Practitioners and the perpetual student syndrome

Massimo GaetaniI will define the perpetual student syndrome as the tendency for some professionals to go for new courses and specialisations every time they struggle to get new clients.  They end up within not too long with more qualification than they can possibly list in a single sentence and yet they are surprised that, despite their wealth of qualifications, they struggle to get enough work.  I will analyse in this post how and why it happens and how it can be avoided.

Having spent over 10 years marketing machinery and devices for factory automation I often noticed how many sales people tend to blame their product/service when they cannot sell them; customers are often looking for something which is different, better, cheaper, faster than what’s available.  It’s easy to justify customers’ requests and looking for another product or service than blame themselves for the lack of skill or determination in selling what’s available.

The same principle applies to some of the practitioners I have met. Many of them specialise initially in one treatment, e.g. Swedish massage, and then they follow it up by sports, deep tissue and various others; alternatively an initial hypnotherapy course is followed by NLP or coaching.  In some cases I even saw people with a fair amount of experience in physical therapies to learn talking therapies or vice versa.  This is can be defined growing their skills horizontally rather than further improve their core skill and growing vertically (e.g. being the best hypnotherapist in town who helps with weight loss).  Biggest downside of a horizontal growth is that they often need to rebrand themselves or market the new skill in a different way to what they are used to.

There is an obvious minimum level of qualification and specialisation which is necessary to enable you to work; you cannot practice unless you have a relevant and valid qualification for what you practice.  It could be the case than one extra specialisation can enable you to broaden the number of issues you can treat and, therefore, the number of clients you can see.  On the other hand the incremental benefit of the latest specialisation will be less and less in terms of ROI.

A solution to the perpetual student syndrome is to grow vertically into your profession by specializing what you offer and what you treat to your possible best rather than horizontally into new treatments which might just seem interesting but, likely, will not any easier to market neither more remunerative.

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