The Oxford dictionary defines qualified as; officially recognised as a practitioner of a particular profession or activity.
A qualification is deemed, a course of study that makes someone suitable for a particular job or activity.
Despite these simple terms of reference, how do we know if and when we are actually qualified? The answer is relative and often very subjective. Before we dissect the nuances, let us be very clear that it is grossly naïve to believe or be led to believe that having a qualification denotes being qualified. A formal qualification, especially at a higher education level, is evidence to prospective clients or employers that we have taken a formal course of study and passed the minimum requirements. A discerning professional however will not simply take this as a guarantee of a person’s commitment to the subject matter or in fact that they are relevantly skilled in ways they are prepared to invest their time and money in.
How qualified someone is, is generally determined by the opinion of the person who is considering the individual for employment or professional partnership, based upon the opinion, needs and skills of the prospective employer or client they will decide whether they deem you qualified or not. As mentioned in a previous article in this series, a formal qualification from a reputable provider is valuable evidence but it is no guarantee of employment and a sustainable career. We can only achieve this through our attitude, diligence and skill, and how we are perceived by others and not rely solely on having a qualification.
In this context, it is professionally irresponsible to make statements in covering letters or resumés like ‘I am a qualified producer/engineer/DJ’ because you are in possession of a qualification. The prospective employer or client will decide whether you are qualified based on what they need and what you know and can do and equally what you don’t know and cannot do. Always remember, your attitude is what most employers are looking for. Attributes like intelligence, tenacity, a sense of humour and good manners are very attractive, and a formal qualification is a significant addition. Leave out of your interview what a genius you are on Version Y of X software or turntable. This is not impressive and Version Y will be Version Z shortly anyway.
Another vital component to consider is that we don’t have to have three decades of professional experience and a telephone directory’s worth of qualifications to be deemed qualified. In many instances a truly committed individual who is receptive and a pleasure to interact with may be deemed qualified too. I.e. The candidate is qualified to commence with an entry-level role based on their attitude and willingness to learn and know much more. The quickest way to be shown the exit door is to make out that you are qualified to someone who has far more experience than you. They will be using their own professional experience as their point of reference of what they deem qualified. Let us not forget the difference between being qualified to commence with something versus having achieved mastery of it. Or put another way, the difference between having a qualification in something versus vast experience in it.
Why on earth would we invest our time and money then in studying something if professionals will decide for themselves if we are qualified or not anyway? The principle of tertiary study is not simply to acquire a document (qualification) as evidence that you have endured a course of study, it is the journey of interaction with others and the knowledge we gain that is valuable. Formal study, if delivered by an astute provider who employs truly skilled staff, fast tracks our knowledge and skill in a way that is simply not possible if we work in isolation or rely solely on information accessed from the web. If formal study had no relevance, providers of education would not exist.
Yes, if we have an Internet connection we can quickly access information about anything and download the PDF to help us on our way. We can add to that a YouTube video tutorial and spend
time on forums. There is no doubt that we can learn a large amount in this fashion and do every day, but it will never replace the joy and experience of interaction directly with others who share similar interests and varying levels of experience. This interaction is what happens each day amongst students and staff in a great institution.
What has this got to do with being qualified? It is interaction with many other people (‘qualified’ and ‘unqualified’) that allows us to arrive at our own opinions and workflow based on our exposure to the opinions and workflows of others. Based upon our competencies at any given time throughout our lives and careers, our peers, associates, employers and clients will deem us qualified to perform the work or not. The more we know and can do, the more qualified we are!
As with every aspect of life, trust is our greatest influence when we are deciding to invest our time and money in something or someone. The more experienced someone is in something, the more we trust him or her. Knowledge, skill and credibility all influence our belief that someone is qualified or not, and often we make or need to make this decision within moments of meeting a person for the first time. The golden nugget is being referred to someone based on his or her experience of working or interacting with us. The referral serves as an endorsement that we are qualified! The reason a referral is so valuable is because people don’t wilfully place their credibility on the line and so will only refer someone to us if they are certain that we will deliver.
In conclusion: we are qualified when whomever we are interacting and working with believes we are. As the amount of people endorsing our skills grow, the easier it becomes for us to cement our career and achieve professional credibility.
In the next issue we will discuss the importance of Creativity with Entrepreneurship.
About the author:
David Maclean is a mastering engineer, educator and business executive with two decades of experience in the music industry and tertiary education sector. David is the Director of SAE Institute South Africa and is based at their campus in Cape Town. The Cape Town campus is one of 53 SAE campuses across the globe. David is known as the ‘white crocodile’ because of his unusual portfolio that includes equal-parts business, education and music production. Consequently David understands the attitudes and opinions of the industry professionals within the creative media technologies industries and the educator’s and authorities within Higher Education in South Africa and abroad.