Dear freelancer,

I hope you’re doing well — as well as you can be during what are some pretty stressful, uncertain times — and staying healthy.

I wanted to take a moment to address the elephant in the room: the fact that many of you talented, tenacious individuals we represent have lost work due to COVID-19. We — myself and all of us at Creative Circle — empathize with you and recognize that this situation frankly isn’t fair. No one could’ve anticipated the world turning on its head like it has, and we know that with this, there are additional challenges you, as freelancers, face.

I want to personally assure you that we are doing everything in our power to keep you working. I’ve seen firsthand (well, firsthand through Zoom) the Creative Circle team stepping up to the challenge — working early mornings and late nights, doing everything they can to find and take new jobs from clients, so we can give freelancers more opportunities to get to work — all while trying to find balance in their own lives.

I’ve been especially humbled to work alongside the Creative Circle team during this crisis; seeing my colleagues put their own lives on hold has shown me — now more than ever — that our team comes to work each day because they CARE. About our candidates. About our clients. About the importance of creative expression — and the importance of turning creative expression into a fruitful career.

You are the lifeblood of our organization and the reason we do what we do. We’re proud to be an organization that’s built on the creative lifestyle, with nearly every single employee coming from a creative background. So we know personally how important the work you do is.

In case you need them, we’ve gathered a few resources that you may find helpful:

In the meantime, during these tough times, please keep applying for jobs via our site. Please reach out to your recruiters. And please keep your chin up, as much as you can, and know your Creative Circle family is committed to you.

Thank you for trusting us with your work. We will continue to do everything we can to support you.

All my best,
Matt Riley, Chief Operating Officer
Creative Circle

Alton is president and chief searchologist at Searchology, a digital marketing firm he founded in 2009. For the last 10 years, he has also been a Creative Circle candidate in Chicago, developing and executing digital marketing strategies for SEO, SEM, SMO, paid search, and display for both national brands and local companies.

Along with sharing some of his favorite quotes (“Ambition’s debt is paid.”), he’s given us a look into his career and what it’s like to work with Creative Circle.

Illustration of Creative Circle candidate, Alton D.
Illustration by Creative Circle candidate, Erin G.

Tell us about your career journey.

It has been a journey of professional, personal, and educational growth due to my partnership with the Creative Circle Chicago team which began in late 2008, early 2009. The economy was a disaster; companies were not hiring; digital marketing and advertising were nothing more than a small disco ball; and money was not flowing anywhere. It was a very scary time for those of us who recall.

My first position with Creative Circle was for a major Chicago-based company that moved billions in various financial markets. It was during this same time I launched my own small company called Searchology. I didn’t have enough clients to support my household nor did I have the ability to seek new clients. And that is exactly where Creative Circle came in.

During my interview, they knew I was trying to launch my own digital brand. Not only were they able to find me positions with some of the biggest companies in Chicago, they put me in position to continually succeed at every step since. Because of their support, encouragement, faith in me, and faith in my abilities, I have been able to grow as a speaker, professor, and business owner.

Since 2009, Creative Circle has consistently provided me with opportunities and challenges I would not otherwise find on my own. I have worked on incredibly complex websites, business goals, analytic conundrums, and strategic digital efforts.

I can say emphatically that I would not be in the profession I am in today with a successful business and a life I love so very much without the continued support and unique opportunities Creative Circle provides for me and now, my family.

What advice do you have for other candidates?

This may sound a little ‘old school’ but when the knock of opportunity comes, it is the wise man who opens the door. Every opportunity is a chance to learn, to grow, and to gain valuable experience.

For those of us in the digital space, I learned our clients don’t really care about education. What they DO look for and NEED is experience. They don’t want to know your GPA, they want to know your case studies. They want to know the industries you’ve worked in and the results you’ve delivered. That is exactly what Creative Circle provides: constantly-changing opportunities for professional growth and experience clients will pay top dollar for.

How do you find creative inspiration?

I landed my first job in digital marketing nearly 20 years ago. Since then, much has changed which means professionals in the creative and digital realms need to constantly be thinking on their feet and devising creative ways to generate income and support their lifestyles. They MUST be creative and offer unique solutions or else they will fall behind and wither into the digital abyss.

In many ways, the opportunities from Creative Circle are the fuel that feeds my internal digital engine. Over the past 10 years they have kept my mind and creativity razor sharp by working with very large companies, associations, digital agencies, and top brands.

What are three career lessons you’ve learned?

  1. Gain all the knowledge you can and share it freely.
  2. Take time for yourself and recuperate your energy and mental faculties.
  3. Find your source of energy and use it to bring life and light wherever you go.

What are your plans for the next 10 years?

My ten-year plan is to continue the road less traveled. If there’s anything my first 20 years of digital marketing experience has given to me it’s that truth is the key to success. My personal bucket list includes becoming a better father to my son, a stronger and humbler man for my wife, and extending a helping hand to all who need it.

Achievement is not something monetary; it is something that fills your soul. After all, the measure of any one individual is not what they are willing to take but what they are willing to give without the expectation of something in return.

Any other favorite quotes?

  • “But wait there’s more!” – Ron Popeil
  • “Do I contradict myself? Very well then I contradict myself, (I am large, I contain multitudes.)” – Walt Whitman: Song of Myself, Part 51
  • “If you want something in this world…you WILL it into existence.” – My grandmother, Dr. Pola Zuska
  • “Great spirits have always encountered violent opposition from mediocre minds.” – Albert Einstein
  • “This above all: to thine ownself be true. And it must follow, as the night the day, thou canst not then be false to any man.” – Polonius in Hamlet

The flight from Los Angeles to Phoenix was short. In the hour since I’d departed balmy, 75-degree LAX, I reviewed my resume, mentally practiced my elevator speech, and reread the job description for the position I was flying out to interview for. Despite some general nervousness, I felt good: energized, charming, and ready to turn it on to impress my would-be employers.

And then I stepped outside into the already 107-degrees-at-11am heat and I thought I was going to die. I was ferried from air-conditioned car to air-conditioned building, and by the time we stepped outside again to go for a late lunch, the temperature was 117 degrees. While I was driven around Phoenix, I remarked to my potential coworker that the city felt like a ghost town. He told me that when it’s really hot (4 to 5 months out of the year), people just don’t go outside during daylight.

Despite this and other warning signs, when the employer called me to extend a job offer, I just mentally plowed through all of those red flags and said, “SIGN ME UP!”

I was there for six slightly miserable, totally tumultuous months before the startup I was hired for imploded and I packed my bags and moved back to LA. But heat and disappointment notwithstanding, I got a lot out of the experience. “Fun” isn’t the right word to describe it, but it was a career and life adventure I’m glad I had and, under the right circumstances, would totally do again. If you’ve ever wondered about moving for work, consider the following before packing your bags.

1. Can you afford the move?

Unless you’re going to do it yourself with a U-Haul, moving costs are insane. Just to move the contents of my 1-bedroom apartment to a new place in Phoenix was $1,600. A cross-country move for a full house can be $5,000 or more. Some companies will offer relocation assistance, but it’s usually only for moving out, so if, at some point, you decide to move back, those costs are on you.

Even if your relocation is covered, another thing to consider is the cost of living in a new city. You probably know that apartments/real estate varies widely based on where you live, but so do expenses like gas, car insurance, utility costs, insurance, and health care costs. Online tools like the PayScale calculator will give quick estimates of how your cost of living might change – it’s not encyclopedic, but it’s a start.

2. How’s the job market in the new city?

There’s probably a reason why the employer is having a hard time finding local talent.

In many cases, it’s because people in the area lack the specific skillset or experience. In my case, it was because I had experience leading pitches for biotech companies. The flipside to this is that if an agency is having a hard time finding a candidate, it’s because there’s probably not a great need for it in that locale. It’s great to feel wanted, but this can mean that if the job doesn’t work out, you may not have a lot of other employment options.

3. Why are you taking the job?

Are you yearning for change? In other words, is this a great opportunity…or are you simply scared that you won’t be able to find another job?

If you think you have to move just to make a living, you probably have more opportunity in your backyard than you think. You may have to hustle to find and then win new clients, but don’t forget: there are nearly 30 million small businesses in the US, and most of them need advertising and marketing. If you love where you live, dedicate yourself to making your career work.

4. Considering your goals, will the job be worth it?

If you’re underwhelmed in your current scenario – in either work or life – and a fancy agency comes to court you, it can be easy to get carried away and sign on the dotted line without much thought. Will it:

  • Expand your long-term career prospects?
  • Give you a radical and desirable personal change (e.g., moving to New York, frequent international travel, pay for you to go back to school)?
  • Pay you a ton more money?

You’ve got to decide what’s right for you, but taking a job in a strange new city for just a lateral move that you’re making because you’re bored or you feel desperate is a recipe for despair and resentment.

Proceed with caution.

In the end, when the agency I’d taken a job with shut down, I could not wait to turn my back on Phoenix, leaving with little more than some shiny new bullet points to put on my resume and the knowledge that LA is truly my home. Despite the fact it was hot, hard, and lonely, I don’t regret my move. If I could go back and do it again, though, I probably would have asked the recruiter if they would let me freelance for a month to make sure it was a good fit.

Ultimately, you’re the only one who can decide if moving for a job fits in your life. A lot can happen, but the key is to make sure that whatever does happen, you’re in a better position than when you started.


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.

Whether you’re looking for a new job, courting new clients, or trying to demonstrate value in your current role, personal branding is what makes you stand out from the sea of people doing the same things as you. But how do you differentiate yourself, and not in a way that everyone else is differentiating themselves? One way that not many people want to put effort into is starting a blog. Even if you don’t consider yourself a writer, you have a voice, and sharing it can be one of your best personal branding tools.

If you’re a creative, you can use your blog to showcase your professional work and creative side-projects. If you already have a dedicated portfolio site, adding a blog with content on industry, creative, or cultural trends can underscore your personal brand and position you as an expert — like this fantastic all-around blog from designer David Airey that shows off all of his creative interests.

If you work in account/management, show off what makes you so good at what you do. Write about the latest industry changes, share best practices, or offer insight into business news. Account-guru Robert Solomon’s blog is an excellent example of how to turn your insight into value for your readers.

If you’re a junior creative, one of the great struggles is convincing others that your opinion is worth listening to. By setting up an aggregator-style blog (similar to something like Copyranter) and recapping news items with your own take, you can get instant credibility.

If you’re a freelancer, a blog can keep you top-of-mind with existing and prospective clients. Create mini-case studies to demonstrate how you’ve helped your clients succeed. You can also write “how I get it done” articles that invite participation from other professionals, like this post from former Crispin Porter + Bogusky wunderkind Sally Hogshead.

And no matter who you are, you can use a blog as part of a larger integrated marketing campaign to promote yourself and build awareness for your personal brand.

Ready to get started?

How to Build It

There are dozens of platforms that let you quickly put together a polished-looking site in an hour; no tech skills needed.

Many of them provide a free option that gives you a certain number of pages, but you can’t have your own URL – instead, you’ll have to settle for something like yourname.wordpress.com. And Wix, for example, shows third-party ads and Wix branding on free pages.

If you only want to share visuals or other multimedia content, tumblr or Instagram allow for easy sharing, and both have built-in social components.

If you want to reach a wide audience, try Medium. It isn’t exactly a blog in the traditional sense, but the online-magazine format lends authority to your voice. What’s a plus for some (or drawback for others) is Medium is content-only — there’s a single format, so you don’t get to play with how it looks or functions.

If you want to create something customized and professional-looking, Squarespace is a great choice. Even with no coding skills, you can put together a lush-looking site with built-in functionality. If you want your own domain name, it’s the most expensive of the bunch, but it’s a solid investment if you’re a creative director or a senior professional (or want to look like you are).

To give your audience a reason to come back and engage with the site (and eventually, you), update your blog once a week, at minimum. Drive additional traffic to your blog by posting updates on LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook, or wherever else it’s appropriate. It’s a win-win: when you post relevant, interesting content on social, people will like it and share it — giving you new ways to grow your own personal network.

Blogging alone may not get you a new job, new clients, or a new title (then again, it might) but it’s an impactful way to market yourself and improve your personal brand. When it’s part of a plan that includes a solid resume and social presence, you might be making a move sooner than you expect.


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.

Change is hard. Really hard.

How many resolutions have you set that never made it past February? If the number is big, you’re not alone. Research has suggested that while 40% of Americans make New Year’s resolutions, only 8% of those resolutions are actually achieved.

Why?

Because resolutions rely on motivation.

Motivation doesn’t work.

Motivation is based on emotion and emotion is unreliable. Not that motivation is bad. In fact, it’s great when you can get it. It’s just not something that serves as a good foundation for lasting change.

Unfortunately, we often can’t control things that impact our motivation. What happens when you lose a client, have relationship issues, get a new and unreasonably demanding boss, or need to care for a parent in failing health? These, and thousands of other things, affect your feelings. They tend to bring down your levels of enthusiasm and energy. And when we feel down, motivation goes down. When motivation goes down, ‘I’ll do it tomorrow’ becomes all too easy.

This is when resolutions and commitments waiver and often fail. What’s worse is that repeated unsuccessful attempts to change work against us by lowering our self-confidence and our belief in our self-control. We blame ourselves for our lack of progress and we go out looking for things that will motivate us. But it’s the strategy of relying on motivation that got us into trouble in the first place.

If you’ve tried to change and have consistently failed, the issue isn’t you… it’s your strategy.

Forming new habits is the key.

As actions (resolutions) start to become habit, the emotion and our focus on them naturally wanes. This is actually a good thing because habits don’t rely on motivation or thinking things through. It’s why we can drive while our mind is elsewhere. Habits are automatic.

And forming habits is the key to long-lasting change.

How do we form habits?

Stephen Guise (Mini-Habits) suggests that the key is to set your objectives ‘stupidly small’ – so small that resistance to doing it is minimal and your chance of success is high. They should be so small that it takes no more than 5-10 minutes (or 3-5 minutes if needed) to accomplish. Take that new habit you want to form and break it down to super small mini-habits to get you started.

  • A resolution to eat healthier becomes a commitment to eat one vegetable a day.
  • A need to live within a budget can start with stopping all Starbucks (‘insert your regular money-wasting purchase here’) visits.
  • The desire to exercise daily for 30 minutes becomes a commitment do one push up a day.
  • A goal to be more collaborative with colleagues can start with a commitment to compliment one person’s idea or work every other day.

This approach was backed by a classic Stanford University study that focused on kids who had trouble with math. One group was instructed to set small math goals, while a second group set long-term goals. The first group accurately solved 80% of the problems. The second group correctly solved only 40%.

The Benefits of Taking This Small Mini-Habits Approach

  1. Starting small reduces internal resistance which means only an infinitesimally small (laughably small) amount of willpower is needed. If it takes more than this, you’ve not set them small enough.
  2. Doing something small is infinitely better than doing nothing. And setting big goals typically leads to doing nothing.
  3. Success at doing small things builds a positive feedback loop which increases self-efficacy. From this positive foundation it’s easier to do a bit more than the minimum as time goes on. From here, it’s easier to ‘scale up’ over time.
  4. And even if you don’t scale up, doing something small every day builds a routine. This is enough to grow into a lifelong foundational habit.

Other Habit-Formation Tips

  • Develop a plan – Select your mini-habit. Pick a trigger (e.g. time of day) which will prompt you to implement it. Select a reward. Write these down.
  • Track your progress – Keep a log on how you’re doing. Note occasions when you’ve scaled up in duration, difficulty, overcoming obstacles, etc.
  • Develop a reward system – Give yourself a reward (e.g. a hot bath or a phone call with a friend) only after you’re finished with your mini-habit for the day.
  • Surround yourself with a support network – The people you spend time with do impact your habits, both good and bad. Surround yourself with people who are good at what you want to achieve.
  • Build in accountability – Your log tracking your progress holds you accountable to yourself. Telling your support network what you’re doing so they can encourage you will help you to be accountable to them.
  • Focus on avoiding loss – Focusing on avoiding loss leads to change more often than focusing on gaining something (Change Anything: The New Science of Personal Success). For example, envisioning a life plagued with heart disease has a greater chance of leading to a healthy lifestyle than imagining yourself looking good in a swimsuit.
  • Use a vacation to break a habit – Behavior associated with habits often start with a trigger which tells your brain to perform its habitual learned behavior. Vacations change those triggers which breaks up our normal behavior patterns. For this reason, Charles Duhigg (The Power of Habit) says that vacations can be one of the best times to break yourself of an unwanted habit.

The good news is that habits are malleable throughout our life so it’s never too late to improve something for the better.


Robin Elledge is the founder of Janus, a coaching and consulting firm in Los Angeles. Robin’s greatest passion is working with people to improve their ability to effect change within their company, team, and themselves. She has over 30 years of experience supporting and coaching leaders at all levels, from CEOs to those who are just beginning their management journey.

You’ve spent your time and energy trying to break into a big-name agency, doing editorial work, and appreciating the “seed-planting phase.” Have you ever considered that you might find happiness and job satisfaction working at an in-house agency?

To clarify what I mean by in-house agency, many mid-sized to large companies have departments that handle advertising and marketing needs that aren’t done by an advertising agency. For example, a company like Kaiser has an agency for their broadcast work supporting the famous Thrive campaign, but depend on their in-house team for smaller or regional campaigns. Sometimes in-house agencies do the same high-profile work as an external agency – for example, that infamous Kendall Jenner ad was produced by Pepsi’s in-house team.

I’ve spent half my career at in-house shops, and the other half working at agencies, so I’ve seen it from both sides. To help you decide if you want to switch from agency work, these are (arguably) the best and worst parts of working in-house.

The 5 Best Things About Working In-House

1. Work-life balance

During my in-house tenure, I’ve never worked a weekend, and on the few occasions I had to work late, it was never by more than 90 minutes. (Your mileage may vary). The unfortunate truth of #agencylife is that it’s filled with long hours and late nights.

2. Stability

Again, with that #agencylife: if you’re at an agency that loses the big client, the agency execs may lay off everyone on that account. (I, personally, was laid off three times in three years for that exact reason.) While in-house agencies occasionally get swept up and out in corporate restructuring (been there, too), it’s relatively infrequent.

3. Predictability

With minimal overtime, a regular work schedule, freedom from the fear of being laid off, and almost no travel (since your client is usually just down the hallway), you’ll be free to make long-term plans – that could either be for a vacation next month or taking night classes at a university next year.

4. Opportunity to try new things

Many in-house creative teams are kept lean and mean, so you’ll work on many different projects. In-house teams usually don’t have the same hierarchy and structure of an agency, so the team may work on UX, outdoor, branding, event marketing, and other things that are usually highly segmented at agencies.

5. Get close to the brand

One of the most exciting things about working at a company is your ability to shape its brand, even beyond just suggesting a color palette and font family. You’re closer to the people who champion the brand voice; even if your company uses an outside agency for branding, you’ll help articulate and hone your brand’s values.

The 5 Worst Things About Working In-House

1. Lack of variety

If you crave variety, you may not find it in a corporate environment. Working on just one brand means you’ll probably work on the same things, over and over – and if you’re a designer, that means sticking to one color palette, one set of fonts and one asset library.

2. Sh!t jobs

The one exception to the lack of variety rule is the type of lackluster requests you’ll get because the company doesn’t want to have to pay for an advertising agency. These include, but are not limited to: designing a flier to notify employees that the parking lot will be closed for a week, writing a 10-second spot to be read over the PA system at a tradeshow, or being asked to rewrite the words to Katy Perry’s Firework to make them specific to selling insurance. (Fun fact: That last one was me; the song was going to be played at the introduction of a national sales meeting.)

3. Lack of respect

If your company has the budget, glamorous jobs will go to an agency, and you might get lucky if you can do production. In some places, it’ll be no secret that they’re only using your services because you’re cheap, close and convenient. But this is not something you need to accept if it’s crossing a line.

4. Less mobility

You may find yourself with fewer job opportunities within the company, unless you’re OK with branching out of the creative department. Even if you’re creating award-winning work and your team uses a traditional agency process, it’ll be tougher to find work at an agency. Just look at how many job listings stipulate “X years of agency experience REQUIRED.”

5. The corporate-ness of it all

Depending on where you work, you may find yourself in a sea of button-ups, slacks, and people who want to “leverage” your “core competencies” and will “circle back” later.  Some companies appreciate that creative employees are different and give them more flexibility with their hours, workspace, and wardrobe. Still, the rest of your colleagues may be corporate citizens.

Still not sure? You can always go freelance.

The alternative to deciding on one or another is freelancing, and getting a taste for both. You could also learn you want to build your own environment and make your own rules, and start a business of your own.

Either way, take time to decide what is really going to work for you. Searching for a job can lead to frustration and desperation, but knowing what you will say no to can help you design a life you can be proud of.


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.

Let’s do a little role-playing:

Imagine you’re the chef of an upscale restaurant – it could be a Michelin-starred restaurant in France or a Hollywood hotspot; entirely up to you.

Now imagine your customers are the hiring managers at companies you want to work at, and that instead of a meal, you’re serving up your resume.

Just like a nice meal, though, your resume should have a strong start, thoughtfully organized courses, and a sweet finish. You’d never serve your customer a plate full of empty, bland foods like potato chips or white bread, would you?

Yet, that’s exactly what you’re doing if you use empty, bland words like “highly motivated team player” on your resume or cover letter. It’s filler that won’t satisfy the recipient and casts an unfavorable light on the rest of the experience

A big difference is that, unlike a fine meal, which a customer seeks out and takes their time savoring, you’ll be lucky if a hiring manager spends a full minute on your resume. You’ve got to make every word count, which means getting rid of the junk and replacing it with meaningful, descriptive language.

This list isn’t exhaustive, but it’s a good starting point so get that red pen ready!

“Team player”

Why: What does that even mean? In theory, anyone who works at any company can be called a team player.
Replace with: Examples that spell out what makes you collaborative.

If you’re an art director, who’s worked directly with a copywriter and a creative director, emphasize the creative partnership and collaboration.

If you’ve actually led a team, call out your leadership skills with strong, action-oriented verbs: supervised, managed, drove, motivated, influenced, inspired, activated, propelled.

“Results-oriented”

Why: It’s too vague. And if you say you produced results, you better have examples.
Replace with: Descriptive language and actual results that show instead of tell, like the following:

  • Lead copywriter on a campaign that drove year-over-year sales by 12%
  • Planned a media buy that delivered added value of more than $75,000
  • Negotiated a contract that resulted in a 22% savings off annual printing costs

“Out-of-the-box thinker”

Why: If you’re a creative, this is especially problematic, since this is one of the things that you shouldn’t have to say.
Replace with: Displaying your skills with a well-designed resume and standout portfolio.

Even if you’re not a creative, you should still create an eye-catching resume. Creativity and the ability to see things from a different perspective are skills that are highly valued in account executives and strategists, too! Make sure your resume shows this without using the words “outside the box.”

“Reliable/dedicated/committed to giving 110%”

Why: I hate to sound harsh, but unless you’re a 10-year old applying for your first baby-sitting job, these are all things that are expected of you.
Replace with: Demonstrating your character and work ethic by including volunteer and pro bono work on your resume.

Volunteering doesn’t just say commitment; it shows it. Plus, volunteer work also suggests that you have good time management skills and care about something larger than yourself.

“Passionate”

Why: It either reads as a huge exaggeration or filler (and it’s borderline creepy.)
Replace with: Tailoring your job history and related experience.

If you’re really passionate about whatever role you’re after, create a linear narrative that shows your focus.  Even if the job wasn’t in the same industry, emphasize the duties and traits that make it look like you’ve been preparing for this job for your entire career. Now that’s passion.

“Rockstar/Superstar/Ninja”

Why: Even when used in the original job posting, it’s cringe-inducingly clichéd.
Replace with: Documenting your skills and training.

To play up your proficiency, rather than calling yourself a rockstar, outline everything you’ve done to get you to this point, especially if they’re technical or highly specialized.

  • Instead of writing that you’re an SEO superstar, highlight your experience using Google Analytics and SEMrush, and creating content with long-tailed keywords.
  • Don’t just be a production ninja: be a production professional who is Apple Pro Certified in Final Cut Pro X and Adobe Certified in After Effects.

What Else: Tell Your Story

In case you haven’t seen the trend, don’t turn your resume into keyword bingo, but instead describe the more specific and relevant skills or examples. Then after you’ve deleted and replaced all of these words, keep looking at ways to bring the information to life through data and results.

The more you make every word count, the more the employer will think for themselves, “Wow, this person is a total rockstar!” 😉


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.

Thinking about your future can be overwhelming. As children, we are regularly prompted by parents, teachers, and mentors to dream, set goals, and systematically take the steps to get us closer to those goals.

After you complete your formal education, reminders are infrequent and incomplete:

  • Development conversations with managers focus exclusively on your professional life; you aren’t at liberty to truly speak freely about your professional goals if they involve leaving your employer.
  • Speaking with family members may not allow for the freedom you need, as relatives may struggle with objectivity.
  • Gatherings of classmates and friends — including weddings and reunions — may prompt reflection, but conversations tend to emphasize what you’ve accomplished more than what you want to accomplish.

If you want to give some attention to your future but are feeling stuck, here are five ideas to get you started:

1. Meditate

I resisted this one for so long. My excuses were countless: I don’t have the time; I’m not spiritual in that way; it’s just not “me.” Then, last May, while attending a conference at the UCLA Anderson School of Management, I sat in on a morning guided meditation led by Sarah Tucker, director of the business school’s Coaching and Team Skills Program. I entered the room frazzled by L.A. traffic and my subsequent late arrival. The meditation lasted only 10 minutes, but to my surprise, it calmed me down and helped me refocus on my goals for the conference. It shifted my mindset on the entire day, which ended up being one of the most productive conferences I have attended. Coincidentally, a chance meeting in the courtyard with the executive director of the career center at UCLA Anderson led to a project on her team, which aligned directly with my goals for the next year.

Meditation has many uses related to your future, including priority-setting, focusing, discovering a sense of appreciation, and releasing regret. As little as three minutes can make a difference in your day, and a regular practice can make a big difference in your life. You don’t have to be in the presence of an expert to give it a go. I’m a fan of the Headspace app. I’ve been using it to wind down before bed, and most nights, I fall asleep before the 5- to 10-minute meditation is complete. I’ve also received personal recommendations for CalmStop, Breathe & Think, and Insight Timer.

2. Listen to your body

When you need to make important decisions, how well do you listen to what your body is telling you? Where do you feel it? In your heart? Your gut? You can try to make decisions solely through analysis and reason, but most important decisions require listening to both your head and your heart.

Last year, I was considering a big professional move. It was an unexpected opportunity, but shifting priorities and a strong sense of trust in the team I’d be working with pushed me to explore it. I’d worked out the opportunity in my head and on paper, but there was a tightness in my chest that persisted for the three days leading up to a final commitment. I ultimately passed on the opportunity, and I haven’t questioned once whether I made the right decision.

If somatic awareness is not something you practice regularly, it can take time to learn what to look for. My first several attempts to articulate what I was feeling prompted the feedback from my coach, “That’s what you’re thinking. Try again, and tell me what you are feeling and where the feeling is in your body.” One warm-up is to reflect on times in the past when your heart or your gut spoke and consider how well those messages served you. To go deeper, check out Suzanne Zeman’s book “Listening to Bodies: A Somatic Primer for Coaches, Managers and Executives.”

3. Get outside

Important conversations frequently happen face to face: business conversations are held across a desk; talks with significant others may happen across a table. Without intending to, these setups create distance. Each person faces in an opposing direction, resulting in different views. This reinforces opposing forces and presents the two participants as being on different teams. And there’s literally a piece of furniture creating distance between the two.

Heading outside for a walk — or even better, a hike — changes everything about what it means to have a conversation. First, you are both moving in the same direction, suggesting that you are in this together.

I offer every coaching client who’s local to Los Angeles the option of hiking during a session. Recently, a client accepted my offer. Without the crutches of notebooks and pens, we pushed beyond to-do lists and explored deeper questions about obstacles. Since I was moving in the same direction, challenging her viewpoint presented more as a curiosity than as a threat. At the end of the hike, she felt ready to try some of the ideas we’d unpacked to help her move forward.

A recent Business Insider article from Lauren F. Friedman and Kevin Loria, “11 scientific reasons you should be spending more time outside,” lists several mental and physical health benefits of getting outdoors, including restored mental energy, improved concentration, and sharper thinking and creativity. What feels more energizing to you: sitting at a table over a laptop or opening up possibilities on a heart-rate–increasing hike?

4. Pick a personal board of directors

Businesses have them to stay on track with their goals, so why wouldn’t you want one for yourself? Loved ones and close friends may have advice for you, but it’s hard for them to be objective enough to give you the support and guidance you need. After all, your decisions are likely to impact them.

There are different approaches to building your board. Vanessa Van Edwards, lead investigator at Science of People, a human behavior research lab, sees the value in board members with perspectives outside of your industry. Leaders from other, different businesses may offer an unexpected but effective approach. Tim Kilpin, President/CEO of Activision Blizzard Consumer Products Group, is part of a group of leaders who all come from the same industry, albeit from different parts of the value chain. They can look at the same situation with unique perspectives, which increases the likelihood of valuable, divergent viewpoints. Because these leaders have a shared history, he also values their mix of professional and personal advice.

Consider your goals in picking the right board. If you are in startup mode, you might consider individuals who’ve taken this path and are further along the learning curve. If you are aware of your weaknesses, who excels in those areas? If you are considering a career change, how can you gain insights from people who’ve taken similar leaps as well as people who have taken different paths?

Lastly, your board doesn’t have to focus exclusively on professional topics. What areas of your personal life would benefit from the insights of someone you respect?

5. Unpack your suitcase

Motivational speaker Jim Rohm famously said, “You are the average of the five people you spend the most time with.” How well do these five people align with your goals and the life you want? Are there relationships that are holding you back from your future?

This is not a call to break up with or ghost any friend or relative who isn’t living the life you want. Take stock of their support for you in achieving your goals. If they aren’t helping you become the person you want to be, maybe it’s time to establish clearer boundaries in the relationship so you can make room for relationships that honor where you are headed.

This process of unpacking to make room for the resources and relationships that will support you can be applied to other areas of life, including setting priorities at work, focusing on community commitments, and maintaining self-care.

Peter Drucker said, “To try to make the future is highly risky. It is less risky, however, than not to try to make it.” These five activities can get you closer to turning your dreams into a plan and ultimately into accomplishments. They can all be done together, but trying even one is better than doing nothing. Pick the ones that spark your interest. Test the waters with an experiment and see what sticks.


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.

Advertising is such a social and highly collaborative industry that it’s practically a job requirement for you to competently navigate relationships among a wide variety of people through networking. But for some of us, making new friends — or at least making new connections or workplace allies — doesn’t always come easy.

As a lifelong introvert, I am more aware of this than practically anybody. What I’ve learned from my 10+ years in the biz is that making connections is a long-term process. If you’re also an introvert, it’s important to remember the benefits, and remind yourself that it’s worth the work that goes into networking — even if it’s just inside your office.

Why Workplace Networking is Important

1. It can make your life better.

Having friends, compadres, confidantes, or whatever else you’d like to call them, is essential to having a long and successful career. In an industry where there are a lot of late nights, working lunches, and missed vacations, having work friends can take the edge off and help you avoid burnout.

2. It can make your work better.

You don’t have to be friends with everyone, but developing a few key strategic alliances can make it easier to do your job.  As a copywriter, I always make a point of trying to cultivate relationships with the senior account and strategy people for the brand that I work on. It makes my job easier, more fruitful, and less painful. When people know who you are and trust that you’re working toward the same goal they are, they’re more receptive to exploring boundary-pushing work.

3. It can make you better.

Friendly relationships can also reshape the dynamics of feedback and criticism. It softens the blow to hear criticism come from someone you perceive as a teammate (and conversely, they may be more sensitive about giving it if they’re friendly with the person on the receiving end). If you’re getting professional feedback from a colleague with whom you’ve forged a relationship, instead of listening with resentment and dismissing their words, you’ll hear suggestions for doing better work coming from a knowledgeable partner who has the best interests of the project in mind.

How You Can Improve Your Workplace Networking

It can feel like a fine line between making strategic connections and dressing up as an extrovert. Even if it doesn’t come naturally — and it won’t, at first — there are a few little things you can do every day that can make the process easier.

  • Smile. When you’re in an overwhelming situation, it may be difficult to crack a smile, but smiling can help you be less stressed. You don’t have to smile at everybody, but do think about it like it’s a welcome mat.
  • Speak up in meetings. It shows people who you are and invites the opportunity for conversation. Start small by making short statements or asking a simple question.
  • Network outside your office, too. Read about how you can win your next networking event and add more connections who can help you achieve your professional goals.
  • Challenge yourself. The objective isn’t to turn you into an extrovert; it’s just to make it easier and less forced when the right opportunities do present themselves.
  • Give yourself the time and space to recuperate. Expanding your comfort zone is hard work. Introverts get their energy from within so after doing something particularly challenging, make sure you block time out for yourself.
  • Pace yourself. There’s no need to get out there and do everything at once. Try one of the tips or all of them; the important part is to stay true to yourself.

Networking isn’t a “one and done” process

Any kind of relationship takes work and nurturing. You don’t acquire a new friend and then have that friend forever without doing some work. The same is true with business or workplace relationships.

You’ve probably heard that it can be more expensive for a business to acquire a new customer than it is to retain an existing one. Now think about that in terms of maintaining your network. Keep nourishing your new connections by showing value, whether it’s lending a friendly ear, providing key information, or offering to make an introduction.


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.