Today we’re chatting with Alexandra Kaplan from our direct-hire team to discuss a key element in her life that has recently become a guiding force on her career path: creativity! Even though she’s not technically an artist, she’s here to tell us that regardless who you are or what you do for work, you have creativity at your core. Not only does everyone have this creative side, but embracing it can positively impact all facets of one’s life, Alex tells us, and we’re dialed in!
Once she stopped worrying about labels and expectations of others around her, and traditional concepts of what it means to really be “creative”, everything changed. Trust us, we know this is easier said than done, and there is no one-size-fits-all approach. We’ll leave the rest to Alex and let her tell you just how she was able to harness her own creativity and use them to guide her career and personal life in unexpected ways. She’ll also share her tips for how you can discover your own inner creative!
Communications Team: What does creativity mean to you, and how did you discover it was important to you?
When it comes down to it, creativity is a birthright, and everyone has the ability to create. While society tends to separate us by race, nationality, gender, religion, etc., we have to remember that at our core we as humans have more similarities than differences, including an innate capacity (and need) to create. It’s common ground among all humans beings and it’s unfortunate we don’t pay more attention to it. Personally, I like to think of creativity as a vehicle through which I can produce something that has never been produced before. Whether it’s a unique solution to a problem, or a piece of art or writing, creativity adds endless value to our lives. Really, it’s just a state of mind and a willingness to harness your potential, and once I realized this, it became one of the most important pieces of my life. It has definitely helped me find clarity in my professional and personal life and redefine the ultimate meaning of my work.
Communications Team: Were you always creative? At what point did you decide to work harder to cultivate this side of you, even though it wasn’t explicitly required in your professional life?
An inciting incident that really helped me harness my inner creativity and apply it to my life was reading the self-help workbook “The Artist’s Way” by Julia Cameron (which you may have seen written up recently in the New York Times!). It had a profound impact on my life and I strongly recommend it to anyone who wants to live a more creative life. Cameron says we are all artists at our core but psychological blocks, such as self-doubt and fear of failure (or success!) prevent us from reaching our full potential. When I picked it up the first time few years ago it didn’t resonate with me. I thought it was a little too out there for me. I picked it up a few years later during a time in my life when I needed an outlet and boom! – I was able to relate to it in a completely different way. It also inspired me to start taking creative writing classes rather than just thinking and talking about taking creative writing classes and it’s really been a game changer in my life, giving me the creative outlet I needed and the tools to see things from a more artistic standpoint.
Communications Team: What if we’re convinced we’re not creative ー How can we make this mental shift and harness our inner creative?
Loosen the Reins! Everyone has the ability to create but it’s important to redefine what we mean by “creative” ー loosen the reins on how you define it, and let yourself fit in to this new definition. Often we equate creativity with studio arts or film or poetry when we should really be thinking about it more broadly, particularly as it relates to our professional lives. If you think about it, most jobs require creativity on at least some level. For example, maybe you have to do a lot of problem-solving or speaking extemporaneously at board meetings. That in itself requires creativity ー following the status quo is a surefire way to block innovation. When I worked in NYU Undergraduate Admissions prior to joining Team Clarity, I had the good fortune to work with students across a wide array of disciplines. The engineering students, who are typically very mathematical, were some of the most creative soon-to-be professionals I had ever encountered. I also worked with a lot of NYU Stern School of Business students who were in the process of creating their own start-up companies. Needless to say, developing a successful career requires an endless source of creativity. Even the students pursuing degrees in social work had to come up with innovative ways to handle difficult interpersonal relationships. We don’t often think of it this way but being able to tap into this inner resource is key to success in any workplace.
Let Yourself be Curious Secondly, it’s crucial to develop a curiosity about the world. I try to see beyond face value and go deeper than what appears to the eyes. Ask questions, challenge the status quo, and surround yourself with people who inspire meaningful conversations. Curiosity is a form of creativity – by seeking information and answers, you create new pathways in your mind which lead to new ideas and fuel productivity. Go ahead, test the waters! I wanted to know if I had painting skills, and as a result developed a new hobby in paint-by number ー we’re not all going to become the modern-day Monet, but you never will know until you try! It’s also incredibly soothing after a long stressful day in the office!**
Let your imagination run wild And finally, think BIG! Major cities are especially ripe for thinking big, given the constant stream of activity. As I referenced earlier ー inspiration is all around! I was walking to the subway the other day and consciously decided to look around rather than scroll through my instagram while in the crosswalk (yes, I am that pedestrian). I passed a window on the second story of an old building outside of what appeared to be a run-of-the-mill hair salon. It was dark and there was only one shadowy figure in the window… And just like that, what could have been an an average walk to the subway turned into the inspiration for the plot of my next short story!
Communications Team: Thank you so much, Alex ー hopefully we can follow your lead and implement these tactics to find our own inner creatives in and out of the office!
Interested in reading Alex’s creative writing, hearing how her paint by number skills got so good (see above!), or connecting to discuss your next professional step? Email her at firstname.lastname@example.org!