12-Month Career-Boosting Guide

Need a game plan for moving your in-house design career forward this year? Check out the following 12 steps to help maximize your work potential. By making one new change each month, you can boost your career outlook—and add a little fun to your job! You can find more month-by-month career-boosting tips tailored for corporate creatives in the January 2012 HOW magazine Career column.


Resolve to improve your career. If your vows to save money, lose weight and exercise more have been long forgotten by mid-January, you may be able to redeem yourself by making a wise career resolution.  The best goals are specific and achievable. So, instead of pledging to “network more,” consider joining a professional association, such as your local AIGA or Ad Club chapter, and attend at least three meetings over the course of the year. An objective like that is both doable and measurable. Reward yourself when you meet your goal with a small treat.


Get your leadership groove on. Angling for the corner office? Interestingly, most people aren’t, according to a survey by our firm. A whopping 76% of professionals interviewed said they had no interest in taking their manager’s job. The upshot? There may be a leadership deficit in many companies, and the ability to oversee a team could make you a hot commodity. If you are interested in a management position, take classes, read books and attend webinars that can give you a leadership edge.


Take a spring break. They’re not just for students. Recharging your battery is essential, and March could be a good time to duck out of the office and spend time with family and friends. Even if you can’t swing a full vacation, consider taking an extended weekend. Activities that play into your creativity—artist’s retreats, writers’ seminars, etc.—can be especially beneficial.


Celebrate your firm’s administrative staff. They often are the unsung heroes of the department, but don’t assume they don’t hold sway. Being on good terms with the gatekeepers in your company can help you secure face time with decision-makers.  These professionals also can make your work life run more smoothly. April 25, 2012 is Administrative Professionals Day, so consider inviting your admin out to lunch that week or bringing in a special treat.


Try reverse-mentoring.  School is getting ready to let out, but perhaps it’s time for you to take part in some unconventional learning. A growing number of companies now match less experienced professionals with their more seasoned counterparts, enabling those just joining the ranks to impart their tech savvy and fresh perspective on their more senior leaders. Remember that new ideas can come from people of all levels of the organization. By joining forces with someone significantly more or less experienced than you, you can increase your know-how, which is always a good move.


Raise your hand. For many in-house designers, creating a versatile portfolio can pose a challenge, since in-house guidelines may not leave a lot of room for creativity, particularly in highly regulated industries. Summer picnics and other company events offer the opportunity to produce more creative and fun work that can result in new samples that show your range.

Also check out these products, just for in-house designers:



Activate your freelance network. Sure, Independence Day celebrates U.S. independence from Great Britain, but why not give a shout out to the other independent professionals in your life? As an in-house designer, you may work with a large network of top-notch freelancers. Take some time to reach out to them, perhaps sharing the results of the last project they worked on, or just seeing what they’re up to. Having a strong network of independent professionals can help you get your department through any kind of pinch.


Review the résumé. Many of the projects that in-house designers work on—annual reports, social responsibility reports and holiday catalogs—may be winding down. While key initiatives are fresh in your mind, add them to your résumé, portfolio and online profiles. Also, be sure to secure hard or digital copies of your work, and check in with your marketing or sales counterparts to find out the results of your efforts. The more information you can provide on the impact your projects have had, the better.


Expect the unexpected. If your company runs on a calendar year, business plans are underway. Check in with your colleagues in other departments to find out what they have in mind for the new year. That will help your team secure the appropriate staff and resources for what lies ahead.


Peer into the future.  There’s no question that the design world is changing rapidly. The Creative Group and the American Advertising Federation have collaborated on a research project that examines what skills and talents will be most beneficial to creative professionals in the coming years.  You can use this research to pinpoint skills that can keep you marketable for the long term.


Give thanks. Make it a point to thank your co-workers for their support and help. Also, reach out to a colleague with whom you’ve had a rocky relationship in the past, and try to make amends. Feelings of gratitude and forgiveness are proven to boost your mood. Taking the time to show appreciation for those around you also may improve team morale and bolster your career prospects.


Start the new year with a new office. Use slow time around the holidays to clean up your workspace, ridding yourself of clutter and replacing it with fresh and inspiring artwork. Also, look for ways to increase your efficiency in the year ahead, perhaps by familiarizing yourself with the advanced features in your company’s email system or setting up weekly “meetings with yourself,” in which you can strategize and prioritize.

Improving your career prospects often isn’t a matter of making dramatic changes. By using some of these tips to get organized and build rapport with your team, you can set the stage for a productive and satisfying new year!

For more monthly career inspiration, check out the In-House Issues column in HOW’s January 2012 issue.