Creative careers advice

It’s review time at work, and I’ve been wondering about how people think about their careers, especially in the creative world.

To me, creativity is powered by an urge to change things, or to challenge those around us.  I am suspicious of commercialised arts projects (I can think of a few here in Lebanon), and respect creative work motivated by a more challenging primary purpose than making money: to stimulate new thinking, make a positive social change, or simply express a personal perspective.  But I am not troubled by creativity making money.  Entrepreneurs and inventors have done it for centuries, and we have a lot to thank them for.  Creativity is ingenuity and guile, as well as purity and innovation.

Time for some real careers advice

My job isn’t a particularly creative one.  Sometimes I want to break out of constricting hierarchies, 9-to-5ism and my overloaded inbox.  So I thought I’d look for some careers advice.  The last time I did this was at secondary school, in a musty careers library with a crusty Biology teacher whose credentials were dubious at best.  She gave me an aptitude test that said I could be a psychologist, a stockbroker, or a waste technician (binman, to you and me).  Helpful.

So thank heavens for Larry Smith, Professor of Economics at the University of Waterloo in Canada, whose TED-X talk is much more illuminating.

Larry Smith: Why you will fail to have a great career

He says there is no such thing as a ‘good’ career; only ‘great’ or ‘mediocre’.  The mediocre ones, he says, consist of ‘bloodsucking, soul-destroying, high workload, high stress’ jobs.  This scary thought inspired an illustration and typographical experiment:

My setting of Larry Smith’s warning: most jobs are rubbish.

Then, thanks to David Mead’s blog, I came across this illuminating TEDx talk, which inspired the pencil drawings in the illustration:

Jenny Blake: Careers in the age of the app

Follow your passion and get app’d up

So the professionals advise us to follow our passions, and not expect a linear progression up to some undefined pinnacle at the top of the career ladder.  For now,  my job is not the bloodsucking, soul-destroying kind, thank goodness.  And it pays the bills, giving me the luxury of enjoying creative extra-curricular projects, precisely because I don’t get paid for them.

But I hope to use my annual review to identify the ‘killer apps’ I need to be more creative at work, and make the next move towards a more creative lifestyle.  Wish me luck.

I'm putting this threat out to pasture.
The threat of a mediocre job, out to pasture.

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