Future-proofing Your Creative Career

In the past few weeks I’ve been asked by a lot of junior designers and people from the creative industry how to future-proof their career and what to do in the face of a rapidly changing world.

I’ve also pondered this question a lot for my own career trajectory and I thought it would be – perhaps – useful to share my thoughts in a post because it might resonate with some of you out there.

So without further ado, let’s dive right into it…

Future proofing your Creative Career

Cultivate a Versatile Skillset

In the past few months I’ve been interviewing with a lot of companies throughout The Netherlands, Romania, and the UK, and this made me draw a few conclusions about the needs of the market, as well as what kind of creative skills are in demand at the moment.

I was very grateful for the ability to work remotely while being able to go around, test out and search for the place and the environment which would be best fitted for me, and also where my skills would be most needed and I can contribute the most. To me, it’s very important to be able to transform and impact the space I’m working in, even if it’s in the smallest of ways. No project or company is too insignificant, and everyone can flourish with the right effort and care!

This is when I realized that my life long “philosophy” of keeping a versatile skill set is still very valid to this day, as it was decades ago. Especially if you are just starting out your career as a designer, artist, programmer, or any creative path – it’s good to keep in mind that being versatile makes you harder to replace.

Experimenting and trying out things is quite important to discovering what suits you best and where your strongest talents and abilities lay. After experiencing a few fields and types of creative work, it will be much easier to pick, choose and focus on the skills you see yourself using for your entire life as a “core” skill set – while remaining adaptible and flexible to the world around you.

For example – I know without a shadow of a doubt that my strongest suits are on the art/creative direction and visual design realm (visual concepts, storytelling, graphic design, branding, and illustration included) – as well as aesthetics – while skills like user experience, web development, video editing and animation belong to my auxiliary skills set.

Going forward in your creative career you’ll also encounter a variety of projects – so versatility can make you more proficient, and allow you to progress into a position of leadership, where you can not only guide others, but also have a broader view of the field, which helps you build actually useful things. Not to mention, that with each new creative challenge your mind is broaden and you learn cool things that you might not know otherwise – and that, in my opinion, is quite a fun bonus! That to your brain is similar to learning a new language or a new instrument, which has been documented to improve cognition and elasticity. (read more here)

Learn the Basic Principles

Through experience I’ve learned that knowing the basic principles of a field is much more important than learning a tool on the surface level. Why? Because trends, tools, and paradigms come and go – but if you posses the basic principles it’s much easier to adapt and learn a new tool or a new system if the circumstances ask for such.

For a random example: if you know the principles of video editing, it doesn’t matter if you use Final Cut, Adobe Premiere, Video Leap, or whatever comes next, because it’s the same principles, just different interfaces. Sure, some might be more complex than the others, but you’ll be able to adapt.

There’s so much talk about AI, machine learning, algorithms, and { insert buzzword here } which can be anxiety inducing, but truth is, new technologies and new ways of doing things will always emerge.

Scary? Yes! But you are your biggest asset. Once the understanding of the foundation is in place, you can build endlessly on top of that, and you can incorporate new tools in your arsenal. Even if AI tools become very good in the future, it will be important to know how to instruct it or program it, and if you don’t know what to ask it in the first place, the result won’t be that good because without grasping the domain, the ideas will not be articulated properly. Having a solid foundation and a general overview creates the ground for longevity. Which leads me to the next idea…

Learning and Unlearning are Vital Skills

Without adopting an attitude of curiosity and a desire to learn, it might be difficult to remain relevant. Even if the curiosity is directed towards things that you already know and love very well, it’s important to remain open to discovering new things within that subject. No matter how much experience I have in graphic design for a random example, there’s always something new I’m learning every day! And that makes me happy because I’m never bored, and also because it means that I’m growing as a professional, as well as a person. Sometimes it’s great to look back at your work and cringe, because it means you’ve grown and you keep growing. The point is never to try to be “the best” – that’s impossible or a waste of energy – but the point is to know that you will continue to improve regardless the situation because you are willing to learn.

Unlearning is also important because not everything picked up along the way is useful going forward. Sometimes the biggest obstacle in our own path can actually be ourselves, so never be afraid to take an inventory from time to time and ask yourself what still fits and what doesn’t. Skills we used to have in the past might no longer feel as fulfilling as they used to, but that’s totally ok because they already served their purpose.

Focus and the Ability to NOT be Distracted

In today’s world it’s becoming harder and harder to remain focused on our purpose and the direction the said purpose is going because day-in and day-out there are endless distractions luring us at every corner with the “shiny object” promise. And while a sense of wonder and adventure is always welcome for creativity and inspiration, it’s also good to keep in mind what exactly the main goal is in your profession. It’s important to invest back in your profession, and that investment can be simply 1 hour a day in terms of time.

I’m noticing more and more people (especially younger ones) who are focusing on temporary jobs, chasing numbers, and quick monetary gains, instead of focusing on something that will actually make them whole as an individual. Once again… (I feel the need to constantly explain myself to not be taken out of context) it doesn’t have to be something grandiose, but… at least the last bit fulfilling? In terms of legacy, what are you leaving behind? Does it mean anything to you? Is it something of value? (Metaphorically speaking) It can be a slice of bread, but if you made that slice of bread with your entire heart, then it means something. And perhaps it might mean something to someone else as well, but you’ll never know if you never create it in the first place.

I’ve been in the situation before where I focused on temporary solutions in the form of creative jobs which weren’t really a fit for all my skills, but before I knew it, the “temporary” turned into years… Luckily I woke up in time to realize I needed to do something if I didn’t want to continue down the road leading to a dead-end. I was saved by the dedication and years it took to nurture this path, so I wasn’t going to throw it down the drain that easily.

 

I’m happy for the lesson because I learned how to prioritize projects, and what I needed to focus more on in order to be able to get to work on something I truly loved. No experience is ever wasted when used properly.

 

And on that note, I’ll leave you with a thoughtful quote…

James Clear quote

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klangwelt
klangwelt
Hey there, I'm Andreea (aka Klangwelt)! I'm a creative director, artist, visual designer, and musician/DJ. My biggest passions are music and art, and I enjoy being immersed in culture. I run the underground art collective KlangCollective. I make music under the name Klangdefekt.