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Secrets of success: how to get ahead in a creative career (part 2)

Matilda Duffecy

Remember: nobody dies
One thing I’ve learned to appreciate is the difference between taking business seriously and taking it personally. Commitment – whether to a business, to a project or to a pitch – is crucial, but it shouldn’t mean letting business setbacks affect your personal wellbeing. I’ve seen grown adults lose their cool spectacularly because they don't think other people are taking a particular situation as seriously as them. The fact that you can’t see your own personal stress written all over someone else’s face doesn't mean they’re not committed to the problem at hand. As a 19-year-old Boris Becker said, having given his all to win 15 consecutive matches at Wimbledon but falling short in the 16th: “I lost a tennis match. Nobody died.”
Ben Bush, Partner and Head of Strategy

Have a side hustle
Whatever industry or job you’re aiming to be a part of, side projects and hobbies benefit you personally and professionally. Draw, blog, play five-a-side. And, also, be yourself. When I’m looking for someone to join the team, I obviously want them to be competent at the role, but most importantly of all – are they a nice person? Are they genuine and honest? Will they fit in with the team? We can often work on skills, but I want to know who you are.
Rose Stewart, Design Director

Assemble your A-team
Surround yourself with great people who you can look up to and learn from. The way they think, the way they write, where their ideas come from, their aesthetic, their foibles. Seek out those who can really guide you and help shape the person you are and the person you want to be. Find a mentor. Find people more accomplished than you. Disregard anyone who has no time for you or disparages you or your work. I’m fortunate enough to have worked with some great people who have made me a better designer, writer and creative. I make sure to actively surround myself with brilliant people – and that’s why, after 15 years, I’m still working here.
David Alexander, Creative Director, Head of Studio

Know that it’s never too late to change
Although I went to university and trained to be a designer, I’m much happier in my client service role. I was made redundant, but I chose to see it as a positive thing – it meant something better was waiting for me. But, I was one of the lucky ones, as I was around people who supported and facilitated that transition. But, at the end of the day, you get out of your career whatever you put in.
Mayuri Premdjee, Account Director

Embrace discomfort
I find that the most testing experiences always result in the greatest learning. You need to know that you won’t get anywhere at a canter. Learning is a journey – you’re excited, then there’s a mixture of confusion and frustration, followed by a breakthrough. You have to be prepared to put yourself through the discomfort of learning. Embrace it, then work to break through to the other side. If you’re not willing to put yourself through that, you’re not going to be able to reach top speed.
Chris Beavis, Partner, BD and Digital

Be fair
Never be afraid to admit you have made a mistake; a problem shared is definitely a problem halved. Others will appreciate your honesty and maturity and help you to find a solution. Also, my philosophy in life is to always treat people with grace, kindness and fairness. You never know what’s going on in the background of other people’s lives – a little kindness goes a long way and, in turn, people may pass on that kindness.
Sharon Booth, Partner, Finance

Follow your interests
Study something that piques your interest after high school. Don’t choose a course based purely on career prospects. A career will come when you excel in a field you love, and people see your passion. And when you work in something that interests you, it will barely feel like work.
Nicholas Caruana, Technical Account Director

Be a sponge
Become a jack of all trades. I think it’s good to know a little bit about everything, even if you’re not an expert. It’s too easy to just stick to what you know and, for me, there’s nothing more frustrating as a designer than having a killer idea but not the skills to bring it to life. A good range of skills can put you ahead of the competition – of which there is a lot!
Ross Sweetmore, Senior Designer

And, from me?

Make connections
Sure, networking can help get your CV to the top of pile, but I’m more interested in the connections you make on a personal level. Making sure people feel heard, respected and welcome means you create a safe space for collaboration where ideas can flourish. When you tap into that sweet spot, creating – whether brainstorming ideas or delivering content – is a unique kind of fun. And you can’t beat a bit of fun.

(ICYMI: part one of this two-part post.)