We creatives are a transient breed: hopping from project to project, company to company, city to city, always on the hunt for that elusive next thing. It’s rare to stay in one place longer than a couple years — and usually not even that long. For a creative, transition becomes a normal part of life. Which is why we’ve been thinking about it a lot lately. Thinking, specifically, about how to transition well.
While there are plenty of circumstances when transition makes sense, creatives as a group sometimes seem a little too eager to find something new. And in their restlessness, they miss out on the rewards that come from truly investing in a place.
Having done some transitioning ourselves (and seen even more of it), we’ve put down a few of our thoughts on the subject.
For your consideration:
It’s tough to stomach, but dissatisfaction is rarely the fault of our circumstances/situations/locations/jobs, etc. If you consistently find yourself dissatisfied — company after company, city after city — there’s a good chance your dissatisfaction is coming from somewhere else: probably yourself.
Transition can act as a balm, but it’s only so long before you find yourself in the same ruts again, looking for the next opportunity to jump ship.
Instead of constantly looking for a change in job or location, remember that satisfaction comes from within. The reason most creative jobs feel stagnant after a year or two is because we’ve become stagnant. We are good enough at what we do to get things approved without too much effort, so we have little motivation to push ourselves beyond that level. And thus begins the boredom, the job searching, the daydreams about how much more interesting it would be to work at Agency X or Brand Y. Which might be true. But unless you find a way to push yourself into creating better work, boredom will creep right back in.
Instead of constantly looking for a change in job or location, remember that satisfaction comes from within.
So what we’re really saying is take a Skillshare. Sign up for a night class. Learn how to design a font. Once you become interested in growing, your job might become more interesting too.
It’s hard to get the most out of where you are if you’re always thinking about where you’d rather be. Even the worst jobs have lessons to offer the person who’s willing to find them. And oftentimes these lessons are valuable not just for your career, but for your life: patience, kindness, humility. As long as you’re here, you might as well get everything you can out of it. Like Henry James said: “Try to be one of the people on whom nothing is lost!”
Transition is not just the space between opportunities. It is an opportunity itself: to learn and grow and improve. And while there may not be a way to keep yourself in one place for too long, we believe there is something to be said for getting the most out of (and giving the most to) the place where you are right now. There are unexpected benefits for those who are willing to stick it out.
The best transitions usually happen by accident: things just come together with nobody forcing or coercing their way in. It’s counterintuitive, but the best way to find your dream job might be to not look for it at all. Focus on creating spectacular work, and the people you want to work with will find you. People who do amazing work are always more attractive than people who just want to do amazing work.
It’s easy to get caught up in the excitement of making a transition and, in the process, completely neglect your work at the place where you are right now. The quality of your work starts slipping. You care less and less about hitting deadlines. You start telling people how you really feel about them. Many times, in the process of transition, creatives leave a mess in their wake. Or, at best, they just peter out.
But there might be some truth to that lesson our parents and teachers and coaches tried to teach us when we were kids: finishing strong actually is a virtue. Not only does it keep you on good terms with your previous employer (the creative world is a small world, after all), but it also sends a message to your new employer: You see things through to the end.
It’s easy to get caught up in the excitement of making a transition and, in the process, completely neglect your work at the place where you are right now.
No matter where you’re at, though — whether you’re satisfied or dissatisfied, stable or transitioning — there are always lessons to be learned. Experiences are only a waste of time if you let them be a waste of time. Don’t overthink things. Nothing has ever gone according to plan. And don’t worry about being happy: Happiness comes along by accident, when you are busy creating amazing things.