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Three Effective Career Strategies for Creatives

You don't magically arrive at your dream job through some kind of Star Trek teleportation trick. A career is a journey, and to get to the end, you have to make many stops along the way. But many people are only focused on two of those stops: the one where they currently are, and the one where they want to be.

Unfortunately, that narrow focus can lead to a disconnect between the two points, and if people aren't careful, they can end up in a "You can't get there from here" scenario. Navigating a successful career path requires looking at the big picture and the little picture at the same time. Think of a runner whose current personal best in the marathon is 3 hours, 47 minutes and wants to get that time under three hours. The training program needed to achieve that time would first include running 3:30, then 3:15, and 3:05. Only then would a runner be prepared to attempt to break the three-hour barrier.

A career is no different. If you want to become a chief creative officer, it usually means first becoming a designer, then an art director, then a creative director. But the process isn't just about ticking off job titles. It requires an all-encompassing, tactical approach. These strategies will better prepare you for that long-term career navigation.

1. Think two (or three) steps ahead

A career is not a straight line from A to B. It's more like sailing, where you zig and zag to get to the finish line. When you're considering a new job opportunity, don't evaluate it solely on the job itself. You need to think about how it will position you up for the next job and the one after that. If the subsequent steps help get you closer to the ultimate goal, then it might be the right opportunity, even if it's a lateral or even a backwards move at first.

562856443, Martin Noisternig / EyeEm
562856443, Martin Noisternig / EyeEm

2. Manage up

When most people think of shifting into a management role, they concentrate on their subordinates. The reality is that managing up to superiors is just as impactful (if not more so) career-wise. You want to be the one whose advice is sought out when the higher-ups are making big decisions. Doing so requires establishing and cultivating relationships with the people above you. Think about what's most important to your boss (and to your boss's boss) and then come up with a plan that addresses those needs.

543195145, Dave and Les Jacobs
543195145, Dave and Les Jacobs

3. Be "that guy" or "that girl"

What are you known for in your workplace? This is a question that all creatives should ask themselves and then reconcile the answer with their ultimate career goal. If you want to eventually end up as the lead creative on social media, then right now you need to start establishing yourself as "the social media guy or girl." It's important to figure out your niche and own it because then you become the expert in a particular area in which people inside and outside your company turn to. This helps you stand out and can also accelerate a rise through the ranks.

168580554, caracterdesign
168580554, caracterdesign

The takeaway
Your career journey is dynamic and ever-changing. Employ a strategy and be mindful of each step. That will lead to satisfying work and help you reach your goal.

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