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Creatives: Too big for their boots or ready for growth?

Being successful creatively is more than just about relying on your trained skills, software knowledge, or what you do in your blogs/vlogs, experimental work, film festivals, and self generated projects. 

Having those skills are important, but they will never replace the on-the-job experience that you get from doing the run of the mill jobs and giving your foundation skills a proper workout through the challenges of a client project, being under scrutiny by the creative director and producer, and being on brief … and budget. So, how do you know you are really ready for the move to the next level?

There is a certain amount of proving yourself in a commercial environment you just have to get through regardless of your training or how good you think you are and this applies to any level in business. What you don’t see is what your experienced superiors can see – there is a massive difference between having the know-how and having the experience to know how to use it.

Many creatives who think they have outgrown a role can find themselves demanding attention from their creative director or manager and they often start fussing and refusing to do the tasks that they are hired for. This is the fast track to finding yourself locked out of the best opportunities and perhaps out the door.

The trick is in really being aware of your place in the business and really understanding if you are starting to outgrow a role or are you simply ahead of yourself. Here are some indicators that you are genuinely ready for the next opportunity:

  • Your clients and managers compliment you constantly about the great work you are doing
  • You are continually offered to do more challenging tasks than your job description calls for and you work like crazy to achieve it without letting anyone down, nor missing any deadlines
  • Your peers and managers have done a genuine 360 review of your work and they all confer that you are ready for greater opportunity
  • You are graciously taking all your briefs and delivering them without complaining, regardless of how small or menial they are – you deliver your job description with pleasure and over-deliver constantly (even if you are totally bored by it underneath)
  • You ask for opportunity to expand your skills and don’t sit back until someone hands it to you. You see the opportunities and you initiate solutions
  • You are constantly learning and improving your skills in a way that is relevant to your potential within the company (and not just what you love doing for your own personal pleasure)
  • You produce the work to expectation within the budget allocated. If you don’t know the budget then ask the producer how many hours/days you have, alternatively ask a senior artist how long the tasks should take for a senior to do it and aim to complete it in the same time yourself at the same standard. In other words you can then know that you are commercially viable as a creative
  • Your work in your folio from personal projects is of a consistent standard as the work that you are getting through with clients
  • You can handle the pressure of the bigger projects without stressing out, without letting yourself become unwell, without a physical or emotional breakdown (even momentarily), without biting everyone’s head off!
  • You can take a client’s requests for changes in your stride and no longer a personal insult – that’s how it goes when you are a professional creative, sorry
  • You know how to have clear boundaries about what you are delivering for the budget and no longer see every job as the ultimate personal folio piece to live or die by (yes, we must be aiming for creative excellence but within the scope of the project boundaries like budget, time, brief needs, relevance to the project and so on).
  • Understand that just because your peers or clients don’t tell you that you are too big for your boots doesn’t mean they don’t think it. So, be open and seek feedback about what to do next to help you grow; be keen and enthusiastic about what you do and become the one people rely on. If you are genuinely ready for the next stage I can guarantee you it will present to you – either inside your current role or from outside the business for another opportunity.

If you are pushing hard, then you are not ready. It will come easily when you have the right formula in terms of skills, experience and attitude. If you can be who you need to be, and do what you need to do – you will have the growth opportunity you are looking for.