So, umm, what do you do?
For a long time now, I’ve been trying to find a succinct term to sum up what I do.
I’ve really struggled with it.
It was such a problem that when I moved to London a couple of years ago, I would send my CV to recruiters and they would ask ‘what is it you do?’ and I could only come up with a string of - “well, I’ve spent some time doing this, and then I transitioned into that…” and they would just give up on me because there wasn’t a neat pigeon-hole they could put me in.
See, the problem wasn’t that I had a disparate career — hopping around from random job to random job - the problem was I hadn’t found a succinct way to talk about it..
In my head there has always been a clear progression. Sure, I haven’t done the old-school, climb the ladder thing - I have moved around a lot. I have run a mentoring programme in a prison and a dance programme in primary schools; I’ve worked for student unions and chambers of commerce; I’ve organised concerts and conferences; fashion shows and farmers markets. Each opportunity I’ve pursued has been an opportunity to either build my skill set or apply my existing skills in a different environment.
In a way - building out this website is what lead to this realisation as it forced me to try and summarise my experience and find my point of difference. I tried on several different titles - “Brand Developer”. “Community Builder, “Communications Strategist”, “Event Director”, “Creative Consultant” were all valid options - but none of them felt quite right, and although they all touch on elements of what I do, none aligned fully with my skill set or my passions.
That’s why, when the term “Creative Strategist” entered my head - it was like something clicked. It was perfect — in fact is was so perfect, but so foreign to me that I had to google it to see if it was actually a thing.
Well, turns out it is — which was both hugely relieving but a little bit disappointing. It was so good to finally have a recognised, valid term to refer to myself as — but also, I was gutted that I hadn’t in fact invented the term myself.
So that’s what I am; a Creative Strategist. Which I love, because it perfectly captures both sides of the dichotomy I find myself in. As careermatch.com put it,
At first glance, “Creative Strategist” might seem like a contradiction, like the idea of a skinny Chef, or an Accountant who hates math. But in a business world that prizes “return on investment” just as much as “thinking outside the box,” it makes perfect sense.
And it does make sense to me (and not just because I also used to be a skinny chef). The more I researched, the more the term really resonated with me.
The best little summary I could find came from an article on CampaignLive.co.uk titled “What the hell is a creative strategist, and why should I care?” in which Michael Wachs, the Chief Creative Officer of British ad agency GYK Antler calls the role of a Creative Strategist,
“A partnership between dreaming and doing, theory and reality, in order to harness results within that grey area between the underlying business strategy and creative concept.”
It’s a cool place to be in. Generally, creatives are seen as the ideas people, and strategists the business people. I am both, and I think that’s an important skill set to have in todays world. Ultimately, it works for me because in my “Mad Men” fantasy world I can be both Peggy Olson and Pete Campbell - and I kinda like that.