1 Do it yourself
There’s nothing like a spot of self-improvement to sharpen your creative cutting edge. Whether it’s through YouTube videos, teaching aids, textbooks, apps or web courses, there is a wide range of means for you to do and learn. Pick something that you know nothing about but hold an interest in – for example: music production, film making, photography or even mobile app development – and make an inroad into it.
2 Invest in yourself
Training courses and qualifications aren’t just about putting letters after your name – and they are well worth any financial outlay. If you want to learn about screen printing techniques, you’ll find courses at local colleges. The same goes for web design and photography, and even coding and scripting skills. These courses can be expensive, but they certainly pay for themselves if you land a promotion or new job off the back of one.
3 Find a mentor
Whether you work in a large creative agency or a small nimble studio, finding someone who has skills that you lack and learning from them is free, simple and utterly invaluable. So you want to be a better manager or get your head around the basics of interaction design? Find the folks in your company who know this already and pick their brains.
4 Bring a hobby into work
What home-time interests could be of use in a professional capacity? Perhaps you’re a keen photographer or bedroom music producer – such skills normally require a freelancer and a budget. Your bosses will certainly think upon you in a new light if you can get a job done and save them money, so have a think about what extra-curricular skills you have and how they could aid your creative career.
5 Challenge yourself
We don’t mean climb Mount Everest or ride to Paris on a unicycle. Instead, set yourself a goal and break this down into achievable steps. For example, you might want to produce more 3D output, or design a complete typeface. Think about what tools you’ll need first, get to grips with them and then equip yourself with the necessary theory to tackle such a job. Start small and build up.
6 Make use of work resources
Try something completely unrelated to your day job while at your desk. You might have to do so in your own time, or on a lunch break, but while the rest of the office unwinds by the foosball table you can try your hand at 3D illustration or video-editing using the tools and resources your work environment has. Just make sure you get permission and don’t ruin a precious project in doing so.
7 Ask your friends
You have friends who aren’t in the creative industry right? Maybe one or two of them have skills that would make for a good crossover, and they could teach you the basics. For example, data analysis, presentation or marketing skills are often in short supply in creative studios, while your friends might take such skills for granted. Get them to give you the inside track and coach you in the basics.
One way to widen your skillset without paying for it is to volunteer for a community project. Directgov, for example, hosts many UK-based voluntary projects, from working with animals to helping the police and judiciary. Many of these schemes involve training that will broaden your skillset in ways that a creative career simply won’t ever touch.
9 Pitch for work
If you feel like the rest of your studio or agency is overlooking your skills, then why not volunteer for a particular project that you know is out of your comfort zone. Sure, you might get laughed out of the room, but not only will your enthusiasm and energy be noted, you might actually get a chance to prove your worth; whether it be through illustrating a new logo or art-directing a photoshoot. You don’t get if you don’t ask.
10 Follow the fun
There’s no point spending hours of your personal time cluing up on a particular skill if it doesn’t interest you. So if you are going to multitask, ensure you do so in subjects or skills that genuinely spark your curiosity – you’ll find them easier to learn, and more importantly you’ll take more pleasure from deploying them in a professional capacity.
All illustrations by Tom Jay