme of a previous post which explored career planning in tough economic times. In this post I want to address an aspect of career planning that should start as soon as you’ve declared your major.

Have you ever heard someone say that s/he wants to turn pro? What does it take to be a professional at something…be it basketball player or TV news reporter or web designer? Besides the obvious requirements–talent, skill, and determination–professionals are different from amateurs on several levels. First, a pro is typically paid to perform his/her talent. Second, a pro is someone who performs at a higher level than amateurs.

One way to learn to perform at a higher level is what Goeff Colvin calls “deliberate practice” in his book, Talent is Overrated. According to Colvin, research shows that those who reach the top of their game get there by systematic and consistent practice of their craft, over an extended period of time.

So how does this apply to someone who wants to excel in the media industries? For starters, someone who aspires to be a  pro studies professionals and their work. You can’t learn to write powerful feature stories without reading a lot of well-written feature stories. You can’t learn to direct TV programs or movies without watching quality TV programs and films, studying the techniques used by the best in the industry. You can’t write effective advertisements without reading/watching/listening to a lot of ads created by the best advertising minds in the business. In other words, succeeding in the business of media requires exposing oneself to the very best of the best, over and over again, with a critical eye/ear to learn what works and what doesn’t. On the other hand, you need to be discriminating, in the best sense of the word…selecting the best examples and minimizing your exposure to uninspired or poorly-executed work.

I’m always amazed when I ask students who have expressed an interest in working in one of the mass media industries what they’ve been reading, watching, listening to…only to find that they don’t really spend much time with the media that they want to work in some day. But remember…if you’re going to spend time with your medium of choice, make it worth your while. Search out the masters (their work may be decades old…but that’s okay) and read, watch and listen with a critical eye. I’m sure you’ll learn a few things. Oh, and if your friends invite you over to watch a movie or TV show, remember to check your critical eye at the door…they may not appreciate all of your acquired knowledge on an evening when they just want to relax and have fun!

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3 Responses to “How to turn pro”

  1. Jon R. Peltier said

    Turning pro is a life long goal that is striving to be the best in your field. The saying the best of the best this is the best is based time. Some day that time will be yours. But like the article said you have to know what it takes to be a pro and if you don’t know what pro material look like, sound like how are you going to reproduce pro material. If your are to be the best in your field you have to know your field, and the sooner you understand your field the faster you will turn in to the pro.

  2. Kami Dahlberg said

    In order to turn pro in anything, it takes determination to be the best at that field, whether it be sports or journalism. To be a pro at something means that you have reached the top of your field and you are one of the best at what you do. In order to turn pro, one must work hard and truly love what they do. It takes perseverence to make it through to the pro level. The better you know your field and the better you are at it, the better the chances of becomming a pro.

  3. Lauren Dominick said

    I agree completely with this post. If you want to be sucessful in any type of media you have to know where your form of media started. If you are oblivious to your industry I don’t really see how you can say that this is what you want to do with your life. To me, media is a passion, not necessarily a job.

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