Remember that wonderful time in your career before you thought you knew everything?
The time when you still read voraciously and thought everyone was a genius, all clients’ products were the best on the market, and your boss was the most remarkable person who had ever spoken to you? You took courses, and studied award annuals, and said these words out loud, “I don’t know, can you explain it to me?” A lot. Everything was exciting — you knew what you had to get better at and you did get better at it. Whatever it took.
You went to award shows, you experimented with your camera, you went to art galleries and exhibitions and way-far-out-there experiential weird shows that made no sense but you were pretty sure they were going to stimulate your creativity to dizzying heights.
That’s what you did. That’s what we all did. That was when we were “hungry.” Remember hungry?
For the past couple of months I’ve been asking myself, “What is the one attribute that can make a career? And what is the same attribute whose absence will prevent any career from really ever getting off the ground?”
All the great juniors have it. Not all juniors. Just the great ones. The hungriest interns are always the first to get hired. Regardless of their books. If someone is hungry enough, they will become a better creative.
On the other side, hunger explains why some people’s careers are still thriving, long past the industry’s best-before date. They still love this business enough to keep doing what they do and being the people that hungry people are. Lucky them.
What if you have lost your hunger? Your patience with the business? Your sense of wonder? Your interest in continuing to learn new ways, new methods, new techniques, new technology?
I don’t think there is anything wrong with that. If you’re sick of it, admit it to yourself. Step one completed. Step two is figuring out what is next. And there is always something next — in 2008, the U.S. Department of Labour reported that a person entering the workforce that year would have six distinct and separate careers before they retire.
Hunger is a very powerful tool. It can set you apart at the beginning of your career and get you hired. It can fuel your ongoing enthusiasm for this business and keep you going when the going gets tough. It can push you towards a finish line that you reach on your own terms.
In my own observations of creative careers over the past 15 years, I have often heard “lack of hunger” conflated with ageism. I am not denying that ageism does exist and is real in business today. Not just in our industry, as people in our industry like to proclaim. In every industry.
But I ask you: Is it ageism, or are you behaving in a way that feeds into a stereotype? As we know, stereotypes, while not always true, are true enough because enough people belonging to a certain group do that stereotypical thing.
Do you still do the things that you did at the beginning of your career, or have you stopped? For example, when was the last time you a) went to an award show and then b) watched the show versus hanging out in the lobby and hahaha-ing with your buddies?
Don’t blame ageism for your lack of traction and ability to find that next gig. Be honest with yourself.
The opposite of hunger is satiety. The dangerous, and alluring, cousin of satisfaction. Is that what happens? Do we get satisfied? Do we figure that this is good enough? The job is good enough. The boss is good enough. The salary is good enough. The work is good enough. The portfolio is good enough. Good enough is the first step to losing your hunger. If you even THINK it, pull yourself together — fast.
If you’re not willing to settle for good enough, I urge you to read the beginning of this article again. Were you that person once? Did you like that person? Why not become that person again?
By getting over your fear of feeling stupid and not knowing the answer. Therein lies your hunger.
And your passion.
This article first appeared in the September/October 2015 issue of Applied Arts magazine. Click here to link to the original article.