4 Ways To Develop Your Career When The Internet’s Your Workplace

Old school careers like law, finance, and medicine have professional bodies, institutes, awards, and more conferences at the Radisson than you can shake a stick at. But there’s no Chartered Institute for Twitter Practitioners (yet). Millennials working in newly minted creative industries have a unique opportunity to set their own expectations around career development and find the resources that can help them get there.

I’d never even thought about what Continuing Professional Development (CPD) was until I saw it glaring at me in bullet pointed glory on Seek:

–The ideal candidate undertakes regular CPD

It’s such a throwback, like what decade is this company stuck in? If I get an interview will they talk about synergy? Should I wear trouser braces and bring a box of cubans?


How to speak corporate

CPD is usually associated with a briefcase full of cringeworthy management speak. Maybe your boss makes you sit through a SWOT analysis (Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats) and you set some SMART goals (Specific, Measurable, Appropriate, Realistic, Timed). Of course it’s just box-ticking anyway so you’ll probably both agree on the first easy answer that came to mind:
My weakness is public speaking ✓ I’ll sign up for Toastmasters

According to recruitment agency Adecco, 68% of grads rate opportunities for career growth as one of their top professional priorities, which kinda seems like a no brainer when you put it that way.

So how can you own and develop opportunities for growth that aren’t dated?

#1 Shoot for the moon

The worst part about that godawful SMART backronym is the the R. Your goal doesn’t have to be realistic. It can be the most wildly ambitious thing you can think of. Why not change the world? Google calls these ideas “moonshots” and famously allow their employees to dedicate 20% of their time to self-driven experimental work. The name of one of those projects? Gmail.

You can achieve your dreams.

Of course you don’t need to work at a shiny tech startup to find a creative outlet. Once you’ve chosen your moonshot, find a way to take initiative and work towards it. In some cases you’ll be able to suggest related projects to your boss and ask to be put in charge. For others passion projects are a strictly after-hours affair that they hope will one day turn into a job.

#2 Click the books

Whatever your goal is, identify gaps in your knowledge that are preventing you from progressing and either find people to team up with or hit those virtual books. Are you a creative with a cracking idea for an app? Well, join the club. Just don’t be all talk. Not when you can start learning programming for free right now on Codecademy. Or perhaps you have a product design idea? Find your nearest Fablab and learn 3D printing.

Interactive courses are democratising learning in creative and techie fields so rapidly that degrees are becoming outmoded. Even the old guard are taking note. Recently both professional services giant Ernst & Young and book publisher Penguin removed degree requirements for all of their jobs. If you wanted to hire a software developer to help you with that app idea, would you go for a CS grad without any practical magic or a self-taught wunderkind who has a dozen of their own creations in the App Store?

#3 Choose how you work

Professional goals can include how you work as well as what you’re doing. Does your end game involve working for yourself or someone else? Perhaps you’re a born freelancer and thrive in the gig economy, juggling client work with your personal projects.

This doesn’t seem to be working.

Many people want a compromise, working for someone else but on their own terms. A study by researchers Millennial Branding revealed that 45% of Gen Y would prefer workplace flexibility to more pay. Think about the environment where you’d thrive, be it a traditional 9 to 5, a startup with pool tables and free lunch, or a co-working space. Then you’re able to start making decisions to make that ideal a reality.

#4 Find your people

Everyone is sick of the ol’ networking dance. Fake smiles, swapping cards, and ‘I’m totally giving you a call next time I need a graphic designer’ empty promises. LinkedIn used to be the online version of this, however with some recent updates, it’s changing. They’ve introduced Pulse and updated their app, so you can now ‘follow’ people like Twitter, and post your own (relevant) content. Turns out it can actually be a useful networking tool, after all.

Whatever you’re working on, find out where other people like you are hanging out online. If you’re doing anything visual, forget Behance and find a hook up for invite-only Cargo Collective. If you’re writing, show it off on Contently. And what if you’re making something resolutely offline that doesn’t translate well to a share button? Make a stop motion video of your process and put it on Vimeo.

Finally, if you spend a lot of time in your own little laptop bubble, it’s important to hit the town and be inspired by other bright young things. Pecha Kucha nights are a rapid presentation format held in a bar where creatives show 20 images of their work for 20 seconds. TedX events are a great place to to present project. And definitely look out for the next Junket, an “unconference” where 200 of Australia’s finest young minds set an agenda for the future.

Matthias McGregor writes from Delillo’s fictional Pop Culture Dept, here to “decipher the natural language of culture, to make a formal method of shiny pleasures—an Aristotelianism of bubble gum wrappers and detergent jingles.”