As a creative, knowing that you can write your own script is empowering and more than enough motivation to envision your own career path.
The lawyers, accountants and doctors of the world are funnelled into careers with a roadmap to success. Us creatives, on the other hand, enter the professional world after they obtain a qualification in something condemned for being too easy. Then, we stumble through work-life, trying to discover our niche until finally landing a job that is rewarding in ways we never could have imagined.
Nobody talks about how normal it is to not have a way forward. This ‘unspoken formula’ is not about having a direct ladder to climb, instead it is about forging our own unconventional career path. Because, to me, there’s nothing worse than feeling bound and chained to a field with no purpose and nothing to resonate with.
This year, I was approached by Sam Coom, the Founder and CEO of The Social Craft, who I have previously worked with on projects. I am now 6-months into my role as their Multimedia Designer where I assist in the design space for internal comms as well and service our clients. Here, I specialise in the design of animated, static and multiple layouts for various platforms.
The journey to this point has been multi-faceted. It started with completing a BA in Graphic Design, then being offered a 2-month long internship opportunity in my final year of varsity. It was completely unpaid, which did not phase me as I knew experience was a far more important. That new environment opened my eyes to the fast paced and agile world of an advertising agency.
I was exposed to local and international brands that I admired, tested my creativity and ability to follow branding guidelines on so many amazing projects and was offered my first job as a junior graphic designer. Eventually, I upskilled myself to a mid-level designer doing freelance work to extend my portfolio, broaden my experience, build an extensive list of contacts and grow a supportive network that guided and encouraged me to start my own registered company.
This was the scariest and most nerve-racking venture. Questions, doubts and worried thoughts crossed my mind, but I plucked up the courage to do it. Then, the pandemic hit. Salary reduction and retrenchment reared its ugly head, but I motored on and persevered to maintain my business and my employment. When I found out I was expecting my first child as a young, coloured female, running a business, staying employed and navigating Covid’s wrath threw me into survival mode.
Just as I was beginning to feel unhappy at my job and contemplated perusing my business on a full-time basis, I was approached by Sam Coom. I knew this role was right by how invigorated I felt, and the smooth, and seamless transition. Having worked together before, we share a similar work ethic, values and ideologies. So far, it has been an amazing journey and I am looking forward to learning and crafting more exciting and innovative brand stories alongside our wonderful team.
Thinking back on the ‘unspoken formula’ that I have used to build my career, there are a few things I want to share with anyone who is also on this unique journey.
5 pieces of advice every creative should live by:
Be open minded about criticism
As creatives we are exposed to different personalities, brands and challenges. I’ll never forget one of my first encounters as an intern when the client trashed my designs. That day I stumbled across a motivational video on YouTube. The key takeaway was: ‘design is subjective’. Humans are unique individuals, and we will never be able to cater to everyone’s taste. While it is always good to weigh out the pros and cons, being overly cautious can block you from unleashing your true creative potential. Realising this has helped me move on from criticism faster and overcome many hurdles.
Be business minded
It’s important to attach a business minded approach to everything you do. A business is always evolving and trying new marketing approaches to increase its reach and revenue. Look for windows of opportunity to learn new industry tricks, experiment with new mediums and styles, try out the latest trend on TikTok and ultimately, showcase your abilities.
While taking risks may seem daunting and career-threatening, it is an integral part of growth. Learning when to take the risk is important, never put all your eggs in one basket, but learn which eggs to place in the basket to unlock your vision.
Easy, right? Not so much. I remember working as an intern with no pay. Not the greatest time of my life but certainly the most rewarding. As an intern you’re asked to do the mundane and non sensical tasks that paid employees do not want to do. But you know what? Do them with the utmost pride and diligence. Show up, execute, and give it your personal spark. Trust me, employers notice. It shows how prepared and willing you are to become the greatest asset to the business.
It’s of no use showing up at your desk and having to drag yourself through your work. Try to create your own happiness. As an intern, on days when there was not much for me to do, I would tackle client brief and create designs that were outside of brand/CI specifications. I would create concept pieces and try to push the envelope for my own enjoyment.