Expanding Growth
Making Connections
Passion vs. Talent
Too Young/Too Old

If you’ve been in the industry as long as I have, you have heard those phrases for years. And every time I hear them, I laugh. Based on that theory, your contribution to the industry is about an HOUR! The hour when you’re not considered young, and you’re not considered old.

When you’re just starting out or “too young,” the assumption is that since you have no experience, you have nothing to contribute. WRONG! When you arrive at the backend of your career with decades of experience, the assumption is your ideas and talents are antiquated; therefore, you have nothing of value to contribute. WRONG!

When you break from this mindset and embrace the two extreme groups, Young and Old, you suddenly realize the enormous value these two groups bring to a project, collaboration, or company. When you purposely combine and blend these groups into a shared collaborative working environment, you will see positive results almost immediately. That is, if everyone is willing to listen and learn from others, hiring a young person and putting him in a group of older people who are just trying to get them to think and act like them is a waste. Or bring in an experienced person into a group of younger people, and then they negate all that experience as “the old days” is also a waste.

Let’s stop right here. I need to clarify my point. I’m not saying all young folk are ready for the “bigs,” and I’m also not saying all older folks have gathered valuable insights throughout their careers. Both groups must be culled and vetted like any employee or team member. My point is don’t exclude based on age, and don’t include and disregard their value based on age.

The value of youth

The first thing all “rising professionals” bring with them is enthusiasm. They are like a young thoroughbred colt bouncing around in the starting gate, anxious for gates to open so they can run full speed around the track in front of all the other horses. In horse racing, as in our careers, there is much more to it than just being set free.

But, their enthusiasm is a necessary component to develop a blended team. That enthusiasm reminds us why we got into this industry and how lucky we are to have been doing something we love for years.

These “rising professionals” also bring an intuitive perspective on how new audiences relate to “story or song” and how they interact with new tech, also known as social media. These professionals have fresh insight into how to frame an old story. You know, the ones Shakespeare wrote a thousand years ago but are still the basis of most stories today.

Each generation brings a new look to an old concept. Remember when a rock concert was based on the band standing on stage with white lights and playing instruments through amps on the stage. Then came designer lights, smoke, pyro, staging props, hydraulic risers, flying sound systems, etc. Who first pioneered those ideas? Not the recording engineers in white lab coats. (If you’re unsure what I’m referencing, check out any documentary on the Beatles recording sessions in the 60s). It was the day’s youth with a new vision and unbridled enthusiasm that changed concerts forever.

Speaking of new tech, that’s another plus on their side. Since they have grown up in the  technological digital world, they are accustomed to adapting to all the new apps and tools thrown into the industries every day. Even if they don’t have a deep understanding of what the “tool” can be used for, they usually can work their way through the user interface much faster than the “traditional” staff member.

Value of the Ages

Now, when I say old, I mean “senior members” of the industry. I’m speaking about folks who have been at it for decades. Those who have seen and inspired change in production methods to the introduction of new tools and systems.

At one time, they were the new kids on the block, full of enthusiasm and energy to conquer the world, and many of them actually did. Along the way, they have also learned many valuable lessons that can only be learned over time, like patience, adapting to change, listening rather than talking, real-world collaboration, change isn’t always the better way, don’t dismiss what you don’t understand, etc.

Time is undoubtedly an excellent teacher if you’re willing to learn. Many times, those lessons show up as setbacks or complete washouts. But if you’re willing to learn from them, they will amplify your career more than moderate success. Remembering how you recovered from those setbacks is the key to learning to “play well with others” and keeping your career-relevant as the clock keeps ticking.

For most of us, our careers, regardless of the actual gig or our position on that gig, were about learning on two paths.

Path one is the actual operation of a system or systems. Whether it’s a recording console, a broadcast switcher, or a lighting board, it was always learning what knobs or menus to touch when needed.

Path two is the human interaction or “collaboration” needed on a project from concept to completion. Learning to build on someone else’s idea and collaborate rather than dictate. 

Both paths are critical, and both are constantly undergoing revisions over time.

If you stop learning how to communicate with the new leaders in the industry and assume they don’t have enough experience to lead you, you are done. Just because their approach to a project differs from how it’s been done in the past doesn’t mean it’s wrong or destined to fail. That also doesn’t mean it’s going to succeed.

The fact that your experiences allow you to recognize and troubleshoot problems before the project crashes is precisely what makes your contribution so valuable. You have seen so much in your career that you’ll know exactly when to step in and how to right the ship when it starts to go off the rails (sorry for the mixed metaphor).

That knowledge can only be acquired by having experienced hundreds of missteps and learning how to recover without complete collapse. Over the years, your roll on projects may have changed, but your contribution to the project is still just as valuable.

The bottom line is this: age should never be a factor. Old, young, and everyone in between have unique value to contribute if we collectively let them.

So, if the front panel of your board has gone from knobs to touch screen to voice activation, ask the young person behind you to explain where the fake knob you’re looking for is hidden. And if you know where all the fake knobs live but have no idea how to use them to create a masterpiece, ask the older person in the room how they can always create such an amazing final product.

If we learn to find value in each other, old and young, our collective projects will only improve, and our careers will continue to expand and grow.

Fast track your entertainment production career