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The Endless Pursuit for …?


As a creative advances through their career, does ‘progress’ have to mean management, or is there another way, ponders Edelman France creative director Lauren Haberfield

The Endless Pursuit for …?

For better or worse, we’re an industry that lives in the future. We’re always looking ahead, we can’t connect to the now (no matter how many free meditation classes we’re offered) and as creatives we blindly stumble from one brief to the next, from one agency to the next, from one job title to the next, without really asking ourselves where the hell we’re trying to get to. 

Professional meandering comes built in with the trade. Having the word ‘creative’ in your job title implies you’re constantly living in the clouds, and not letting something as left-brained as ‘purpose’ or ‘direction’ muddy your creative waters. We tend to drift to where the wind blows next, letting others guide our paths or take advantage of our lack of interest in business or self-development. 

Which is fine.. until it’s not. Until you find yourself looking at the work you do or the people you work for or the clients you sell your soul for and think.. what is this for? 

Have you ever been in a yearly review with two creatives? No matter at what level, it’s the blind leading the blind as they join forces to tackle the impossible HR task that has been placed before them. Objectives? KPIS? Targets? These are seen as obstacles to overcome, quickly, so that they can get back to what they love most - creating. 

And even in that field of creativity, many creatives can’t tell you what type of creation they like doing. In my experience most will say they like doing “anything” (that has opportunity of course). It doesn’t matter the brand, or the ask, or the media - as long as they can find something new and interesting. Is this representative of the curious maverick spirit creatives possess? Or have they never simply taken a moment to think about what work they actually enjoy? Or even worse, has no one ever asked them? 

Most creatives, riddled with imposter syndrome, feel so lucky to be there, that maybe they believe they don’t have a choice. And maybe, our industry does nothing to dispel that myth. 

A successful career path for a creative is surprisingly linear, and rarely varies. You start in the trenches, you work your way up, you win a couple of awards, you see your male coworkers getting promoted, you get promoted yourself, you become a creative director. 

But why should management be the only way up? What about ‘creative thinkers’ screams endless meetings, client relations, revenue and internal politics? 

For an industry that runs on creativity, we’re not very creative in the way we define success. We give out titles, without explaining the responsibilities of that role change, and literal gold, silver and bronze stars to those doing a good job. 

But what happens when you chase awards, and then winning them doesn’t feel like you thought it would? Or you don’t enjoy the responsibilities that come with being a creative director? Then what? 

Maybe creatives are constantly moving from agency to agency because they don’t know what they are looking for. Maybe they search for awards because that’s the only path offered. Maybe burnout isn’t just about working exhausting hours, but about not having any control on where you are going, or what you are doing. Maybe all we need to do - as leaders, as managers and as co-workers - is ask creatives what they want. And use all that left-brain thinking to help them figure it out. 

We need to stop glorifying this lack of direction as a creative quirk, and re-look at how we define success in our industry.

Illustration by Margaux Garcon.

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Edelman France, Mon, 04 Apr 2022 15:41:21 GMT