Calling all Creatives: Find Your Path in the Evolving Design Industry

I have always had a special place in my heart for creatives and the unique career challenges they face: from articulating their value and being paid their worth.

I have partnered with AIGA Colorado and TARRA to facilitate this three part workshop series. You can attend one or all three. These workshops will be limited to a small group to have discussions. Each participant will have the opportunity to find their unique dream career path and goals.

The first workshop is on May 5th. We’ll be talking about external factors like future design trends and DIY’ers. And we’ll get into some internal factors like building your network and skills. I am excited to facilitate this conversations to learn more from the creative professionals participating and share tools to create a clear path forward.

Learn more about these events at

Repost: Fast Company’s “8 smart ways to keep networking while you’re stuck at home”

Well, a global pandemic came in like a wrecking ball disrupting virtually every routine. Now that we’re settling into the new normal, make sure you are finding strong ways to strengthen and build your network. Use this time to stay connected and get connected.

Fast Company posted this great article with eight ways to keep networking. I’m definitely spending the time to check in with people with a quick text or engage with great communities via video.

How have you stayed connected while staying at home?

Always be preparing for your Performance Review

You know that time of the year when you are responsible for coming up a with a list of everything you have done this past year to exceed expectations in your role and contribute to the success of the company? Instead of staring a blank piece of paper for hours on end, track it throughout the year.

I would keep a folder in my email called “Go You.” Anytime a client, team member, or peer would give me props or a meaningful thank you, I’d add that email to the folder. Anytime I would finish a big project; I’d shoot myself a note with some highlights and add that to the folder. If there was a qualitative or quantitative thing I did, yup, it went in the folder.

When it was time for my performance review, instead of staring at a blank sheet trying to remember the top three things I did in the last year, I had a whole folder to remind me. By preparing throughout the year with this “Go You,” folder, I was also more prepared to articulate the value that I contributed successfully negotiating raises and promotions.

And, one other side effect of having this folder. If you’re having one of those crummy days when you are feeling lost in your role, review these highlights to remind yourself of your value and accomplishments at work.

Your Elevator Pitch should be about the Value you Bring

“I’m new to town and looking for opportunities.”  Eek!  That opening line is bound to shut some new connections down before they even get to know you. 

“I have 20 years of experience designing viewbooks for private schools and want to grow my network in the private school community.” This elevator pitch is a stronger opening. This statement shows the value that you provide, the challenges you can help others solve, and your reason for launching into your elevator pitch. 

The goal with an elevator pitch is to share enough about yourself briefly that people will think about you.  They will think about you if they hear that someone is hiring.  They will think of you if someone is talking about a project they need to complete at work.  They will think of you if they are talking to someone who does something similar to you. 

If you’re at a networking event, it’s apparent that you have a reason to be there.  People won’t be shocked to learn that you are looking for new clients, trying to connect more with influencers, or adding to your tribe of people like you.  And, they are at the networking event for a reason too.  Don’t be shy about why you are there and also learn why others are there.

After you have shared a strong opening line, get ready to share more with be prepared to answer some of these questions:

1 – Why did you come to this event tonight?  Here is a great chance to offer some more personal details.  “I moved to Denver a few months ago.  I have a strong network in my old city and want to build a strong network here.”  Maybe you are looking to build your network because you have clients that use you for branding work and now they need help with Powerpoint Design (which you don’t do), so you need a group of referrals. 

2 – How do you find your clients?

3 – What’s your process for solving <XX> challenge?

4 – When have you been most proud of work you’ve done?

These are authentic conversations that will help you build a solid network of people that will refer work to you, collaborate with you on future projects, or may even hire you. 

2019 Goals Check-in

In several conversations I’ve had lately; people have commented on my intentional living. I love how my husband and I are flexible with the opportunities of what we can do in life now and open to when unique projects come to us. Because of this flexibility, I sometimes don’t give enough credit to the structure that allows us all this freedom. We actively work on Goal-Setting and schedule Check-Ins for our goals.

On January 1, my husband and I were sitting in a hotel room talking about the future. What are our hopes and dreams? What do we want our lives to look like at key milestones? We have one big goal we’re working towards together that we plan to achieve in the next 7-9 years. If we were a company, that would be our Mission. And each year, we identify annual Goals (corporate speak: our Strategies) with Actions underneath each of them.

If you have created 2019 Goals; we’re halfway through the year. Dust off those goals and check in.
1 – Celebrate where you are! Which key milestones did you hit?
2 – Update your Strategies and Actions to ensure you hit your 2019 Goals. What’s working that you should do more of this year? What didn’t work that you should stop doing now? Are there any new Strategies or Actions that will get you to achieve your goals?
3 – Are there any new Goals that you want to add to focus on during the second half of the year?

Here’s a straightforward layout that I use for our Mission/Goals/Actions.
What’s your Mission? Your Mission is a Long Range Goal or something you want to achieve in the next 5/10/20 years. What do you want life to look like then (the more specific, the better)? Your Mission can be reaching particular levels of Work Life Blend, hitting monetary income or net worth levels.

What are your 2019 Goals? These should be strategies that will get you closer to your Mission. I have four buckets for my 2019 Goals: My Personal Goals, My Professional Goals, Our Joint (my husband and my) Personal Goals, Our Joint Professional Goals. Here are some of the type of goals:
– An Income Total
– A Net Worth Increase
– A Professional Lifestyle (around the kinds of projects we say yes to)
– A Personal Lifestyle (about what our Work-Life Blend looks like)
– Healthy Habits
– Developing New Skills

What are clear Actions you can take to hit those goals? Break down your goals with some milestones and actions. For our Income Goal, we divided the total by 6 with a milestone every two months. For our Net Worth Goal (which is linked to our income goal), we identified some significant actions of paying down debts, selling some assets, and reducing expenses. One of my health goals has a list of the 52 weeks in the year, so I can make a quick note of what I do each week. If you are working on creating new habits, I recommend using a tracker. I like the Best Self Habit Roadmap and you can use code BGSDSelf for a 15% discount.

Finally, embrace all the freedom that structure gives you! Be intentional in how you want to achieve your goals. It becomes real and achievable when you write it down and have a plan to get there.

Adding Value Every Day

If you would ever thank one of my favorite Creative Directors for his contributions, he would always reply, “Just adding value.” And it was true. Every big idea or quick insight was adding incredible value to the project and our clients. He certainly taught me the concept of adding value at every opportunity. That quip seemed like an off-handed casual comment, but it was one of the best lessons I learned.

I challenge you to think about every project or team you are on. Take a minute to write down all the ways you add value to that team. Celebrate those!!

Now, take another minute to write down what the team needs to perform at a higher level. Are some of those ideas you can take on?

Here are some ways to add value to teams/projects:
– Share your notes from team meetings. Call out the highlights and decisions at the top and the action items at the bottom. (Organization)
– Thank someone for their specific contributions. (Gratitude)
– Share an article or podcast that has relevant information your project or a challenge the team is facing. (Inspiration)
Refocus the conversation around the decision at hand. (Efficiency)

How to Transition from Doing to Managing

The toughest transition I see with new leaders is to move from doing to managing. All those things you were celebrated and rewarded for in your last role aren’t part of this new role. You need to master some new skills to be successful in this role. Here are three tips to help with this transition.

1 – Let go of your old identity. So often, I’ll ask new leaders to tell me about themselves, and it’s easy for them to go back to their old identity. “I was the top salesperson in my region.” This role requires a new self-image, “I coach my team to be high performers based on my experience and their skills.” Let go of who you were as an individual contributor because your new role is accountable for the success of a larger goal.

2 – Identify the traits your team needs in a manager. Think of the best managers you had; what were their best qualities? Did they give you autonomy? Would they listen to your challenges without jumping in to solve everything quickly? Now think about your team members; when have you seen them at their best and what role did their manager play? When I lead a very diverse team, some were motivated by public recognition while others preferred a personal email, letter, or conversation. Some wanted me to tell them the answer while others wanted to talk through situations. Remember your new role is to make the team succeed so adapt to their needs.

3 – Find sources of support and inspiration. Know that you are not in this alone. The weight of the world shouldn’t be on your shoulders. The new role is a fantastic opportunity to learn new skills and take on new tasks. Find ways you can keep getting better by learning from books, podcasts, and mentors. Find someone (of course, I’d recommend a Leadership Coach like me) to support you by talking through sticky situations, defining goals, and being your accountability partner.

Finally, remember your role is not to do your team’s job. As tempting as it may be to jump in and ghostwrite a tough email for them or fix some corrupt code; figure out how you can support your team to do their job. It may take longer, and it may get to a point when you realize a team member should be a different role and separate from the company. Resist the urge and don’t do the work; manage the work.

Five People You Need in Your Network

There are five types of people you should have in your network.  These are people who will teach, connect, and support you.  Take a look at your current network and see if you have at least three people of each type in your network.  If not, be intentional to round out your network. Also, remember strong networking is about both giving and benefiting (read this blog for more on that).

1 – Buyer/Client/Future Boss.  Whether you’re a freelancer, entrepreneur, or full-time employee.  Who are people that will contribute to your future income?  Is there someone rising the ranks at your current company – meet up with them, gain advice, add value to their current/future roles (through your network, experience, or skills).  Hitch your wagon to that star.  If you’re a freelancer, who is the hiring manager/freelance resource manager that is building out project teams at your dream agency? 

2 – Connectors.  Some people are magnets for awesome people.  Every time you talk to them, they say, “Do you know XXXX?  They are doing something that you would be interested in.”  These connectors know the growing businesses, the hiring managers, and thought leaders to follow.  Listen to them closely because their recommendations for a book, blog, or connection can be a catalyst in your career.  They are also great people to email and share an awesome project you just completed or share your goals for what’s next for you. 

3 – Mentors & Mentees.  Hopefully you have met some great people in your career that are a few steps ahead of you.  Be a sponge around these people: learn from their mistakes, understand the risks they have taken, and get inspired to push yourself.  The best mentors love helping those who are coming up behind them and reliving their professional journey.  Which means, you should also be mentoring those coming up behind you.  Do you have mentees that you are sharing your experiences and sage advice with?

4 – High-Five/SOS Tribe.  This tribe gets you.  You may be in the same or similar roles, work for the same company.  These are people that you can call and say, “This crazy specific huge accomplishment just happened!” and it will feel like they have jumped through the phone to give you a high five.  They get what it means to get an SOW fully executed or have a crucial conversation with a client, and they are there to support you in a big way.  These may also be people that you call for advice on a problem or a new way of doing something.  “This client just called and ask for a project-based quote vs. an hourly quote.  Have you done that before?  How do you respond?”  This tribe is a great source of advice and knowledge.

5 – Diverse Thinkers.  Is everyone in your network like you or do you have some people that are completely different from you?  Currently, I’m working on a project with someone who is so far on the opposite spectrum of leadership theories.  We talked for 45 minutes yesterday about theories I’ve never seen in practice.  Sometimes it feels like we’re on different planets, but I always take something away from our conversations and know that those nuggets will make me a better leadership coach. 

High-five if you have a well rounded network.  Keep growing.  Keep learning.  And keep paying it forward.

How much Freedom (or FU) Money do you have Saved?

Here you are, wanting to take a risk…
…start a business
…switch from full-time to freelance/gig employment
…travel without employment
…go back to school
…prioritize family over work
…or take a new career path.

The best thing you can do for yourself today is to start saving up that Freedom Money. A pot of money where you aren’t required to have a job or a specific salary before you can take a risk. Or the pot of money where you can (not literally) say FU to a job or a situation that isn’t fulfilling you.

Start today!!
1 – Trim your small expenses: dining out, buying new clothes, or those no-brainer Target purchases. Once you start reducing these nonessential expenses, you’ll see how much you don’t need them. When I was working full-time, it wasn’t uncommon for me to spend $200/month on clothes. Current me is shaking my head and finger at younger me. Now I own mostly classic pieces with a few fun pieces, and I rarely buy new clothes.

2 – Tackle the big expenses: rent, car lease, etc. Can you move to a cheaper apartment? Maybe there is one in your building that you can transfer to quickly. Or plan to find something less expensive at the end of your lease. Years ago, I wanted a two bedroom apartment to have a guest room for visitors. Instead, I found a one bedroom in a building that had a guest suite you could rent for $99/night. The one bedroom was $400/month cheaper than the two bedrooms. So even if I rented the guest suite for four nights per month, I was still ahead. In the year I lived there, I only rented the guest suite for two nights. Can you live with a cheaper car or no car at all? There are so many sharing apps that exist (car2go, Turo, B-Cycle Bikes, Bird scooters) or take Lyft or public transportation. Remember to factor in all the expenses associated with cars (loan payment, insurance, gas, maybe parking).

3 – Eliminate debt: credit card debt, car loans, student loans. There are two strategies, and both are good. You can pay off the smallest debts first; this strategy gives you a quicker sense of accomplishment as you can make more final payments sooner. The other strategy is to pay off the debts with the highest interest first; this will reduce the overall amount that you will pay, but you may not make a final payment quickly.

4 – Track everything and celebrate milestones: Saving isn’t exciting, and a big goal of $20k may take a bit to get to, so identify some milestones and rewards. Maybe at $1k, you get a nice dinner or bottle of wine, perhaps $5k is a clothing splurge.

Either way, anything you can save now will give you more freedom in your future. It will also reduce pressure to maintain a specific salary for your lifestyle and reduce financial anxiety.

Leadership Isn’t a Title; It’s a Responsibility

Management is a title.  There’s a list of tasks that go along with a manager role.  But not all managers are leaders.  And there are some leaders that aren’t managers.  Leadership is not a title; it’s a responsibility. 

You can lead people, processes, or projects.  Even if you don’t have the title, stretch your leadership skills.  What do you want or expect from your leaders?  How can you provide those expectations to your teams and projects?  How can you be the person that the team looks to for guidance, decision-making, and organization?  There are many ways to provide value and leadership to teams.  Find your space and make it so!