WEEK 4: PLANNING FOR THE FUTURE
 
 
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“Because a goal without a plan is just a wish.” – Antoine de Saint-Exupéry

So you've had a think about your career values, maybe thrown an ideas party for a few friends... and finally settled on a few concrete goals. That's great! But how do you actually go about making them happen...? Here are a few pointers (extracted from the Dream CV Planner) on how to make action plans that actually work.

  • Setting deadlines is a crucial part of making your goals happen. Do: avoid subjecting yourself to unnecessary pressure by setting realistic deadlines. Don’t: make your deadlines so relaxed as to be open-ended.
  • Vague goals are failed goals, so make your action plan as specific as possible by setting quantifiable targets, and identifying the specific actions that you’re going to take towards them. For every goal you identify, you should ask yourself “how am I going to make this happen?”. Write that down as well.
  • Tell someone about them. Whether that’s your friends, family, or the guy who runs your local corner shop – having people checking in is important, both as a source of support and as a way of keeping you accountable.
  • Try to select a good mix of short term and long term actions – create at least one action you’ll carry out in the next week, one in the next month, one in the next quarter, and one in the next year.
  • Bear in mind that you may need to break down certain actions into ‘sub- actions’ that involve researching larger steps. If a lack of information is stopping you from doing something, factor that in to your overall plan. Getting informed can be a huge achievement in itself!
  • Once you’ve filled out the action plan on the following page, why not pin it up somewhere you’ll see it on a regular basis to help you stay on track?

 

A REMINDER...

If you found this article useful, there’s plenty more where that came from in The Dream CV Planner, a resource I’ve developed to help you identify what a successful and fulfilling career looks like for you.

 
 
WEEK 3: INVEST IN YOURSELF
 
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Given the title of our ‘Back To School’ programme, it seems only fitting to dedicate at least one entry specifically to learning new things. I’m a big believer that investing in your knowledge and skills, no matter what stage of your career you’re at – is vitally important. When it comes to creating work and generating new opportunities, you are the most essential tool at your disposal – and one that need regular fine-tuning.

For creative types, autodidactism (that’s the fancy word for self-taught learning) is a habit worth mastering particularly if you’re self-employed and are therefore solely responsible for your own learning and development. Being a successful creative worker involves staying up to date with current trends and cultural happenings, as well as the ability to readily acquire new skills when needed. In my opinion, there are two ways of going about this:

 

1. ENGAGING WITH CULTURE

I’ve written a lot about the fact that taking in new creative or cultural work is a brilliant way of getting your creative juices flowing, but it’s also just as vital as a tool for education. I’ve always found engaging with arts and culture to be a powerful (and fun!) way of learning new things about people, perspectives, and cultures outside of my usual points of reference, and I think it’s vital in order to be a well-rounded creative.

 

2. STRUCTURED LEARNING

For when you need a more specific skills upgrade, educational classes are the equivalent of an iOS update for your professional skills – sure you can survive without them, but you’re probably missing out on some pretty cool stuff. September is a great time of year to explore this option, as many adult education facilities tend to work in line with the academic year, with new courses starting in Sept/Oct.

 

I’m a big fan of both methods – I try to visit new exhibitions as frequently as possible, and earlier this year I completed a beginner’s InDesign course to try and get my technical design skills up to scratch (still working on that though…). To help you out with the cultural side of things I've put together a cultural calendar of the most interesting things happening over the next month or so. 

 

READ

  • The Gentlewoman Issue 16: featuring four-time Olympic gold-medal winner Simone Biles on the cover, I'm looking forward to digging into the latest issue one of the smartest women's publications out there (which hit newsstands last week).
  • I'm also a big fan of Leith Clark's intelligent fashion magazine Violet Book, the latest issue of which has also recently hit newsstands.
  • Fashion Together, Lou Stoppard's gorgeously curated new book on the iconic creative collaborators of modern fashion looks like it might be the coffee table read of the season. Out Oct 24th.
  • ...Or perhaps that's an honour best reserved for Ian Schrager's eponymously named Studio 54 book, which promises an insider's account of the legendary nightclub.

 

SEE: LONDON

 

SEE: NEW YORK

 

SEE: AMSTERDAM

  • Unseen Amsterdam (one of Europe's leading photography exhibitions) is open from 22nd - 24th September.

 

SEE: LOS ANGELES

 

See you next week for the fourth (and final!) part of the programme.

 

A REMINDER...

If you found this article useful, there’s plenty more where that came from in The Dream CV Planner, a resource I’ve developed to help you identify what a successful and fulfilling career looks like for you.

 
WEEK 2: COMING UP WITH NEW IDEAS
 
 
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I’ve often found that a major obstacle when it comes to finding fulfilling work, or making career changes, can be the mere fact of figuring out what your available options are. It’s something that’s been an obstacle for me in the past (most notably, straight after I graduated from uni), and whilst mentoring some young creatives trying to find their feet in the creative industries a few nights ago, I spoke to a lot of people who demonstrated that not a lot’s changed since I first entered the world of work some years ago.

Many of them had an idea of the sorts of things they enjoyed doing within a professional context, but weren’t really sure of which jobs or industries really lined up with their interests. Sound familiar?

In an ideal world there’d be a giant database of every single possible job in existence, categorised by the required skills and interests they align with – and all you’d have to do is enter in your personal proclivities and you’d be presented with a list of potential career options… but until someone invents such a thing, here’s a three practical things you can do to generate new ideas for your career options in the meantime.

 

COFFEE TIME

Set up an informational coffee with someone whose career you admire or want to emulate. They don’t need to be the CEO of a FTSE 100 company either –

embrace the power of peer-to-peer networking by reaching out to someone on the same level as you career-wise, or perhaps a few years ahead. You’ll probably find that your peers can be as helpful (if not more so) than people who are at the very top of their industries, as they’re navigating the same landscape and dilemmas as you – plus they’re likely in a position to be a bit more generous with their time.

So – that person who you’re always saying “we should do coffee sometime!” to? Reach out today and get a firm date in the diary. I cover how to get the most out of coffee meetings in detail in Little Black Book (hint hint…) but top tips? If you’ve suggested the meeting, make sure you meet them somewhere convenient for them, be on time, and don’t forget to send a thankyou note the day after.

 

FOCUS ON YOUR INTERESTS

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Fill in the worksheet on the right (click here to download it as a printable hi-res PDF) to get the ideas flowing.

Why not use the resulting answers as the initial stimulus to structure your ideas party (more on that below) around?

 

THROW AN IDEAS PARTY

“What the hell is that?” I hear you cry! Simple: invite a few of your closest friends over for drinks or dinner chez toi, with the express goal of brainstorming around a particular problem of yours – in this case, your potential career options.

The beauty of this idea is you can really take advantage of the fact that these are people that know you really well, and so will probably be in a good position to hone in on any skills or natural strengths you might be overlooking, as well as mirror back to you how you’ve dealt with various workplace situations in the past. In many ways your friends can be a more objective record of your career history than you yourself. Plus they’ll be able to come up with ideas you wouldn’t otherwise have thought of, and hopefully make valuable introductions to help you act on them.

When planning your party, aim for a mix of friends, both in terms of occupation and attitude. It’s smart to have a majority of the people in attendance working in (or at least familiar with) your industry as they’ll have a better understanding of your career options, but be sure to include one or two ‘wildcard’ options as well – someone who does something totally different to your field of interest, and who might be able to contribute a few fresh ideas to the mix.

Don’t forget to write down all the ideas that come up over the course of the evening, for you to mull over at a later point.

 

See you next week.

 

A REMINDER...

If you found this article useful, there’s plenty more where that came from in The Dream CV Planner, a resource I’ve developed to help you identify what a successful and fulfilling career looks like for you.

 
WEEK 1: ON THE IMPORTANCE OF VALUES
 
 
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I have several post-it notes pinned above the desk I’m currently sitting at. At the top of one is scrawled ‘RESILIENCE’ (a bullet-pointed summary of a New Yorker article that really struck a chord with me, about the secret formula for resilience); another is titled “Getting Creative Things done”, and essentially functions as a reminder to put my phone on airplane mode once in a while; yet another is simply titled ‘VALUES’ – the contents of which you’ll find recreated slightly more neatly atop this article.

At the risk of sounding like the stereotypical cliché of a millennial worker, I’m a fully paid-up subscriber to the school of thought that values are key to creating a career that you’re happy with. If you’ve ever worked in an environment that doesn’t align with your values, regardless of whether it’s a ‘good’ job on paper, you’ll know exactly how demotivating, uninspiring, and downright depressing that experience can be (and if you’ve never had that experience... count yourself lucky!).

But what exactly do I mean by values? Well in the context of professional work, I don’t just mean the more commonly held definition of values as moral virtues (although it’s good to have plenty of those too). To borrow a definition from The Dream CV Planner I created

 

“Your values are the principles you hold to be important about the way you live and work…. think about what makes you feel satisfied on a day-to-day basis, and gives you a sense of purpose – both in and out of the office. What makes you feel like the work you’re doing is worthwhile?”

 

Got it?

Of course, it goes without saying that you won’t always have the luxury of choosing who you work with or how you work based on an alignment of values (and FYI that applies to freelancers as well as 9-5ers). But having a clear idea of the values that are important to you can drastically improve the quality of your work-related decisions…Been offered a job at a trendy new startup, but heard some not-so-great things about their company culture and values? Take that into account.

Similarly, being clear on what your values are can also set you apart in the workplace – figuring out what motivates and excites you (or what annoys and bores you), and being able to convey that to others, whether you’re at a job interview or pitching to potential clients, will generally make you more than just another face in the crowd.

 

FOOD FOR THOUGHT

So now that I’ve (hopefully) made the case for the importance of values, why not spend this week thinking about the workplace values that matter to you?

Mull them over – I’d recommend writing them down.

Cross some out (the ones you’ve written down because you think you’re supposed to include them).

Add some more. Repeat ad infinitum until you’ve come up with around 8 – 10 values that feel truly reflective of your mindset and career goals.

If you’re struggling to identify what those might be, think about the work situations that you’ve found most challenging/ satisfying/ tedious/rewarding in recent months and years. These don’t necessarily have to be formal ‘work’ scenarios – they could be side projects you’ve worked on for fun, or extracurricular activities you’ve undertaken whilst studying. You might find it helpful to think about following three categories of values:

  1. Environment – what are the working conditions that allow you to do your best work?
  2. Content – what sorts of activities do you feel most engaged doing at work?
  3. Relationships – What characteristics define your ideal working relationship with those around you?

Which of these values are ‘nice to have’, and which are the ones that would you never choose to compromise?

 

Finally, evaluate where you are now: does your current situation align with at least some of these values? If not, what small changes can you make to begin steering your career path into a situation that does?

 

See you next week.

 

FURTHER READING

How To Find Fulfilling Work – Roman Krznaric

How To Find A Job That Aligns With Your Values

Refinery29 co-founder Piera Gelardi on creating the conditions for creativity

 

A REMINDER...

If you found this article useful, there’s plenty more where that came from in The Dream CV Planner, a resource I’ve developed to help you identify what a successful and fulfilling career looks like for you.