Lynn Seah
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Diversifying Your Skill Set As A Creator

Covid-19 has undoubtedly put a spanner in the works of many rising upperclassmen and graduates. From losing internships and job offers to the rising competition and increased pressure in the job market for new graduates, the future can seem uncertain. However, if there’s one thing this pandemic has brought to light, it’s the need for agility and flexibility.

In an article, the New York Times highlighted that advertising agencies will shed 52,000 jobs in the next two years and agencies have to cut costs and make work within the means of new restrictions. According to Marcelo Pascoa, vice president of marketing for Coors, people are “being forced out of necessity to adapt faster.” As zoom calls have become the medium of choice for the past couple of months and a reduced workforce takes on heavier, more diverse workloads, there will likely be a demand for more well-rounded individuals capable of easily adapting and multitasking going forward.

While we should never spread ourselves too thin, making sure to diversify our interests and skills can help us in many ways, sometimes unexpectedly. A finance term encompassing the idea of “spreading investments around,” diversification of one’s portfolio is a management strategy that aims to help investors in the long-term through “improving returns” and “reducing volatility.” In the critical time of the post-COVID-19 job market, perhaps it’s a strategy we can apply to our professional creative portfolios as well. Implementing the mentality of taking advantage of diverse opportunities to learn professional skills outside of the ones we typically learn in our majors early on in our careers can contribute significantly to our futures.

Often, we tend to dismiss opportunities that are seemingly unrelated to our careers as irrelevant and fail to see them as useful. However, as students, there are many resources we can make use of both in and outside of college that we should grasp while we have the time and freedom to do so. It is not uncommon for us to groan at the idea of the mandatory classes we often deem ‘boring.’ Yet, simple requirement classes such as those for writing or languages can help us to sharpen our communication skills and give us an understanding of other cultures through learning the nuances of their vernacular. In the increasingly intercultural context of our industry, being able to communicate effectively with a deeper sense of empathy for our audience and colleagues could make all the difference in how successful we are in a work environment.

Photo by Campaign Creators on Unsplash

Similarly, joining clubs and societies is a great way to get our feet wet in regards to teamwork, commitment and time management. In fact, the clubs don’t just have to be career-oriented ones. Joining something we’re simply interested in or outside of our comfort zones is just as capable of improving our skills as something career-related. In recent years, interpersonal skills are constantly being ranked as valuable as professional skills by employers. The other advantage of doing something new or different is that it gives us a new experience and knowledge, which is critical in helping us to sharpen our creative flair through fresh ideas and perspectives we can apply to projects and future work. Interests outside of the realm of our occupations do more than just provide a sense of excitement: as a creative, their ability to inspire us and push us to think outside of the box is invaluable.

In the realm of jobs, a similar perspective, especially during our current situation, is extremely beneficial. Getting jobs that may not be our ‘first choice’ could be blessings in disguise. Whether that’s a position in our industry of choice that we feel we may be overqualified for or one we think we may be less suited for, taking advantage of the chance to learn the ropes of the position is always a chance to learn and grow. Developing a better understanding of how other sections within the industry work can increase our ability to identify with them and work better with them in the future. We may even unexpectedly find ourselves enjoying the work and the experience can help us conclude which position or work environment fits us best. Sometimes, even the more unlikely jobs — a job at a call centre or being a sales assistant — can be the most useful. A communications major can learn about the most effective ways of dealing with a range of personalities and a screenwriter can find inspiration for a story or future characters through memorable incidents or time spent simply observing others.

Photo by Estée Janssens on Unsplash

For those of us who are stuck indoors, even picking up a new skill like learning to cook or watching online tutorials can allow us to explore a different angle of creativity and understand how it’s applied in other fields. Starting a new sport or implementing a daily routine at home can reinforce our discipline and resilience. It’s all about the mentality we bring to every situation: looking to find an opportunity to learn something new. The beauty of creativity is its fluidity in our everyday lives and circumstances. Taking every chance to develop and pursue a variety of interests can give us the tools to become more well-rounded and indispensable to the workforce, allowing us to progressively navigate changes with better ease in the future.

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