Pete Sherrah, Senior Creative, Host/Havas
In an industry that is phenomenally good at killing your darlings, resilience has always been a prerequisite of the job. But last year, the traditional notions and acceptable standards of resilience were well and truly redefined.
Every agency suffered and, in many places, cuts were made, leaving office survivors feeling the pinch of hustling to navigate new voids and find their footing.
The thing is, great work is difficult even when the odds are in our favour, so when our industry is just trying to keep up with an unpredictable pandemic, it’s not just us who suffer. It’s the work.
But here’s a thought. What if, in this new lean and mean era, we’re not under-resourced; we’re just under-resourceful? Does it really take eight people to do what two could do if they just upskilled? Or more accurately, cross-skilled? Don’t get me wrong, I’m not a fan of the ninjas and unicorns of the world, because they are a result of employers who assume and expect an unreasonable skillset. The jacks and masters of all trades. Which don’t exist. Although what the industry does need, in my mildly experienced opinion, is more slashies. Art directors who can write. Creative account people. Strategic producers. Writers who can animate. Ultimately, making the work better and more buyable. The less hoops and red tape, the more protected our fragile ideas become.
Hybrid skill sets that transcend job titles will and, by all accounts, should become a post-pandemic normal. And the solution isn’t just in continued learning, both proactive and baked into budgets, but also “skill mining” or identifying untapped resources within an existing staff base. What’s to say Deb in finance can’t illustrate? Or Ezekiel the junior strategist can’t write decent copy?
This isn’t about getting blood from stones or over working an already over worked industry. I’m not talking about overtime or eSeminars. I’m talking about passions and interests seamlessly making their way into our professional lives. Love what you do and you never work a day in your life. We are all very capable, very complex humans. Not even artificial intelligence has a chance of catching up to us anytime soon. So why should our job titles determine what we can achieve? Work-life balance is Now More Than Ever® at a crucial equilibrium where our equity is only limited by our input.
Working from home traditionally met with the assumption that productivity goes down, but in fact many companies in the past year have proven the opposite is true. There are many factors at play here – distraction, comfort, initiative, and least of all, mental health. But one thing is for certain – working from home has activated something in all of us to be inherently autonomous and proactive, and has exposed those who have lacked either the confidence or capability to not just cope, but excel. It stands to reason that this unprecedented distinction was true of all of us, even before the world turned upside down.
But there is light at the end of the year that was 2020. The way I see it, the key to job security is indispensability. And the root of that, both literally and philosophically, is ability. So keep learning. Stay interested. Master your craft. But don’t neglect your passions, because they’ve never been so important. The line in the sand between professional and personal life has been washed away by Hurricane COVID, so now is the time to make yourself indispensably independent.