New Year, New Career – 9 top tips

Thinking of changing job, going freelance or even setting up on your own? The Dots’ Pip Jamieson has some top tips for anyone looking to reinvigorate their career

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I love January! Yes it’s cold and dark, Christmas is over and summer seems oh so far away, but it’s also this amazing time to hunker down and sort out all those niggling worries you had about your life the previous year. For some it’s about sorting out health, or love life but for others it’s making the new years resolution to revamp your career in 2016.

So if you’re one of those people who wants to bound out of bed every Monday, looking forward to the week ahead, then here are my top tips for reinvigorating your career in 2016 – from productivity tools, to networking, landing a new job or client … and most importantly finding the space to be creative and nail your craft. In the end life is short, it’s time to work somewhere awesome!

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Image: Yo Vo

1. Be the best you can be.
There is heaps of research showing that a certain amount of stress increases your performance. However, if you’re being over-stretched at work whether emotionally or via unrealistic deadlines or expectations, then fatigue, panic and ill health starts to kick in and performance per hour actually decreases – the graph below illustrates this perfectly.

The ideal is to operate in the peak performance zone; where you are performing at the best of your abilities. At this optimum point you’ll be in flow; fully immersed in what you’re doing, energized and enjoying what you’re working on. The trick is to work out when you start to burn out, and make changes to reduce stress. This could be through talking it over with your boss, delegating, asking for help and/or try to better manage the expectations of those around you.

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2. Make the change
Sometimes it’s just not possible to make changes to where you work. If the culture of excessive stress, politics and unrealistic expectation is engrained in the DNA of a business then it’s time to make the change; get a new job or strike out on your own!

3. Work out what you want, and go get it!
Before you accept the first alternative that comes along, take time to really question what you want to do. What do you love working on and who do you love working with? Are you a big agency type of person, or prefer working solo or in a small boutique environment?  Once you have decided that, it’s all about finding the companies that feel best for you and exploring every avenue to get your foot in the door. Apply for jobs (Creative Review and – sorry shameless plug – The Dots have a great selection), contact the company direct, go to events that you know your dream employer is attending or speaking at, and trawl your little black book to see if you know anyone at that business and ask for an introduction. Finding a new job is a job in itself, so be patient. It may not happen overnight, but if you keep at it it will happen.

4. Upskill
It’s an incredibly exciting time to be a creative in the UK. Soon machines will drive, serve customers, code, clean, do our accounts and legals, so what are we humans still good for? Creativity! What this means is that the value of creative skills will continue to rise. Simultaneously there is a major creative skills shortage across the industry – with shortage rates being 60% above the UK average, companies are struggling to find creative talent.

The key to getting ahead is to ensure that you have the rights skills that companies are crying out for – Product/UI/UX design is a perfect example – there just aren’t enough people to fill all the new roles. So if you are finding it hard to land a job, then doing a course is a great way to go. I’m a massive fan of the General Assembly and Hyper Island courses, but there are heaps more – just Google.

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Image: A Gurel kangal

5. Revamp your Portfolio
If you haven’t given your portfolio a lot of love recently, then it’s time for a spring clean! Less is more when it comes to a portfolio so get into curation mode; only include projects that reflect your personal aesthetic and clearly show the type of work you want to be doing. Getting feedback before you pitch your dream client or employer is key. It’s one of the reasons we started hosting Portfolio Masterclasses – it’s a great way to get impartial and honest feedback.

6. Start up on your own!
If you’ve always dreamed of being your own boss, there hasn’t been a better time to go freelance or start a business.

The market for freelancers is incredibly hot; partly because of the skills shortage, partly because long-term client retainers are becoming increasingly rare. Businesses are working more on a project by project basis so need to be more flexible with their workforce.  Chances are that you’ll likely earn more and work less time as a freelancer. However, you need to go into freelancing with your eyes wide open. It won’t all be smooth sailing; you’ll start wearing lots of hats ( salesperson, finance manager, account manager, producer etc.). There is also a chance that clients or a workstream will dry up suddenly, so having reserves in your bank account is important.

7. Embrace productivity tools!
There are so many amazing tools that are aimed at helping you manage your time more effectivity. That said, with new tools coming onto the market every day it’s hard to know which are worth your time adopting – here are my top picks:

  • Getting feedback on your work, InVision & Preveu
  • Emails, Slack & Google Inbox; Google Inbox is my new lovemark as it lets me “snooze” emails to appear at a later date.
  • Accounts & Expenses – Xero & Receipt bank. I particularly love the Receipt Bank app as I can simply take a photo of receipts on my phone and they automatically submit to Xero for approval.
  • Promoting yourself – SquareSpace and (of course) The Dots
  • Project Management – Trello or Workfront
  • Business Cards – it doesn’t get any better than Moo, at The Dots, we love them.

This is by no means a complete list, but definitely something that will help you better focus on what you do best – Creating!

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Image: Dragos Ionescu

8. Get out of the office
The best creative solutions aren’t always found at your computer! They often come while you’re out of the office. So if you make only one change this year then it should be to find inspiration from what’s going on outside; travel, go to events, walk, build relationships with people that inspire you and before too soon your creative juices will be flowing again!  The amazing Sir John Hegarty (co-founder of BBH and chairman of The Dots) when talking about why he hates seeing creatives wearing headphones articulates this perfectly  “”If you walk around cutting yourself off, you are eliminating influence. You are eliminating the possibility you are going to pick up stories, ideas, thoughts that are happening all around you. As a creative person, that’s all wrong.”

9. Still not sure what you want to do; why not change the world?
If you are still not sure what it is you want to do in 2016 – but desperately want to do something that has meaning – then why not apply to attend the Singularity University. Based in US, the aim is to bring together future leaders from a variety of disciplines, including creatives and designers, to work on a single brief to positively impact billions of people. It doesn’t get much better than that!

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Image: Micaela McLucas

Pip Jamieson is the Founder of The Dots. Best described as a ‘LinkedIn for creatives’, The Dots is a professional networking platform designed to help creative professionals and companies showcase work, network, collaborate and (most importantly) connect with commercial opportunities. An entrepreneur with a distinctive marmite laugh (you either love it or you hate it) Pip has spent the last 13 years immersed in the creative industries, including executive roles at MTV Australia and New Zealand. Pip lives on a houseboat with her husband in King’s Cross, London. She can be found on Twitter @pip_jamieson.

Lead image: Tiziano Summo

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