Whether you’re a designer or someone in any creative field, these are a few bite-sized pieces of advice to help you level up on your career.
Find Your North Star
Explore everything you’re interested in, then double down on the few things that you’re good at and enjoy doing (that combination is key). If money is an issue, don’t pretend it isn’t. Work on whatever you can (no job is too small for anyone) to make enough money so you don’t have to worry about meeting your basic needs. Then get back to exploring your interests. Don’t give up!
Follow Your Role Models
It’s important to take a look at what “making it” looks like (whatever that means to you). If you don’t know where to start, Twitter can be a great place for this. There are a myriad of curated lists of people to follow. Find (google?) them and discover new talent. Then, ruthlessly edit your feed until you’re properly inspired.
Engage In Conversation
Social media can often feel like screaming into a vacuum, no matter how ‘influential’ you are. Likes, retweets, and follows are impersonal and dissatisfying. Your role models will likely prefer a good conversation. If they don’t, edit your feed.
Talk to the people you admire and remind them that you’re listening. Hit that reply button and respectfully gift them your opinion. It’s more valuable than you think.
A trick I’ve tried in the past is making sure I give at least once every time I take. Meaning, every time you open Twitter to browse the feed, make sure you at least reply to one person in your feed or write a new tweet altogether. If it doesn’t feel appropriate, edit your feed.
Another trick: ask questions. 280 characters shouted into a void leaves little room for nuance. I bet your role models will have more to say if asked politely. If they don’t, edit your feed.
Become Their Peer
Following folks you admire can create an asymmetric dynamic between “influencers” and “followers.” The truth is, we’re all similar, we’re just exposed to different things at different times.
For influencers: treat a follower as an equal and invite them to play in your league. It’s tempting to preserve mystique, but I promise you that’s it’s more rewarding to create a team you can trust.
For followers: all you need is to put yourself in front of the experiences that shaped your influencers to be the way they are. Work hard, be patient, and be grateful. The rest will come with time.
De-throne Your Heroes
As you get to know the folks you admire, find their flaws and learn how they define who they are. You’ll learn that they’re fallible just like you. Watch out for thinking they’re not, it can be tempting.
The process of de-throning a hero and turning them into a “well-accomplished peer” can be incredibly empowering and will result in more authentic relationships with them, which they should appreciate. If they don’t, edit your feed.
Share Your Work
Don’t be afraid of/attached to polish. Share what you have, get feedback, then delete it later if you’d like. But share deeply and share often.
People want to know about your thought process, which will be superficial and uninteresting at first. Share it anyway and learn why. Then do it again, slightly better. Rinse and repeat.
This is the “done is better than perfect” stage. Just put it out there, swallow the embarrassment, and learn from the feedback. It is the only way to get better.
Don’t Be Fragile
Negative feedback is valuable feedback. Put yourself in front of situations that are offensive, reflect, then revisit them with thicker skin.
Remember, you’re not good yet. The path to getting there starts with entertaining the idea that you fucked up, then finding ways to fuck up less often as you go. As you embark on that path, an insult can be much more valuable than silence or, god forbid, a compliment.
An insult is a strong reaction. A challenge. A mini boss fight. From there you can learn more about why someone reacted that way and what you’d like to do about it. It’s rich with possibilities and can be very exciting, if your ego will let you.
It’s easier to nod than to shake your head. Be thankful for the courage it took for another peer to express dissent and use that to your advantage to become better at your craft.
Always give more than you take. Solve more problems than you create. In the end, you’ll look back and be reminded that leaving a dent in the universe happens in billions of tiny little ways. Play your part and enable others to leave their tiny little dents too.
Illustrations by Adrien Ghenassia.