6 Non-Technical Job Skills All Creatives Need

Landing your next design job means more than having a slick portfolio and top-notch skills in Illustrator or InDesign. With creative firms receiving an average of 23 resumes for each opening and interviewing just six candidates, you must stand out from the competition. How? Develop and showcase interpersonal skills that go beyond technical savvy and an eye for design. These non-technical traits also can help you get noticed for promotions and in-house leadership roles. To get ahead in your field, work on fine-tuning the following six soft skills.


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  1. Diplomacy: Creative work entails constant questioning and debating ideas, opinions and best practices. You also have to take into consideration the inflated egos of some clients and co-workers. Thus, knowing how to defend your creative vision without coming off as a megalomaniac is crucial. To keep the peace, master the job skills of tact and compromise: If you disagree with your boss or colleague, work at meeting halfway instead of always relenting or insisting on winning the battle. Dealing with a hard-to-please client is more difficult—this is where the second non-technical skill comes in …
  2. Communication: Failure to communicate is a common source of conflict. The ability to communicate clearly allows co-workers and clients to see your vision as you do. Yes, a picture may be worth a thousand words, but that grand concept on paper or the screen needs buy-in, which comes from the designer who is able to articulate its purpose, rationale and impact. Also important is being able to simplify ideas, in both written and spoken words, for a non-designer audience.
  3. Flexibility: Every designer knows this scenario: You’re close to completing a major project when the boss or client comes back with a “few tweaks,” a stepped-up deadline or even a change in direction. But instead of treating the work as sacrosanct or ranting about how unfair things are, the professionals who get ahead in their careers are the ones who can adjust to the realities of the creative process. There’s a fine line between adapting and being a pushover, however. If you feel a change is unwise or could jeopardize the project, use your skills of diplomacy and communication to arrive at an acceptable compromise.
  4. Teamwork: Unless you’re a one-person agency, teamwork is vital for the success of any project — and your career. Bosses and hiring managers value designers who can get along with a variety of personalities, meet group deadlines, and give and take criticism the right way. To ensure a functional team, members should know what they’re responsible for and when each step is due; a good production calendar can help with that. If your manager does not assign a leader, you may want to volunteer to keep the project moving in the right direction.
  5. Time management: Whether you draw a salary or bill by the hour or project, your time is valuable. In practice, this means prioritizing assignments and making a realistic to-do list each morning. Also minimize distractions: If constant pings and pop-ups siphon your attention, silence your smartphone and turn off notifications. And while creatives need a steady flow of fresh perspectives to remain innovative, don’t let surfing Facebook, Pinterest or design blogs become a work-avoidance tactic.
  6. Willingness to learn: Professional development is important in any field, but creatives in particular must constantly stay up to date on the latest trends and technology. Whether you prefer online courses, in-person seminars, design conferences or other types of training, learning new skills will keep you at the top of your game.

If you’re looking for the next step to advance your career, look no further than improving your nontechnical job skills. When you can effectively demonstrate your work ethic and interpersonal skills alongside your Photoshop prowess, you’ll be sure to wow your current and future employers.

Featured Resource: Nimble, Thinking Creatively in the Digital Age


Apply your creative-thinking skills in a variety of ways and cultivate a flexible mind ideal for visual communication, digital marketing or social media.

In Nimble, a title by Robin Landa, you’ll find critical and creative thinking tools, insights from esteemed experts and engaging exercises to help enhance creativity. Become Nimble.