To my great amusement and wonder, there are two hundred and one Art Vandelays on LinkedIn; evidence, if anything, of the fact that there are others out there who might from time to time pursue a whimsical and mischievous outlet for their attention deficit issues.
Apparently, I am not alone.
Many cite Vandelay Industries as their current employer, and they predominantly travail in the field of import/export, notably as it pertains to latex. Some meanwhile boast experience in Marine Biology, Architecture and, of course, Sports Management.
THE IMPORTANCE OF BEING ERNEST
Indeed there is an Art Vandelay in Montreal, my hometown, but alas I regret I cannot claim this profile as my own, however much I would like to. When the LinkedIn chips were down, I elected to stick with the name my parents gave me.
However, as I not so briefly pondered the temptation to include a brief stint at Vandelay Industries to my profile, a few disquieting thoughts crossed my mind:
The first was that there was a risk, albeit remote, that some people might take me less seriously than they already do, and I was pretty much okay with that. I mean, how low can it go?
The second realization was that in a globalizing economy where information is immediate and ubiquitous, where content is user-generated, and where wave upon wave of niche and boutique industry sectors emerge almost daily, it's becoming increasingly difficult to sort the Art Vandelays from the Real McCoys.
Just ask a guy who writes a column that no one asked for under a logo of his own creation.
We now live in a world where venture capitalists, in efforts to root out the next Zuckerberg are paying brilliant and restless young minds not to complete University degree programs, where centuries-old, household-name financial institutions can implode in an instant, where some of the world's most influential companies are relatively speaking, mere infants, and where otherwise talentless people are famous for being famous. The traditional and intuitive methods of assessing a person or entity's credibility have little or no relevance.
The volatile alchemy of innovation and infectious spirit of entrepreneurialism within an emerging industry sector is matched only by the unregulated high stakes wild-west lawlessness that prevails until it achieves commercial momentum, establishes critical mass, and gains an organizational foothold.
I've had the good fortune to bear witness via direct sightlines as the international mobility sector and now the furnished accommodation sector come of age before my eyes; precursors and flagships respectively, it turns out, of the much-heralded sharing economy.
So what are the hallmarks of a maturing industry?
COME TOGETHER RIGHT NOW
Associations, in the fledgling years play a critical role in assembling and organizing industry participants to recognize their common interests and speak with a single voice. Survival in the incubation stage often means that anyone who can fog a mirror, chew a pack of Chiclets and pay the fee can become a card carrying member.
However, as associations and the industries they serve evolve and diversify, they deliver increasingly sophisticated and legitimate value propositions such as quality assurance, knowledge transfer, research and education, political advocacy, policy development, and, ahem, 'professional development and networking' retreats in serene and erudite environs such as Orlando, Las Vegas, and New Orleans.
Early in my career in finance I recall a pervading ethos among the high-collared, pin striped and cuff-linked power brokers that volunteering in industry organizations, boards and committees was a futile pursuit best reserved for bookish nerds with way too much time and far too many cats. Executive timber did business on the golf course and in the taverns.
That was back in the day when the economy was defined by stable, mature, largely domestic industries and a major aspect of business development was to establish a fraternal relationship with a key-decision maker through common social pursuits, and push a time-proven stable of products.
Today's frenetic diversified global economy turns that logic on its head. Successfully responding to dynamic and momentous market changes, and replacing outmoded products and delivery mechanisms requires a front row seat, and insiders view on the key issues facing an emerging market. Association boards, sub-committees, regional chapters and panel discussion participation are each and all incomparable means of gaining a wide spectrum of insights and intelligence.
It's also better than pretending to lose at golf, which, to be completely honest, has never been an issue with me.
TOO LEGIT, TOO LEGIT TO QUIT
At the commercial entity and individual level, associations play a larger role than ever as certifiers and accreditors, going along way to fill the aforementioned void.
Your B.A. in sociology doesn't tell me much, but the fact that you are an accredited Underwater Basket Weaver as certified by the International Association of Underwater Basket Weavers speaks volumes. You've got street cred.
But with knowledge comes responsibility. Or should I say liability.
In other words...when you start putting letters behind your name on your business card, touting your company's affiliation with industry associations and proudly display your golden seal of quality approval on your website and front door ...people are going to tend to take what you say as gospel and with that assumption comes a heightened duty of care and a professional liability risk exposure.
Just as accomplished distance runners assert you're not a real runner until you've run the New York Marathon, can one genuinely lay claim to a professional accreditation without professional indemnity insurance backing up the promise of supreme authority?
Professional Indemnity insurance is, arguably then, the ultimate legitimizer that shows the world you've gone the distance, that you've crossed the line and can count yourself among the elite.
PAGING DR. MARTIN VAN NOSTRAND
For those true aficionados out there, three Kel Varnsens have LinkedIn profiles. The rest of you will have to look that up, or ask someone who knows.
As for me, …must run. I'm late for my meeting with H.E Pennypacker.
Paul Coleman, B.A., C.U.B.W.