In the interview process for my current employer, the hiring manager said to me: “Tess, you understand this isn’t a creative role.”
She was worried that my creativity wouldn’t be fulfilled, that without creative expression at work, I would lose interest in the job.
My answer? “I can make anything creative.”
To be honest, I’m not sure that I fully believed that at the time. But it did send me on a journey of self-exploration about what creativity meant in my life. And what I’ve learned is this: You don’t need a “creative role” to be creative at work.
What do I mean by creativity?
The way I see it, creativity is about filtering what’s happening around you—inputs—through who you are (your point of view, your experience, your identity, and your skills). Then, forming that into an output that you share back with the world.
This requires knowing yourself, and honouring yourself authentically. It means showing up in the world as your full self, with vulnerability and without apologies.
My 8-year-old has definite opinions about who is creative:
But of course, there are no limits on creativity.
What creativity means to me
Eventually, I figured out that creativity is my oxygen. If I can honour that creativity on a regular basis, be sure I’m “breathing” enough of it, I’m at peace.
What creativity gives us
Creativity has many benefits, not only for the creative person but also for their colleagues and workplace:
Creativity requires knowing yourself deeply, and connecting to that true self. It’s the ultimate antidote to imposter syndrome, because when you’re accessing your true self, it’s impossible to compare that to anyone else. And if you’re being authentic, you can’t fake you.
If creativity comes from each individual authentically, then it’s inherently diverse, since no two people are the same.
If you’re a creative person, you need to be creative to feel whole. Even creativity for the sake of creativity can be very satisfying.
Creativity encourages us to think laterally at work, solving problems using a broad range of inputs, our own experiences and point of view.
Creativity enhances work communication, making it more engaging and therefore, more effective. The way you do something shows a lot about who you are.
Ways to be creative at work
Here are some ways you can be creative at work, with examples of my own creative work for inspiration.
Get the job you want
Throughout the hiring process, be yourself. People know what they’re getting, and you’ll be hired not only because you have the skills to do the job, but also because you are you.
For example, my application to work at Automattic was in the form of a comic book:
Enhance your internal communication, make relationships, and have fun at any opportunity in work. For example, I made this strip for an internal “Inbox Zero” learnup:
For a flash talk several years ago, I took the opportunity to learn and practice a new style of lettering:
Whenever I have the opportunity to give an external presentation, I like to give it special creative flair. For this talk on Content Marketing for Small Teams, I made lettering and set up small scenes out of Lego, which I then photographed:
I also like drawing diagrams and charts:
In 2019, I gave a lightning talk at Write the Docs, about using comics in docs. My slide presentation flipped through the pages of a comic book I made on the topic:
I also made a comic all about P2, the tool we use for internal communication at Automattic:
Creativity has many benefits, on both a personal and work level. There are really no limits to how you can bring creativity to work, no matter your role. So go out there and get creative!
3 responses to “Putting Creativity to Work”
The strip about Inbox zero got me laughing out loud.
Your comics always brought me joy – I don’t always consider myself a creative, but I love the energy and creativity you brought to a sometimes-seemingly-boring set of tasks!
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This inspire me Tess! You applied for a job using a comic strip? Amazing!!!