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Sharpen Your Skill Set: Professional Development for New Creatives

Professional development is a topic that should be top of mind regardless of your tenure level within the creative industry. Senior level creative professionals, entry-level creatives and people looking to pivot into a creative career should always be focused on honing their craft and continued professional development. Opportunities and avenues for development vary greatly depending on which end of the spectrum you identify with. There are plenty of professional development opportunities available, as long as you’re willing to put yourself out there. Here we have picked out a bevy of options for even the most discerning, professional development-savvy creative professional!

Online Creative Communities for Professional Development

professional development
Grow Your Professional Development Skill Sets Online!

We spend our days and nights connected to a device (you’re connected right now) and by our very nature, humans like to interact with other humans. It would only make sense that creative humans have carved out special places to connect, collaborate and share knowledge with other creatives on the internet. There are digital destinations that focus on showcasing creative work, others that promote networking and some that share tutorials to enhance your creative skill set. It won’t be an easy task to find a “one size fits all” website and/or online community that addresses all of your professional development needs. Some of our favorites are Artrepreneur’s Creative Career Center, Working Not Working,, SkillShare,  and Behance, among others.

It’s true, some of the sites above are portfolio repositories, but if you utilize all of the tools available on these platforms, you’ll tap into a treasure trove of knowledge.

As for Creative Certificate Programs and Continuing Education, it would be downright wrong to not mention teaching and continuing education, in a proper instructor-led scenario. Design education institutions such as Parsons, SVA, SCAD and RISD offer courses in-person at their facilities and/or online via their education portals that can assist in developing your creative skill set, but they can often be out of reach to people looking to make a change in career. Luckily, for people looking to pivot into a creative career from another industry, there has been an uptick in educational programs catering to their needs. There are specialized schools that offer full-time, part-time and remote programs that teach people the ins and outs of creative design, development, copywriting and more. This option does require a certain level of commitment and capital, but the design community has begun to recognize and appreciate these schools’ curriculums. Some to explore include Shillington, the FlatIron School, General Assembly, Miami Ad School and more.

Good Old-Fashioned Networking for Professional Development

professional development
Be Open to New Ideas for Professional Development

We’ve covered opportunities for professional development that you can find online; however, the most important aspect of identifying opportunities is networking IRL (in real life). There is no substitute for getting in a room with a group of like-minded, creatively focused people and talking about how they progressed to the current level that they’ve achieved. Having in-depth conversations about their growth, coaching and mentorship that they’ve received can uncover unique chances for you to earn a mentor or coach. Opportunities can arise when you practice active listening.

Another opportunity is to ask around and see what organizations other professionals belong to, and get involved with the local chapter of the organization! Groups such as AIGA provide opportunities to become engaged with other professionals in the design field. Whether seeking opportunities to connect with other like-minded professionals in person through groups or through personal projects via LinkedIn or word of mouth via office networking groups, meeting in real life with other ambitious creatives is sure to yield bountiful opportunities for improving career prospects!

Whether you’re in a chat room, a classroom or a ballroom, the opportunity lies with you. Get yourself out into the creative world, mingle, talk shop, ask questions, meet people with similar interests and passions. Opportunities for professional development are everywhere! In addition to furthering your own skill set for personal gain, ask your employer if there are professional development funds in the budget, and in performance reviews, make sure suggested improvements are met with the company providing opportunities for you to grow that skill set, whether technical or interpersonal.

Applying to a new job? Companies want to attract and retain employees, so opportunities for development should be a part of the benefits a company offers when taking a job. Make sure you ask what these may be during your initial job interview. According to the Association for Talent Development (ATD), companies that offer comprehensive training programs have 218% higher income per employee than companies without formalized training. But it doesn’t stop there. These companies also enjoy a 24% higher profit margin than those who spend less on training. It would seem that continuing to invest in training and development, even when there are economic downturns, is the smart play. In another recent national survey of over 400 employees spanning three generations (Baby Boomers, Generation X, and Millennials), 70% of the respondents indicated that job-related training and development opportunities influenced their decision to stay at their job.

Finally, share your insights with others seeking to actively improve themselves in their professional careers. Who knows? By sharing what and where you have honed your skills, you may be able to receive an exchange of opportunities to learn – or even teach! – more from the newest organizations and initiatives out there seeking to provide creative professionals with new opportunities to develop professionally.

Have ideas about how to further a creative career through professional development? Any links to professional development sites we missed above, and/or want to provide testimonials about Artrepreneur’s Creative Career Center or other sites that have helped build your own creative skill set? Share your professional development resources knowledge & feedback with us below in the comments!

About the author

Brian Young

Brian is a Recruitment Manager for Creative Circle, the largest Marketing / Creative Staffing Agency in the US, where he implements recruitment / talent acquisition and placement strategies to engage, collaborate, partner with and place top digital, motion, content and traditional creative talent. His honed eye for identifying creative talent has made him a top recruiter and a valuable resource to business partners. Additionally, Brian leads a team of top performing Recruiters: manages, coaches and develops teams directly contributing to year over year growth while developing and fostering a culture that he can be proud of.

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