Jack of all trades?

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You know what, with all this talk about pre-media and the diverse channels of media that need to be addressed that fall into it’s scope, I thought we ought to look at the types of skills a ‘pre-media specialist’ should hold… This has really come about after a discussion and then one of those lovely google alerts coming in for a ‘pre-media specialist’ job in London.

Firstly lets take a quick look at what this job wanted the candidates to be able to do:

To be considered for this role, you will ideally have:
Commercial experience in professional graphics software applications including Adobe Photoshop, Adobe InDesign, Adobe Illustrator, QuarkXpress and Dreamweaver
Sound working knowledge of HTML and CSS
Data processing experience, preferably gained in MS Excel or Access
A demonstrable track record of working to client briefs and interpreting requirements.
Knowledge of variable data mark-up for digital print and knowledge of digital workflow in a print or online production environment
Any experience gained in XMPie, DirectSmile or Yours Truly designer VDP extensions is highly desirable, but not strictly essential as full training can be provided.

My god they should have thrown in Video Editing in Final Cut Pro just for good measure!… I’ve just exaggerated the keywords there for them to jump out at you, this is a pretty good job spec and to be honest if anyone could demonstrate commercial experience in just Photoshop they would probably be in for a 25k a year job, but these guys seem to want you to be a jack of all trades here, and to top that their owning willing to pay between 20-30k a year… Now hold on, I know we’re living in desperate times, but to me there is 4 distinct jobs outlined in this spec…. An Artworker capable of page markup and image composition. A web designer building pages in HTML and CSS. A data processing/VDP person and last but not least a workflow guy. Now, I’ve been around for some 20 years in this trade and met some pretty clever people, but none of them have that sort of diversity and if they did know a little of each, they were by no means a specialist.

So are we now expecting too much for our money?

http://www.sillydaddy.net

Cartoon by Joe Chiapetta http://www.sillydaddy.net

I know so many companies that struggle to get good Quark, Indesign & Photoshop operators and the good ones they do get are paid over 35k, the to add Illustrator to that, good Illustrator people are worth their weight in gold. As the cartoon displays the skills gap that UPS identified in Illinois, we tend to hire just on the basis that the potential employee writes it on their CV.

(thanks to Joe Chiappetta for allowing the use of this cartoon picture, check out all his great work at http://www.sillydaddy.net)

But if you were a brand owner and knew your pre-media company employed pre-media specialists who, well, specialized in everything rather than any one of the given disciplines of pre-media, how confident would you be in the specialist services you were getting?

In fact each of the Adobe application have a certified expert program were a user can take an exam based on one of the applications (in the UK they are provided through a series of authorized training centers) if you pass you are provided a certificate to say you are a certified expert in that version of the application…. Have you ever even asked your pre-media supplier if they have any certified experts employed and if so what versions of the applications they are experts in…. Or in fact if you are an employee have you asked your company to sponsor you to become an expert? I mean it would benefit them as much as it benefits your own career, and lastly as an employer do you encourage and support your staff to become experts?

On the whole most of you will answer no to the above, yet if we are to really and truly benchmark the skills and salaries of the people we employ we need to start encouraging accreditation in the applications we employ them to use, unfortunately for me, years of experience doesn’t mean the person is actually any good in the applications, and I can tell you from experience I’ve employed some youngsters in my time that are worth 10 times their peers.

While I understand that there is a need to employ people with multiple skills, companies are constantly running the risk employing people who aren’t particularly skilled in anything, I mean, I could say that I am fluent in CorelDRAW Graphics Suite, yet I only really know 5% of what Corel is capable of doing and that’s where the problem is when a person states they can use a graphic application.

So where does this leave our modern pre-media companies who need to deliver services across multiple disciplines and deliver those services at rates that are competitive against the other pre-media companies in the market. Well better pre-employment screening can only help you employ the right people, there’s plenty of great people out there, I hope you can find them and have a good performance rating program to assist the weaker ones in becoming a true asset to the company.

Author: Gary George

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This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial 2.0 UK: England & Wales License.

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3 Responses to “Jack of all trades?”

  1. Tweets that mention Jack of all trades? « Tunicca Pre-Media Blog -- Topsy.com Says:

    […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Sean Runchman, Tunicca Ltd. Tunicca Ltd said: RT @tweetmeme Jack of all trades? « Tunicca Pre-Media Blog http://bit.ly/8ZuyGj […]

  2. cindydyer Says:

    Hi Gary! Just read the above post and I am in complete agreement with you. The same is expected here in the U.S. I work for myself, but occasionally I’ll peruse the jobs on WashingtonPost.com and I am appalled at what is expected for an annual salary of 35-40K! A friend of mine applied for a job this past summer and his skills fit the job EXACTLY. He has programming experience, mapping experience, etc., etc. They singled it down to just a handful of candidates, and he was included in the final selection. The interview went well. They were amazed at what a perfect fit he was to this highly skill-specific job. He didn’t get it. Someone who had the same skill sets and filled the requirements of the job got it. And why this guy over my friend? This guy told them he could do websites, too (not part of the job description). I guess they figured, “and he makes coffee, too???” So my friend didn’t get the job. It’s a jungle out there, for sure. Thanks for an insightful post.

    • tele2002 Says:

      Thanks Cindy, it seems that companies aren’t that interested in knowing how well you can actually do all the things you put on your CV, I have interviewed people in the past who have shown examples of work that they claimed they did at their previous company that was actually work that I had produced myself, pretty embarrassing for them but had they been interviewed by someone else in our company they would have probably got the job, I’m not sure if it is right to chance your arm with your CV, but like you say it’s a jungle out there and only the fittest will survive, the first step is getting your foot in the door!

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