Do you feel like the best version of yourself when you write, paint or illustrate? Does something click when you’re coding or sculpting?
According to the great educator Ken Robinson, that’s your ‘element’. Doing this special activity is when you feel most yourself, most inspired, and more capable to achieve your potential. Whatever your element (it can be anything!), there are ways to channel this into a life of fulfilling work.
Find your passion
Passion is a terribly overused word in personal statements and job interviews. Reflecting on your passion, however, is an essential point of departure for future planning.
Your self-reflective process is unique to you. Whether you choose to reflect through long-hand journal entries or group chats, what’s important is examining what moves you. This means asking yourself: which ideas or creations inspire me? What problems am I curious about? When do I feel most interested and engaged? In doing so, think about the subjects, books, videos, and conversations that draw you in.
Strolling down Self-reflection Avenue might surprise you.
Most of all, it’ll serve as your own personal passion guide. Let’s say you start to notice that you’re in awe of some visual art at an exhibition (this is a great emotion to pinpoint because awe actually enhances creative thinking!). Your reflections on this are breadcrumbs to life-shaping experiences. Following these breadcrumbs, you find yourself exploring more exhibitions while equipping yourself with subject-specific knowledge. And just like that, you’ve found your element.
Find a mentor
In our recent Masterclass, the writer, scholar, and gallery founder Gaith Abdulla spoke about the importance of mentors for creatives. While we’re no strangers to extolling the virtues of mentorship, Gaith offers some practical advice to seek one out.
Gaith highlights educators as perfect-fit mentors. Your teachers or Feynman Education academic specialists are well placed to feed your curiosity and offer guidance. Start a conversation with them based on reflections about your passion. Ask if they’d have time to speak regularly. Show up prepared with questions to help guide your thinking and next steps.
Where else can you find a mentor? As Gaith told us, every field of interest is full of people just like you. In our interconnected age, you’re closer to these people than ever before. That visual artist who sparked your imagination is on Instagram. They’d probably be delighted to know their work made an impression on you. Simply get in touch with people like this who are doing your passion. Ask them questions or get feedback on your work. More often than not, they’ll be happy to help because they’ve been in your shoes and strolled down similar avenues.
Build networks and communities
You’ve found your passion – but how do you actually do it for work?
Creativity is an interdependent process. It doesn’t occur in a vacuum. So, surround yourself with like-minded people in your specific field. This could involve both your peers and those already well-established professionals. To do so, think about joining existing communities or creating a subject-specific society at school.
Find a time and place to discuss your ideas and explore what that field has to offer. To do so, seek out local scenes for your area of interest. Through conversations and exposure to the contributions of people in the field, you’ll position yourself within that space.
Be a problem solver
While you’re building your tribe of peers and mentors, become a keen observer of your environment. If you’ve wondered about where to look for creative careers, or what types of creative careers are out there – they’re closer to home than you might think.
Research current trends, gaps or problems in your field. Then, reflect on existing solutions. What would you do differently?
For instance, Gaith spoke to us about noticing state-led efforts to improve the arts and culture landscape as a pivotal moment. A designer interested in fashion might take the sustainability problem of fast fashion as inspiration.
Hone your craft and soft skills
We’re often asked if you can pursue a creative career with a business, psychology, or law degree.
Absolutely – there isn’t just one way in. What’s important is honing your craft and soft skills.
Your computer science or psychology degree could just as easily have prepared you for careers in visual arts, graphic design or brand strategy. As long as you’ve put the hours into improving your skill set and building a like-minded community, there’s no stopping you. Online marketplaces for learning real-world skills are in no short supply. With the advent of marketplaces for selling creative work, you can even start doing your craft for real people – be it programming, video editing, or copywriting.
Alongside improving your creative skillset, sharpen your (so-called) ‘soft skills’. This involves becoming a better problem solver, communicator, critical thinker and team player. These tools are fundamental to twenty-first century learners and do-ers. To do so, get involved in challenging activities that require teamwork and commitment. Volunteering, sport, and work experience are great places to start.
Follow your gut and go for it
Finally, one of Gaith’s practical takeaways was to follow your instincts. This is much easier with the help of self-reflection and mentorship, but remember to ask yourself what feels right to you.
While you’ll have to overcome challenges along the way, this intuition serves as a reminder to keep going. The value of this commitment to your instincts is finding that ‘element’. In doing so, you’re on track to be the very best version of yourself through maximising your potential and capabilities.