Career advice – a new hope?

Speaking to peers, career advice, historically seems to be universally bad.

So many people I meet say they were told reasons why they couldn’t do things. Things they aspired too, but didn’t fit the mold of what was seen to be good for them.

Ignore what you are told. Do what you love. There’s a bit more below…

I was told (by parents, schools and adults) that it was great that I was creative, but… that unless I was super-amazing / world best at art or writing, I would never make a credible living as an author or artist or creative person. I remember being told this and switching to business studies A-level, because it would be ‘useful’ and might be able to earn a living that way. It was safer. I still learned and grew and had fun, but, it wasn’t really what I enjoyed doing.

I enjoyed doing english literature, but really I wanted to do language. I enjoyed doing geography, right up to the point where it wasn’t about geology, but was about stats and research. Psychology was fully booked, but I remember asking about that.

HmmmmMmm. I’ve learned perseverance and a better understanding of my values and interests since.

At school, I was also told I was good at writing stories, drawing and had a great imagination (and an irreverent sense of humour…)  It’s in my reports, I’ve seen them.

So looking back, skills were recognised, but was that spark or talent harnessed? I would argue not yes at secondary school but not beyond that point. Academic performance was measured and valued over spark, talent, interest and creativity. 

So let’s not dwell on all that. The big question is now, working in an amazing environment of an internal agency with designers, writers and developers, Why was I not really encouraged to look at a creative sector career earlier?

Where was that visit to an advertising or design agency or meeting with an author? Why didn’t we have any training on innovation? Or design thinking? Why was graphic design about designing a kitchen  (the board game I did in pre-GCSE about Zombies was amazing – why was there not an option to do a creative project as a design project?  Why was computing just centered around learning Boolean logic and Pascal?

The thing that strikes me now is that perhaps creative work just wasn’t that strong where I lived. Hampshire is ‘corporate land’ – the people making money in those days were working in big tech (IBM – where I ended up) or Financial services and probably land & property was doing ok, but estate agents are not always well thought of.

It was only when I worked in big corporate land and did some time in IT and Service management (oh yes, exiting times) that I got to meet developers, engineers, designers, copywriters, product owners, innovators and those creative types that live in big companies and do those things for customers, that I realised where I needed to be.  

I guess someone did teach me to network and find my own way, but why didn’t I meet that crowd earlier? Where was that creative director to direct my career?

So what is career advice like now? How can I find out? Where could I help to make it better for the next generation? I’m going to make it my mission to find out this week. My cousin recently graduated in film, so I will ask him. He has employment and a future. He didn’t do business studies. Yay! 🙂

One thing we’re all agreed on from speaking to colleagues and friends in creative areas is this, and I have heard this story many times in the last year. The message is simple enough. Early in your career, don’t do anything you are not passionate about for very long.

If you are clear where you are going and it opens a door, gets you a badge, do it for eighteen months, but don’t do something with the hope of it changing if it’s not working for you.  And please – don’t major in Business Studies if you are really a designer or copywriter at heart. 

So many of the best designers I know found their passion mid degree and dropped out, changed course or just went to find meaningful work. Do this. Change what you do early in your career, when financials matter less, when consequences are smaller. Before mortgages and children occur. 

You can still change career when you are older, but a fundamental career change is more challenging later on. However, it’s not impossible with the support of a redundancy package.

So, in a nutshell… find a way to follow your dreams. Don’t settle for ‘what you should do’ as a career. Find another way and be true to what you really enjoy.

It’s out there if you want it and it will find you.