Meet James. A highly educated individual who for the last several years has been working in the financial sector, making close to a six figure income. For the most part, James enjoys all the segments of his life: his family, his friends, the neighbourhood he gets to live in, his work and social circles, the vehicle he drives and any other advantages that come from being a finance professional. Coming out of University he was excited about the possibility of building a career, gaining experience and eventually moving up the corporate ladder to, among other things, be the envy of everyone he knows. This was the vision of success instilled him from day one way back in high school. And he had achieved it. Just one problem. He left the office daily not feeling completely fulfilled with his career choice.
James secretly is a Creative. A closet graphic designer to be more exact. Growing up he always had an affection for illustrating, designing, creating fresh pieces of work drummed up from ideas that just came to him. Instead of pursuing a career in that profession, he was lead to believe that his future was in finance. So James ultimately sacrificed his passion for security. Although he’s grateful for the career he has and how it allows him to provide for his family and maintain the standard of living he’s always dreamed of, he lives day to day with small regrets as to what might have been.
This story about James is fictional, but the experience for many professionals is not uncommon. Many workers in the corporate world dream about being a creative professional, a passion that for whatever reason was given up on. When I speak of corporate I mean individuals that are employed in traditionally non-creative careers. At some point they gave into the fear of being a “struggling artist” and avoided pursuing a creative vocation at all costs. That’s not a completely fair statement as people choose different careers that may not be their first choice for a number of personal and professional reasons.
When that choice is made, there’s almost an expectation that the window of opportunity to be a creative will never happen again. This is one of the biggest misconceptions about carving out your creative path when attempting to scratch that creative itch that constantly gnaws at you in your current job. Creativity transcends time and space of any one physical role. Yes, you can go the route of taking a leap of faith by quitting your normal corporate job and jump into building a creative career, while eating Kraft dinner and trying to figure out how to make all the other ends meet. Or you can start being creative in your current role right now.
The true essence of making it happen is connected to ability in finding those unique areas [at work] where your creative talents can be applied.
So the next question is how? How is it possible to stay creative in a non-traditionally creative workspace? Here are a few ideas that can go a long way in reconciling your corporate work with your creative energy:
Always find time to improve your creative craft. Okay so my first point is not necessarily directly tied to the idea of bringing creativity to your daily workspace, but it’s a very important one to remember, if not thee most important. There is no creativity if there is no craft. Anyone can have aspirations about being a writer, a web designer, or illustrator, but if those same aspirations are not acted upon and translated into time spent enhancing, learning, practicing with the intent to eventually master that creative gift, there will be challenges when attempting to introduce creative strategies to the general workplace.
Identify areas of creative need at work. It’s great to want to add your creative expertise to the somewhat mundane routine of your daily job, but the true essence of making it happen is connected to ability in finding those unique areas where your creative talents can be applied. For example if you’re an aspiring writer and find that the copy for the company’s website, brochures, internal newsletters seems to be lacking in originality and freshness, offer your services to help spruce up the content and make it more appealing. Many companies are trying to create more visually aesthetic workspaces for their employees and customers that come visit. As a closet graphic designer, just as our fictional character James, you can potentially put together a proposal to design office signage or posters with the company’s mission statement and other motivating phrases, and place them throughout the building. The whole idea here is to focus on need/value and find a way to connect your creative passion to it.
Take initiative and create a proposal. As mentioned briefly in the last point, once an area of creative need has been identified, it’s not enough to just approach the power brokers in your company about an idea. You need to physically show them what this project could potentially look like. Find a way to put together a prototype of what you have in mind. This could mean having to use your own resources initially, but many companies could be willing to compensate if the proposal is approved. For example using Adobe software to create a polished image file of what the newly internal motivational posters could look like. If you want to wow them some more, have the total estimated cost of the project available when ready to present.
Don’t be afraid of taking creative risks. It’s easy to limit and even dumb down your creative energy when working in a structured, rigid, predictable environment everyday. Part of being a creative at heart is taking a risk at looking foolish to those around you. Don’t feel the need to work only within the confines of the current established workplace culture. Google changed the game when they introduced the slide in the office, but now have many other innovative creative changes to their offices globally. Challenging the status quo and bringing fresh ideas to the table will help energize your career, and possibly reinvent the workplace culture.
If you’re like James there’s still the potential to live out your dreams as a creative professional while not having to give up your current career. It will take some intuitive thinking, fresh ideas and a lot of confidence to make it happen, but as a closet creative any opportunity to get to do the thing you love is worth the risk.