Category Archives: Career Advice

Working Abroad makes you more Versatile, Creative and Successful


Advertising student Nathan Sarmiento ponders how to adapt in a changing workforce  and whether or not you should be working abroad.

“Survival of the fittest” is a phrase that originated from an evolutionary theory as a way of describing the mechanism of natural selection. Herbert Spencer first used the phrase in his Principles of Biology in which he drew parallels between his own economic theories and Darwins’s biological ones. A way to survive in the world is to be more versatile, to be able to adapt and to sharpen your mind. A way to do all that is to work abroad. This will give you experience to be more appealing as well as successful to employers.

Working abroad forces you to adapt, making you more flexible in the long run

The key to survival, in any walk of life, is adaptability. Working abroad helps you hone this quality, molding you in a multifaceted, versatile and resourceful individual. One of the best aspects of this world is how diverse it is, but this is also what makes starting a new job in a different country so challenging.

Not everybody who goes abroad is motivated or able to adapt; encountering a different culture and an unfamiliar environment can be a stressful experience and people may feel overwhelmed by seemingly insurmountable culture differences, leading to culture shock, which only a subset of individuals are able to overcome successfully.

Indeed, working in a new country requires both the ability to recongise cultural idiosyncrasies and the willingness and capacity to adjust to them. Ultimately, this makes people more open-minded, empathetic and versatile, which are invaluable qualities into a globalized world.

Working abroad sharpens your mind and makes you more creative

Exposure to multiple cultures does amazing things to our minds. Different cultures might approach the same problem in myriads ways. Correspondingly, research has shown that people who’ve lived and worked abroad are more creative than others. People who have international experience or identify with more than one nationality are better problem solvers and display more creativity.

People who’ve worked abroad are more appealing to employers

People with international experience have a competitive advantage in the working world. Employers are attracted to people who’ve worked abroad because they appreciate the intrinsic value of having that type of experience. They immediately recognise you have already overcome significant obstacles. It takes a bold individual to leave home voluntarily and completely start over in an unfamiliar country. Not to mention, they’re often looking for employers who are willing to travel, or perhaps even move, for the job. Having international experience also means you have a wide network which is vital in terms of both obtaining employment and moving up the ladder. Success is largely dependent upon one’s ability to cultivate relationships.

Working and living abroad will enrich your life in ways you couldn’t imagine, and help provide the sense of fulfillment that defines success. You will have experiences you never dreamed possible, be exposed to things you didn’t know existed and become encapsulated with the dynamic beauty of this plant and the people who inhabit it.

Don’t just be tourists, or a traveler, stop and stay somewhere for a while. Fully immerse yourself in another country and culture, and learn what makes it tick. There’s no better way of doing this than working abroad.

Stefan Sagmeister talks Design and Happiness

After winning a design competition in her Digital Design class, Samantha Harley was given free tickets to an evening with graphic design legend Stefan Sagmeister’s talk on Design and Happiness.

Last Wednesday I went to the AGDA Stefan Sagmeister talk regarding Design and Happiness at the Powerhouse Museum.

The night began with Jason, Ian and I meeting Stefan briefly before the talk and getting a photo with the abnormally tall designer. You could tell by his presence that anything he said would become words to live by. As the crowds packed in it became clear that we were about to head into the designer version of a One Direction concert, and I was getting excited to hear what Stefan had to say.

IMG_6332Looking at his work, he is quite provocative and his ideas are often thought provoking. His recent partnership with Jessica Walsh has had a vibrant effect on what they produce as well. Knowing this I wasn’t too surprised when I walked in to see a somewhat graphic presentation slide of an Opera House made up of questionable body parts. After some debate they later were revealed to be tongues (I hope I can add therapy to my tax return this year).

The talk was opened by Jason Little, founder of For the People and was one of the people that had organised Stefan’s visit. He seemed like a kid in a candy shop while talking about Stefan; his admiration clearly showing through. Next was the moment of truth, the man that promised happiness; Stefan Sagmeister.

Armed with videos and amusing slides Stefan definitely controlled the room. In the beginning he gauged how people were feeling, with the tone being somewhat positive. He then talked about his exhibitions of Happiness. We were shown an amazingly shot video involving Stefan, Jessica and a third employee with water balloons exploding over and under them in slow motion. Each balloon contained a message which in this video formed “If you don’t ask you don’t get”. It was a great motto, and it’s true; really the worst that can happen if you ask is you get a ‘no.’ But even with that ‘no’ comes the respect you gain from others and yourself for being bold enough to try.

Stefan continued to talk about his exhibition specifically the show in Philadelphia. When he first proposed the idea of a ‘happiness’ exhibition I can’t imagine they ever envisioned what he would do.
Expanding outside the original space, he was given Stefan took use of negative space in the gallery such as stairwells and elevators theming happiness as different types and positions of sex. Not exactly family friendly but mixed with a strong yellow colour palette the exhibition was sure to make you smile one way or the other.

Before entering the exhibition, patrons would choose a piece of bubblegum that linked to a number of how happy they felt from 1-10. At the end of each week they were able to see a visual representation of how happy the general population was which I found quite interesting.

Stefan then talked about the idea of Negative Bias also known as the negativity effect where things of a negative nature have a greater impact on one’s psychological state and processes. He used the example of the news network that aired only positive news and shut down after two days because nobody wanted to hear ‘only’ good news. Psychologically the negative impact of watching the bad things around you can actually make you feel better when things aren’t going your way, i.e., you get fired, but a plane crashed in Asia, so the perspective becomes ‘My life’s not so bad.’

We were shown some of the other videos that were created for the happiness exhibition both with footage and motion graphics that were true art. Stefan then began speaking about his film based on happiness. He has so far devoted 6 years of his life to the project researching the ins and outs of happiness, speaking with experts and trying everything himself to access what does and doesn’t make him happy. From exercise to ‘prescription’ drugs and singing, Stefan gave us his insight into some of the things that have and haven’t worked for him.

About halfway through the talk, we all joined in as a group choir to sing a song as loud as we could (I will admit it was fun). Next Stefan ran us though his methods of six years work, one year play.

In every seven years, Stefan takes a year to himself closing his studio and persuing travel, personal projects or anything else he wants to do. I loved hearing about his freedom to do what he loves and being so in demand that he can choose to work only on the best projects and then use that money to fund his own work. He has a carefree lifestyle but at the same time devotes himself to everything whole-heartedly.

Interestingly this is the first time his design studio will remain open while he is on sabbatical with Jessica running a select amount of projects.

Stefan’s Tips to Happiness:

  • Start your day with 20 minutes of exercise such as a run outside.
    Stefan uses this time to think and comes back home to have a 30-minute brainstorming session before going to the office.
  • Progress through your day with the hardest things first.
    This way when you get to the end of your day, you have a light workload and can focus on relaxing.
  • Do something different.
    Something different is something you couldn’t do yesterday, and you can’t do tomorrow like go to a Stefan Sagmeister talk. Repetitive events dull the mind and create a sense of unhappiness.
  • Learn from your mistakes.
    Failing isn’t a bad thing; it means that you’ve tried. Not learning from those mistakes that made you fail will make you lose confidence in yourself and will become an endless cycle of misery.

Stefan said, “Making a film on happiness has made me completely miserable.” It’s understandable, spending that long on a project when you aren’t sure if it will work or what it will become can become daunting and when you are used to fast projects you can be ready to move on and be left with the feeling of being held back.

Although it has taken Stefan 6 gruelling years to make his film on happiness, every second both good and bad would be worth it.

Knowing definitively what you need to do in life to be happy is great gift, one that I am thrilled to have spent the night hearing about.
Stefan is all about being positive; whether it’s starting your day with positivity or in a brainstorming session “Negative ideas are not allowed in brainstorming sessions. A shitty idea can be built on while a shot down idea cannot”.

The night was truly incredible, and I look forward to seeing him speak again in the future. Stefan will be back in Sydney for the Vivid Festival so keep an eye out.

I’ll leave you with an exercise from Stefan: Write down three things that worked for you that day, before you go to bed each night. This will leave you with positive thoughts to help you sleep and allow you to start your next morning with thoughts of positivity. 

Ten career secrets for young creatives

Kate Magee, writing for Campaign Live,  shares 10 secrets for young creatives. We loved the 8th one!

There may not be a formula to becoming a creative director but there are certain attitudes and behaviours that make it easier. Four top female creatives shared the secrets to their success at last week’s SheSays event. Kate Magee sums up their most powerful advice.

618The speakers comprised (l-r): Eloise Smith, the executive creative director of Lowe Profero; Vicki Maguire, a deputy ECD of Grey London; Caroline Pay, the deputy ECD at Bartle Bogle Hegarty; and Chaka Sobhani, a creative director at Mother.
The speakers comprised (l-r): Eloise Smith, the executive creative director of Lowe Profero; Vicki Maguire, a deputy ECD of Grey London; Caroline Pay, the deputy ECD at Bartle Bogle Hegarty; and Chaka Sobhani, a creative director at Mother.

1) Fear is a good thing
All the speakers had a healthy attitude to risk and had left comfortable jobs to develop their skills elsewhere. For example, Sobhani was happy at ITV but left when she noticed she no longer felt stressed at being asked to contribute to big meetings. “I like feeling sick, feeling nervous about something. If you don’t have that, I think it’s a dangerous place to be,” she said.

2) Work out your strengths and use them
It can be easy to overlook your strengths while you are focusing on where you fall short. You don’t have to be good at everything. Work out where you excel and stick to it. “I spent years trying to be an art director but I’m a copywriter,” Smith said. “The more you know about what you’re good at, the more you can be of value. I always make sure I work with someone who is good at what I’m not.”

3) Be honest with yourself
Smith said she gets a real buzz from being an executive creative director – “it’s creativity on speed” – but it’s not a job for everyone. It comes with conflict and management responsibilities. Assess whether you will actually enjoy being a creative director. Don’t chase the role just because it’s the next rung on a ladder. “We work in a pressured, adrenaline-filled world with constant threat of public failure and embarrassment. Work out if you want that,” Smith said.

4) Have a plan – but don’t ice it on cupcakes
Once you have worked out what you want, be strategic about getting there. Smith was embarrassed to reveal that when she was younger she made a five-year plan, iced it on to cupcakes and presented it to her boss. “That was pretty weird; you don’t need to do that. But you do have to make a plan, especially if you want to have a family,” she said. Once you have your plan, everything you do should help you reach that goal.

5) Don’t make a plan B
You will be less driven if you have an alternative option. Maguire only had one plan: to be a fashion designer. She was sacked from Next, French Connection, Nicole Farhi and Paul Smith. She was finally fired by Vivienne Westwood when she tried to cut the thread out of a white dress with her teeth while wearing red lipstick. She then turned to advertising. “Have a plan A and spank it until you know it’s right for you or not. If not, find a new plan A,” Maguire said.

6) Choose a good environment over a trendy agency
It might be exciting to work for a trendy agency but the most important thing is whether you enjoy your environment. “Some of the agencies I’ve enjoyed the most haven’t been the trendiest. They may not be the agencies that Campaign is writing about,” Maguire said. “But if you’re happy and having a good time, then that’s more important than how cool they are.” Smith agreed: “You cannot change people but you can change your place of work. Put yourself in an environment where you will succeed.”

7) If not you, then who?
Someone has to do the high-profile job. Maguire said she originally turned down the offer to become a deputy ECD at Grey London. So her boss, the Grey chairman, Nils Leonard, asked her who he should bring in instead. That spurred her to take the role because she was worried about the alternatives. “I’ll never be a Kim [Papworth] or a Tony [Davidson], but I’ll also never be some of the arseholes I’ve worked with,” she said. “That’s what has always driven me: whatever I do, there’s always someone doing it worse than me.”

8) Mistakes don’t make you a failure
The more you fail, the better you get at it. And the better you get at it, the more you realise you cannot fail, Maguire argued. “You can fuck up. You can lose your job, but you can never fail because you’ll always come out of an experience with something else learned. The beauty of advertising is that there are lots of other people failing as well,” she said. As Pay said: “Try, fail, and try again.”

9) Make a family work for you
When Pay was pregnant, she “fantasised that the miracle of childbirth would instantly transform me into a baking-crafting-domestic-goddess-earth-mother. How wrong I was. I realised I needed the banter, buzz and chance to show off that working gives me.” She went back to work, found a better balance and was much happier as a result. Whether you stay at home or come back to work, have the courage to do what is right for you.

10) You can learn a lot from arseholes
Bad managers can be the best teachers. “I’ve learned from every self-serving arsehole I’ve worked with – and there are a lot of them in the industry – but they have got a lot to teach you,” Maguire said. “I’ll never be that creative who spends so much time on a plane the first time they see the work is on TV,” she said. Pay added: “Half the job is the people part of the job – don’t underestimate this. Be friendly. Be generous. Be noticed.”