by William Arruda, Contributor,
Whether you hold a creative role or not, you are creative. If you’re a leader, your job is to paint a vision for the company’s future. If you’re a manager, you have to find fresh ways to motivate people. Even if you’re an engineer, patching old code forces you to get creative.
When you pitch yourself, play on that. Show how you arrived at an unusual solution, whether it’s bringing in new revenue or debugging a database. Your boss, hiring managers and investors recognize that innovation requires people to come up with new, unexpected answers to the most common of problems.
But be warned: If you’re branding yourself as creative, you have to back it up online. Remember, the first thing investors and employers do is Google you. If all they see is a run-of-the-mill LinkedIn profile, they’re not likely to invest in you (or your company).
Fortunately, you don’t have to paint like Jackson Pollock to show your creative side. There are plenty of easier, cheaper ways to do it:
1. Break the mold on social media.
Especially if you’re in a “boring” space, mix it up on social media. If a venture capitalist like Phil Stover can find time in his day to tweet think pieces and sports commentary, so can you. Forget about your job for a moment to share something you’re personally interested in. A break can also shake loose the cobwebs when you return to your work, so maximize its creative benefits.
And don’t forget to engage with others’ content. You may not be an artist, but you can have an artistic opinion. Comments and shares give you the opportunity to show you’re not just creative, but also collaborative. From website design to product development, virtually every task in business requires you to work as part of a team.
2. Enter online contests.
Like it or not, personal branding is a competition. Particularly when you’re trying to brand yourself as creative, bear in mind that millions of others are doing the same. Leverage third-party validation to prove your work is a cut above the rest.
One way to do that is through online contests. Sites like ViewBug host free contests for photographers, who can win Nikon and Canon equipment if their submission is selected. Name a creative area, and you’ll find similar no-stakes competitions available online. Even if you don’t win a prize, you can still point to positive feedback or recognition you received to give yourself some third-party credibility.
3. Set up a “just for fun” blog.
Chances are high that your company already has a blog. But if you start posting your personal musings on it, you’re likely to confuse customers and upset your marketing team. Instead, buy a cheap domain, add a content management system, and start writing.
At least at first, don’t worry about likes and shares. The surest way to stifle your creative side is to worry about how others will perceive it. Fill an editorial calendar with the topics you want to talk about, and be diligent. Once you’ve pumped out a few posts, lightly promote them on your social accounts. Little by little, you’ll attract an organic following.
4. Get a digital side hustle.
Perhaps the surest sign of creative success is monetization. If you can get someone to pay or otherwise reward you for your creations, you’ve got a good argument that your creativity is a business asset.
Although you might be able to monetize your blog, writing is just one option. Larry Achan, chief innovation officer at New York City’s Hospital for Special Surgery, chose apps. After developing multiple apps — some medically oriented and others not — Achan was promoted from nurse to healthcare executive. Even leaders in science-driven fields like healthcare see how challenging it is to get noticed for creative work online.
Creativity isn’t just for creatives in the same way analytical skills aren’t just important for analysts. And even if showcasing your creativity never nets you a job, a promotion or an opportunity, think about everything else you stand to gain: joy, confidence, a deeper sense of self, or simply a back-pocket icebreaker. Either way, it’s far from wasted time.