One of the most crucial elements in attaining work/life balance is making sure you maintain clear boundaries, so your job doesn’t spill over and eat up the rest of your life. And with smartphones, home offices, flex time, and all the other “conveniences” (yup, that’s mild sarcasm) of the modern workplace, it often feels like we’re working 18 hours a day.

The difficulty factor is greater for people who work in communications industries, such as advertising, marketing, and design. The deadlines! Clients in other time zones! A work environment that already has a lot of fuzziness between where work stops and your personal life begins!

Thankfully, we have a few foolproof tips for keeping work at work so you can feel like you have a life. Even better, many of these tips will also help you be more productive.

1. Start out each day with a to-do list.

After you’ve fired up your computer and looked at your email (but before you start doing any work), make a list of priorities. What do you absolutely, positively have to get done today? The first step to work/life balance is making a list and keeping it somewhere you can see it; it’s great if you can check off tasks as you do them, but if you can’t, check in with the list during lunch and then before you leave. Since so many of us worry about keeping productive, this gives you a record of just how much you accomplish each day. And if you check all of these “gotta do it today!” items off your list, you can start over tomorrow.

You can find plenty of software out there to assist you with to-do list management. Some examples include: Google Keep, Evernote, LifeRPG (available on the Google Play Store), and Wunderlist (for iPhone).

2. Manage your creative time.

If you’re an art director, designer, or writer, getting to be creative for an assignment is the best part of your job. It’s the part you’ll indulge in, pushing everything else onto the back burner until it comes back to haunt you.

Try breaking your ideation tasks down into chunks — for example, look through magazines and annuals for inspiration, brainstorming, evaluating and choosing ideas to keep pushing. Then give yourself a time budget, and stick to it. Initially, you may feel like you’re abandoning your children, but you’ll be surprised at how fast your brain adapts to the technique.

If you don’t already have one, start a swipe file or collection of great work you’ve ripped out of magazines and saved for future reference. Doing so can help you fire up your creativity at a moment’s notice.

3. Be strict with yourself when you work from home.

Some people think working from home is a great perk — you don’t have to drive anywhere, you can stay in bed longer, and you’re in control of your environment. But for many of us, the 9-to-6 weekday starts becoming more like 8-to-8. Studies often suggest we get more stuff done in less time at home, and some of that is because we’re working 11-hour days but only record eight on our time sheets. It’s easy to forget how hard and how long you’re working when you don’t have others around to give you visual clues.

If you have a lot of flexibility, try to schedule your work for your peak productivity hours, and then fill up the time in between with your own projects. Otherwise, set an alarm to indicate when you absolutely, positively, need to step away from the computer. Despite putting yourself in position for perfect work/life balance, you can cost yourself the privilege of a lifestyle you truly desire.

4. If you work from home, set up a dedicated space.

This is about literally corralling one part of your life so it’s separate from another. Set up a dedicated office (if you can’t manage an office, then a nook, desk or bookshelf is fine). Not only will this keep you better organized, it helps you close the door on the workday by not having work paraphernalia cluttering the dining room table.

It doesn’t have to be expensive, ugly, or take up a lot of room. Check out some of these compact office spaces that do double-decor duty.

5. If you can, avoid company devices.

We recently presented different types of people you meet in advertising and here’s one more: that person who juggles a latte in one hand and two cell phones in the other, consistently books status calls at 7 a.m., and expects you to get on the phone even before then. Do everything you can to keep them at arm’s length to sustain your work/life balance. Politely declining a company-furnished smartphone or tablet is a subtle way to protect your boundaries. You still may have to check emails or take the occasional phone calls at odd hours, but it’s another psychological barrier you can use to protect your privacy and personal life.

6. Don’t let your job stop you from taking a vacation.

Overwork and burnout are real things with real consequences including anxiety, sleeplessness, and depression — all of which can derail you both in the office and in life. Recharge regularly with vacations in which you really go somewhere! The act of simply planning a vacation can bring you as much joy as actually taking the trip. Put the dates in writing and GO.

Even if you have an understanding boss who does their best to protect their employees’ work/life balance, it’s up to you to set your own boundaries and make sure they’re honored. (Be diplomatic about it, of course!) If you get pushback from anyone, just remind them that taking care of yourself benefits the company, too.

Lisa is a Creative Circle candidate and seasoned advertising copywriter who lives in Los Angeles. Her background includes both in-house and agency work on Fortune 500 and global accounts in the consumer and healthcare/pharmaceutical fields. She excels at words, fashion, and cats. If you want to work with Lisa, contact Creative Circle Los Angeles.

Not winning contracts?

Be that special snowflake. Really.

One of the toughest parts of being a freelancer is “landing” — that is, getting that first assignment that gets you on the radar. No matter how good you are or how polished your resume is, you still face the harsh reality that you have a ton of competition out there.

To give you some idea: When I advertise my workshops for freelancers, I have an email that gets sent out to a few hundred writers in the St. Louis area alone. That’s a lot of people all hoping to win the same gigs.

The best (and frankly, the most ethical) thing to do is find ways to differentiate yourself. The trouble is, this is a lot harder than it sounds at first.

Differentiating yourself is not easy.

The very first thing we do in my LAUNCH workshop is an exercise to prove how difficult differentiation is.

Before the workshop, I ask everyone to spend some time thinking about their strengths, their talents, and their offerings — basically, anything that would make them a valuable resource for a client.

Then I have each person read their list in turn. As they read, I write each item on the board. I then ask the group: “Who had this on their list, too?” If at least one other person had that skill or strength on their list, I put a line through the item and continue.

Guess what happens by the end of the activity? I have a white board filled with what people “offer” — a good 30 or so strengths, skills, and services, perhaps — and about 25 of those have been crossed out because someone else in the room offered that as well.

Which means that those writers are not really that different after all.

If you’re not different, you’re competing on personality and price.

When your resume looks the same as the next 20 writers a client will see, your ability to win contracts will come down to personality and price.

You don’t want to sell on personality alone, because that is too random and unreliable a base on which to build a business.

And you don’t want to sell on price, because that’s how you end up broke and working the swing shift at Starbucks. (That’s not a bad gig, mind you. But it’s probably not where your talents nor your dreams lie.)

So what can be done?

First, you might want to do this exercise with some other writers you know. If your skills and talents sound the same, it’s time to revisit what makes you truly different.

Second, start asking “why” questions. Potential clients will often ask what you can do, but you need to communicate why what you do is important, and how it’s important to them. For example, maybe you are a writer and editor who can boast incredible attention to detail. That’s a great attribute; it doesn’t come naturally to most people. (I have to work hard at it. And I still routinely fail!)

OK, so you have great attention to detail. Who cares? Here’s who: Companies that care about how professional they look and sound in their communications. This is especially true for companies that care about word of mouth, or for companies in highly regulated industries (finance, anyone?).

Finally, think of the tasks you do that others find frustrating, irksome, or just not worth their time. Then think about what would make someone want to pay someone else to do those tasks. Love reading technical papers and blog posts, then summarizing them for the everyday reader? People will pay you to do that for their blog. Can you grind through a government RFP and not feel like gouging your eyes out afterward? Yeah, people will pay you a lot to write those for them.

If you want more ideas on how to differentiate yourself, I’m happy to help. And if you’re interested in that LAUNCH workshop I mentioned, add yourself to my subscription list for updates (and the occasional advice).

Brandon is experienced copywriter and content specialist living in St. Louis, MO. His main job is writing regular content for a number of industries and advising on all matters related to marketing; his passion, however, is providing workshops for writers and freelancers so they can grow their business. More information about these workshops and his company can be found at

We spend nearly a third of our lives working, so taking extra care that your next job is the right fit is important. Your time is too valuable to take a job just for money. Ideally, your next job will be a proper stepping stone toward your career goals.

Consider your next job selection as a two-way street. Just as the employer will think twice (maybe three times or more) about whether you’re a good fit for them, as an incoming employee, you should make sure the company AND position are great fits for you and your career objectives. Ask yourself:

What will make me happy?

Work happiness can mean different things to different people. Many individuals don’t seek the same type of happiness at work as they do in their personal lives. For you, happiness may center around the mission of the company and not the job itself. For others, being happy may rely on the day-to-day work. In most cases, workplace happiness will likely depend on a combination of several factors like the duties of specific roles, the team dynamic, and the leadership/management style.

In the creative industry, it’s important to seek out a challenge, because entry-level positions are essentially apprenticeships (especially during your early-to-mid 20s). Sharpening your skills is paramount. An easy and high-paying job may sound enticing, but remember to choose a role that’s challenging enough to promote growth. Adding and practicing new skills now reels in the big money later.

What is the company culture like?

Every place you work has a unique company culture. Do your research and find out as much as you can about how a company operates. Is it traditional, or is it more progressive and unique? Do the company’s values match yours? How are decisions made? Will working for this company help you achieve your career goals?

Answers to these sorts of questions are easy to find on websites like Glassdoor. Take a look at the company’s reviews and listen to the personal stories shared by current and former employees. If most people have negative feedback about a company, then you probably want to steer clear of it.

What should the next job pay?

Money isn’t everything when it comes to finding the right job for you, but after a while, too little pay and inadequate benefits can start to wear on you. You want your salary to match your experience and what you bring to your next job. You owe it to yourself to make sure your pay and benefits are fair. That being said, some might choose to make a lateral move or even take less pay to do a job that is more in line with their career goals. Whatever the case may be, take your time to help ensure your choice is worth your while.

Will this job get me closer to my career goals?

Make sure you aren’t leaving your current position just to get out. You want to think about the bigger picture, and sometimes that means sticking with a job you don’t like until a really good fit comes along. It is worth it for your career to gain experience in the types of work you want to be doing. If you have that in your current job, think twice about leaving. Always continue to look for opportunities though; being proactive is how people get into the type of work they love.
Having a solid idea of what you want is a good start, but being too focused on a certain job can limit your possibilities and lead to a longer and more frustrating job search, especially in the creative field. Certain jobs may not be exactly what you want, but they will get you to where you want to be. Take that approach at your new job, and improve your awareness of opportunities for career expansion.

Remember, your career can become a series of great jobs, average jobs, and not-so-great jobs if you’re not careful. Doing the work ahead of time to know what you want will give you the best chance to find a position that you believe is right for you.

Krista is a Creative Circle candidate, creative writer and content creator in Los Angeles. Her background includes news, marketing, copywriting and editing. If you are interested in working with Krista, please contact Creative Circle Los Angeles.

Without self-reflection on who you are as a creative, how can you decide where you want to go in your career and how to get there? How will you gain confidence in figuring out what kind of client or employer might be interested in hiring you for your unique skills, and for what reasons?

“Developing your personal brand is essential for the advancement of your career and development,” wrote consultant and executive coach Glenn Llopis in “Personal Branding Is A Leadership Requirement, not a Self-Promotion Campaign.”
What you can do to become aware of your own strengths?

First: Stop, relax, and think.

Identifying and developing your personal brand isn’t the same as making a list of goals, dreams, aspirations, or wishes for what you want to be. It’s a little more challenging than that — you will need to engage in a little self-reflection. Find some quiet time without distractions. It won’t take all day — in fact, you may be surprised at how quickly and naturally your own sense of self will emerge, once you give it a chance. That self-knowledge is always there, in the back of your mind. All you need to do is tune in.

Then: Get to know your strengths and weaknesses.

This creative exercise requires a little time. Designers and writers especially find inspiration in their own memories, thoughts, and imagination. To apply the same thinking to your professional brand, “Examine your past experiences in work, in school, and in life, as well as the interests, skills, knowledge, talents, dreams, goals, and preferences that these experiences reveal,” counsels executive coach Debra Benton in “Self-Reflection Helps Your Personal Brand.” The aim is to understand your own background so you can decide how you would like to appear to prospective clients or employers.

To get started, ask yourself the following questions:

  • What situations bring out the best in you?
  • What inspires you? Sparks your creativity?
  • What are some things that energize you and that you enjoy doing?
  • What challenges make you want to get going?
  • What makes you feel strong?
  • How have you handled disappointments? Do errors, failures or setbacks throw you off?
  • What do you like doing for others? How do you make other people feel good about themselves?
  • What makes you feel supported or encouraged?
  • What do your customers or clients appreciate most in you?
  • What do you find most rewarding about your work?
  • What do others seem to think you do very well?

Try not to pass judgment on what you are discovering. An honest evaluation of your capabilities, experience, and intentions is not the same as a session of self-criticism. We are all allowed to make mistakes. Both our victories and our setbacks make us who we are and help us to understand ourselves and what we offer to our clients, our community, and our world. You want to get to know your own gifts and weaknesses, because that knowledge is ultimately the pillar of your true strength.

Llopis said: “Challenge yourself to think about what your intentions are and what you are capable of delivering to the communities you are serving, both in and outside of the workplace.”

Julie is a Creative Circle candidate and experienced freelance writer, editor, and content creator in Santa Monica, California. A mentor and a career adviser, she cares about the community of freelancers who are finding new ways to work successfully in today’s gig economy. If you want to work with Julie, contact Creative Circle Los Angeles.

On the surface, my roles as father and businessman seem unrelated.

I am an executive coach, and in my experience of being coached myself, I’ve learned that the two identities are intertwined. The strengths and learning edges that show up in my professional life are also present in my personal life.

Even though I’m more than 20 years into my career, lessons from my three years as a father of two have made me a more effective executive. I’m compelled to share seven of them:

1. Embrace the good with the bad.

I recently took a day off to spend with my 3-year-old son. I let him pick the agenda. Inspiration in the grocery checkout lane landed an inexpensive kite, and we spent a magical hour wading in the ocean waves while I taught him to fly it.

Our Notebook - Fatherhood Made Me a More Effective Executive

Before we continued our day with his first visit to an ice-skating rink, I took him for a quick pizza lunch. It was a disaster. He refused to eat, pressed random buttons on the soda fountain and made the experience unpleasant for everyone around us.

As challenging as the lunch was, though, it didn’t diminish the wonder of kite-flying or the joy of ice skating.

At work, few things are a complete success or an utter failure. Acceptance of this helps me see the bright spots in presentations that weren’t home runs. It also keeps me humble when the ratings from a workshop are glowing. A willingness to let the good and the bad coexist helps avoid black-and-white thinking and emotional roller coasters.

2. Clear feedback is compassionate.

It’s my duty as a father to let my sons know, kindly but firmly, when their words or actions are out of line. And because they’re so young, I know my words must be simple and clear.

At work, I used to think that softened delivery of feedback to direct reports was kind. I failed to realize that sugarcoating doesn’t help anyone. If I really care about a person, I owe it to them to be clear and honest. And I know I can trust myself to give this feedback in a caring way, just as I do with my sons.

3. Get comfortable with being uncomfortable.

Raising my boys consistently presents new challenges. First, I had to keep them alive while surviving on two hours of sleep! Now, I chase little speed demons who don’t understand that running too far ahead of me isn’t funny or safe. Years from now, I will deal with the more emotionally complex situations of raising teenagers.

Stanford University psychologist Carol Dweck, in her book “Mindset,” presents two states: fixed mindset and growth mindset. People with a fixed mindset believe their abilities are a fixed trait, meaning they don’t have to work at them. Those with a growth mindset embrace lifelong learning through new experiences, ideas and challenges. In more recent years, in researching the collective mindsets of organizations, Dweck and three colleagues found that employees in companies with a fixed mindset pursued fewer innovative projects because of a fear of failure.

If my work isn’t making me a little uncomfortable, then I’m not pushing myself enough. I remind myself that my sons learned to walk by falling down — a lot. If I want to grow, I must embrace failure, knowing I will learn from it.

4. Avoid surprises.

Whether it’s changing a diaper or leaving the playground, my boys need advance notice. If I just spring something on them, they are likely to throw a fit. Such transitions are insignificant to me, but not to them. I need to keep things moving, but they need a sense of security and predictability.

Similarly, colleagues and direct reports need clear expectations. I explain what needs doing and why, and I set clear deadlines. I also explain the reasoning behind these plans. Team members, particularly millennials, value understanding how they contribute to the goals of the organization.

5. Adapt to the audience.

My older son is motivated by dessert and threats of closing his bedroom door at night. My younger son could take or leave sweets, and he is completely fine with the bedroom door closed. He responds to gaining or losing access to his toy cars. I’ve had to tailor my parenting approach to each of them.

Too often, managers issue orders and expect their direct reports to do all the adjusting. I find it more productive to meet in the middle. I see employees as customers, and I take to heart Peter Drucker’s questions “Who is your customer?” and “What does your customer value?” These questions are from “The Five Most Important Questions You Will Ever Ask About Your Organization,” and he used them in consulting corporate leaders.

Yes, employees need to adapt to my working style. But I make reasonable adjustments based on how they like to work and how they best receive feedback. This keeps them motivated and engaged, which makes my job as a manager much easier.

6. Build the team to round out strengths.

There was never a discussion with my husband about which roles each of us would play as parents. I naturally stepped into managing operations for the family. I plan meals, schedule lessons, keep up with immunizations. I was recently out of town, and my husband brought one of the boys to a swimming lesson on the wrong day, even though it was on the calendar.

He, on the other hand, is the dreamer and maker of magical experiences. He plans great vacations, makes sure birthday parties are original and fun, and chooses cute and unique clothes for the boys. While each of us can play different roles in other parts of our lives, it just wouldn’t work if we both tried to play the same role at home.

At a recent conference for Hudson Institute coaches, Todd Kashdan, professor of psychology at George Mason University, introduced me to defensive pessimists (DP) and strategic optimists (SO) in a talk on the importance of both in teams. I later learned that these terms originated in the research of social psychologist Nancy Cantor. The DP’s role is to anticipate everything that could go wrong. The SO’s role is to believe inherently that things will work out right.

A team exclusively of DPs would be paralyzed ever to move forward. A team exclusively of SOs would always be at risk for crashing and burning the minute something threw them off their trajectory of certain success. But when a team has at least one person playing each role, that’s a powerful combination.

When I introduced this concept to colleagues, it gave us all language to understand a dynamic we’d observed for years, and it allowed both the SOs and the DPs to see the value in their roles instead of feeling apologetic.

7. Set personal goals.

At 34, I was newly single. Too old to put off my dream of becoming a father and too young to give up on it, I set a goal of becoming a father by age 40, though I had no idea how I was going to make that happen.

Having a goal, however, gave me the clarity to make decisions that moved me in the right direction. I passed up long-term international assignments and avoided dating people who didn’t want kids. 18 months later, I met my now-husband, and our first son was born six weeks before my 40th birthday.

Goal-setting isn’t new to management, but few leaders think through their individual strategic plans. I’m not referring to career planning facilitated by human resources. I mean asking yourself specific, detailed questions: Do I want to be in the same company or career in three years? What information should I gather to bring clarity to possible paths? What experiences will prepare me for my desired future?

Having goals doesn’t guarantee that they will come to fruition, but why not increase the chances?

In closing, the lessons I’ve learned from fatherhood have been valuable in helping me become more effective in my professional life. My commitment to lifelong learning will help me embrace future challenges, and I will continue to look for connections between these two roles that are so important to me.

Peter Gandolfo is an executive coach and founder of Gandolfo Group Coaching & Consulting. He’s passionate about helping men achieve professionally while being present fathers and about creating a more diverse workforce by helping leaders develop their authentic leadership styles.

In addition to individual coaching, Peter facilitates team workshops and gives talks on marketing strategy, listening to customers, effective communication and more. He lives in Los Angeles with his husband Andrew and their two sons.

This article was originally published on the Gandolfo Group blog.

It’s sad but true: These days, computer-bound professionals have minimal attention spans. Picture someone busily working their way through a mound of applicants and resumes. They’ll type in the URL of the candidates who pique their interest. At this point, you have only seconds to maintain that interest. No pressure, but don’t mess it up.
What are the three most important things to keep top of mind when you’re putting your portfolio websites together?

1. Make sure your best work is the easiest to find.

The Three Most Important Rules of Building Portfolio Web Sites
Separate yourself from all the personal associations you have with your work and make an effort to evaluate your samples objectively and then determine which examples stand out as particularly strong. Great portfolio websites give those pieces the prime real estate.

2. Create sections by work type.

The 3 Most Important Rules of Building Portfolio Web Sites

If your portfolio contains work that falls into different categories — ad work versus editorial, for instance — separate it into sections. This way, a prospective client or employer can immediately sort out the experience that most appropriately matches their needs. (And don’t forget to keep rule #1 in mind within each category, too.)

3. Simple navigation rules portfolio websites.

The 3 Most Important Rules of Building Portfolio Web Sites

Providing a direct link that’s relevant to a particular client need is great as long as it’s clean (, not, but anticipate what will happen if someone winds up by accident on another page on your site. Will they be able to easily get back on track and find what they are looking for? If you can’t confidently say yes from any entry point, rethink your navigation functions.

The good news is that an excellent body of work will get recognized one way or the other (it doesn’t all come down to how your portfolio websites look), but time is money. Put the work in upfront to carefully consider the experience of navigating your portfolio; it could save you days, weeks, or even months waiting to be discovered.

Marjorie is a former Creative Circle candidate based in Portland who recently accepted a full-time offer for her dream job. She is a writer/editor and stylist/producer with an emphasis in the design world. If you are interested in working with someone like Marjorie, please contact your nearest Creative Circle office.

We all dream of having complete creative control over our projects, but unless you are well-established, calling your own shots may be far down the road. That’s OK, though. You can have complete control by doing your own creative projects outside of your paid work. It will also help your career.

You may believe you don’t have the time, or perhaps don’t want to use your free time to work more. But you should take that opportunity. Why?

Keep your head in the game

Developing your writing, editing and design skills all requires regular (if not daily) practice. I always have a personal project (or two) going at the same time as my professional work. It helps keep my mind in the game and allows me to push my skills beyond what is normally required. As a freelancer, you are your business, so any work you create beyond normal assignments could be seen as both personal and professional development.

Push the boundaries completing creative projects

There’s no better place to try the things you’ve never tried before try the things you’ve never tried before than on your own project. You don’t always have the time to learn a new skill or the freedom to try something cutting edge on the job, so pushing yourself into new areas will give you the experience you need when you are called upon. When you work on your own projects, you have the freedom to experiment and keep your creative edge from getting dull.

Show your potential
Your own project is a great opportunity to prove that you can take something from concept to completion. No matter the size of your project, you will be making all the important decisions and developing the skills that could help you land more and better work. It’s one thing to excel at a given task, but it’s another to say you have the experience to see a project all the way through to the end.

Strengthen your standards
The same set of standards you set for yourself as a professional should carry over to your own projects. Your original work is just as important as the other work you do, so treat it with the same respect as any paid job. Then, once you are completing the same type of work for a project or assignment, it will be second nature.

Personal creative projects are a commitment well worth the effort. The new skills you learn by working on your own will help you in the day-to-day work at your job. Your skill set will grow, and it can open doors for promotion or more creative flexibility within your job.

Krista is a Creative Circle candidate, creative writer and content creator in Los Angeles. Her background includes news, marketing, copywriting and editing. If you are interested in working with Krista, please contact Creative Circle Los Angeles.

As an executive coach based in Los Angeles, I often work with leaders in creative industries: content creation, entertainment management, marketing services, tech, and consumer products. While each of these fields is unique, they bring together teams of cross-functional leaders from marketing, design, development, finance, and legal, to name a few. Leaders from each of these functions arrive at their work with diverse education, professional experience, personalities, and working styles. Layer in the competing objectives of different functions, and it’s easy to imagine a group that struggles to get much accomplished.

Differences can be most pronounced between business leaders and designers. The formal education needed to secure roles in each of these groups is quite different. Business leaders are assumed to be focused on profit, while the creative process is much more personal for designers. Despite these differences, I’ve been part of many dynamic partnerships between business teams and design teams, and I’ve figured out how they work best.

1. They build on each other’s ideas.

The phrase “good ideas can come from anyone” gets thrown around a lot, but I’ve seen it in practice.

On a 2005 trip to Egypt, I was inspired by the elaborate details of the treasures from Tutankhamun’s tomb in the Egyptian Museum in Cairo. I returned to my junior position in marketing for a toy company with the belief that this aesthetic — glitter, shine, elaborate jewelry — would appeal to the fashion doll consumer. I shared my idea with my design partners in a brainstorm session.

The design team easily could have rejected my ideas on the basis that creativity is their responsibility (and privilege). Instead, a year later, when they presented their initial concepts for the next season, I was surprised and pleased to see an Egyptian-inspired option.

And what they presented was so much better than I had ever imagined. By running with “yes and,” a key principle of both improv comedy and design thinking, they had opened their minds to an unusual idea and built on it to make it stronger.

The teamwork didn’t stop there. Once the dolls were designed, the packaging team created a logo, structure, and environment that brought the theme to life, and the advertising agency created new animation and music for a commercial that integrated Egyptian elements into a modern and aspirational world for children.

By the time the dolls landed on retail shelves, countless team members on at least three continents had contributed to the brand experience, and all of us could see the value of our contributions in creating something greater.

2. They use curiosity to build trust.

I’ve worked with two different types of creative leaders: ones who want to focus exclusively on being creative and ones who want to better understand the business. The latter use new insights about the consumer, the priorities of key stakeholders, and the state of the business to bring focus to their team’s work. By listening to what’s said and discovering what’s unsaid, they identify opportunities to address problems or build on opportunities.

Similarly, business leaders build trust with their design partners when they listen to those partners’ goals. Whether your partners want to build expertise in a new technology or expand a product segment to support the professional growth of their teams, understanding their goals invites you to help them make those goals a reality. This commitment to better understanding also increases the likelihood that your partners will be receptive to your goals.

I am not advocating for tacitly agreeing with your partners just to build trust. There will be plenty of times when you see a situation differently. That’s when, instead of clashing over who is right, you can listen to one another and work together to find the best way forward. For instance, a few years back, my team was developing an innovation segment for a classic fairytale toy brand. There were a few concepts that I just didn’t get, as well as one that I was far more excited about than the design team was. Rather than narrowing the list of options down to the much smaller list that we all could agree on, we committed to collecting feedback from parents and children through qualitative research.

To our surprise, the concepts that were more polarizing to the team generated the most positive feedback from our audience. The new insights about why customers were drawn to these ideas built support for the ideas throughout team, ultimately allowing us to bring to market a more innovative and successful product line.

3. They build in flexibility.

Any initiative — an advertising campaign, a new vehicle, a new product range — can originate within a variety of functions, often determined by what function is at the hub of the wheel of the cross-functional team. You can find advertising agencies where creative, account service or even account planning (strategy) takes the lead. In automotive, often the engineers have the greatest influence. Within the toy industry, the pendulum will swing back and forth between marketing-led and design-led cultures, often changing when the prior structure stops working.
From my perspective, a team’s success is not dependent on one function taking the lead. I’ve seen product lines grounded in sound strategies fall flat because they fail to inspire. Conversely, a great creative idea without a clear customer or strategy holds little value. In every environment I’ve worked in, the cross-functional team delivered better results when they didn’t cling to one process.

Tim Brown’s “Change by Design,” an introduction to design thinking, presents the “Ways to Grow” matrix. He organizes the innovation efforts within a team into four categories determined by pursuing existing and new users with existing and new offerings. While most resources should be allocated to support incremental innovations to the core business, this framework is flexible enough to make room for the unexpected and sometimes game-changing innovation that didn’t begin with an ironclad strategic insight.

The opportunity to create something new carries high risks, but you manage that risk by not depending on its success. Exploring fresh initiatives creates a halo of energy across the line and across the team. If one of these ideas sticks, it has the potential to create explosive growth. And even if it doesn’t, the team will appreciate that they had the opportunity to flex their innovation muscles.

Each of these insights on well-functioning teams comes down to communication. Truly listen to your customers and your colleagues to solve problems and build on success. Ensure that your colleagues feel heard, and enjoy the opportunity to talk about different points of view. Listen for opportunity. It may not always arrive the way you expect, but that doesn’t make it any less valuable.

Peter Gandolfo is an executive coach and founder of Gandolfo Group Coaching & Consulting. He’s passionate about helping men achieve professionally while being present fathers and about creating a more diverse workforce by helping leaders develop their authentic leadership styles.

In addition to individual coaching, Peter facilitates team workshops and gives talks on marketing strategy, listening to customers, effective communication and more. He lives in Los Angeles with his husband Andrew and their two sons.

This article was originally published on the Gandolfo Group blog.

If you have the idea that creating a top-notch resume is difficult today, that’s probably because you’re not aware of some outstanding free tools. The days of traditional paper resumes are over, and now, nearly everyone has the opportunity to craft a creative, artistic document that is striking and distinct. It’s time to make your resume stand out. Take a look at the five ways listed below you can punch up your resume and give yourself that extra edge to land the job you want.

1. Use suitable templates for the company and role.

Especially in the creative field, your resume should reflect your skills. Great resumes provide a preview of how you work and think. If you are skilled in Photoshop or any of the other Adobe Creative Cloud programs, take full advantage of your experience to create a custom resume.

You can choose from many websites and resources online, but you can start with services like Google Docs and Canva (both free). Take some time to browse the internet for a site that fits your style.

2. Create a tailor-made resume for the job you want.

Every job you apply to should receive a personalized resume. Sending out the same resume or cover letter repeatedly isn’t likely to yield good results. Companies and their recruiters can tell the difference between an individualized and cookie-cutter submission.

Many companies use some type of Applicant Tracking System (ATS), which does an initial search for specific information and keywords to see if your skills match the position. You’ll want to make sure your resume matches any keywords and/or phrases the company might be using.

3. Be yourself on paper to make your resume stand out.

It is perfectly acceptable to infuse your personality into your resume. Those who take the opportunity to simply be themselves will stand out from the masses. Yes, you’ll still have to use some traditional aspects of a resume; however, you’re a unique person in a unique field. Use every opportunity in the job application process to show who you really are.

4. Don’t be bashful; explain your accomplishments with metrics.

Your achievements play a huge role in getting the job, but avoid long bullet points describing your prior job duties. The best way to impress any company is by explaining (with numbers) what you’ve done and convincing the recruiter that you’re capable of repeating this for a new employer.

Take a narrative approach with your accomplishments instead of using simple lists. Don’t be afraid to mention awards and any outside recognition you received for your work. If you have a knockout project you are particularly proud of, highlight the role you played.

5. The shorter the better.

That first glance at your resume, on average, takes about six seconds. Most recruiters or hiring managers can see right away if your resume is too long or too wordy, and if it is, they will probably lose interest quickly. Use short, compact sentences and phrases with the most impactful words possible.

Be clear, concise, and write as much as possible in the active voice. The best resumes get to the point in as few words as possible. For more on the active voice and how it works, look here.

The competition for creative work is fierce. You can’t afford to just blend into the crowd or you’ll risk being passed over. Taking the time to make your resume stand out pays off.

Krista is a Creative Circle candidate, creative writer and content creator in Los Angeles. Her background includes news, marketing, copywriting and editing. If you are interested in working with Krista, please contact Creative Circle Los Angeles.