You’re a mid-level employee at a creative agency (or any company for that matter).
You have the skills, the talent and the drive to contribute.
Lately, you feel like you’ve hit a career plateau.
What do you do? Stay and stagnate? Jump ship? Upskill? Strike out on your own?
The dilemma is real for those with 10 to 15 years of experience. A clearly defined career path with the stability it brings belongs in the past.
Agencies are becoming flatter and leaner--rejigging their model amid economic uncertainty, compounded by a pressure to perform and transform simultaneously. Meanwhile, the job market is getting polarised with highly qualified jobs versus low income gigs.
A recent Forrester report forecasts 29% of jobs will be lost to automation and AI in the coming decade. 80% of jobs will be restructured or transformed.
So how does one navigate a career at a time when technology is disrupting the very nature of work?
- Re-think what you can do.
Don’t wait for your agency to get its act together. Focus on your core strengths and what you need to learn to stay relevant. Some of the world’s best universities now offer certificate courses online -- making continuous professional learning both affordable and accessible.
While repetitive and monotonous tasks from production to template creative to media buying will be automated, new opportunities are emerging. Data is increasingly informing the creative process to deliver channel-specific solutions. Creatives need to be fluent in different platforms. We’re seeing strategists driving client relationships. New roles in technology and data science are being created to make sense of the ever growing quantum of data.
- Develop strategic and systems thinking abilities to tackle complex problems.
Go up the value chain. Help CMOs crack their toughest problems in creative ways: from ensuring purpose, product and proposition stay ahead of changing demand to collapsing the silos around the customer experience to tackling larger issues such as sustainability and declining levels of brand trust.
Innovation is a team sport. Research repeatedly shows that neuro-diverse teams are the best way to crack complexity. Breakthroughs happen when people coming from management consulting, product innovation, commercial strategy, agency planning, design and computer science intersect. If you're a strategist, stay abreast of new developments, new tools and new ways of approaching problems. And start setting the agenda.
- Hone your craft.
Technology can’t create stories that speak to our souls, invent new things or express new ideas. It doesn’t have the ability to think metaphorically, interpret meaning or understand social and cultural context. Yet it's a tool we can use to augment our work in a way that's faster and better. Already workflows are moving to productivity tools like Slack and InVision.
Be open to meshing with people with diverse thinking styles. It can challenge us and help us discover new ways of seeing the world. The old stereotypes of who is truly 'creative' don't exist anymore.
- Striking out on your own isn’t necessarily a ‘risky’ proposition.
Modern companies are settling on a model with a small group of “core” workers and a larger group of freelancers and independents. Both as a way to keep intellectual property within the company as well as to keep costs low.
However, to differentiate yourself as an independent, it’s important to find a niche or a specialty that you can uniquely deliver. The last thing you want to be is one amongst many.
- Soft skills matter.
As remote working becomes the norm, how we work will also be re-organised. Facetime will be reserved for important meetings, negotiations and sprints for teams to quickly agree and align on direction.
Those who can manage physical and remote teams will be in demand. It is hard work to bring together people with very different perspectives, cultures and ways of working. But the rewards are unconventional ideas and hybrid capabilities not easily available on the market.
Change can be scary. Yet the truth is, there are opportunities. All it takes is an adaptive mindset and a willingness to embrace the unfamiliar. Life’s too short to be a pawn in someone else’s game.