A Class of Your Own

Season 3 of the hit TV show The Office found Jim working at a new branch of his company. His new coworker, Andy, is a cutthroat in the office and uses every second of the day trying to get close to his boss. Andy is trying to run up the corporate ladder by being better than everyone else in the office. The scenes with Andy trying to get ahead of Jim are so funny because it is based in the everyday work environment.

Even the seemingly-fun Silicone Valley tech businesses like Google, Apple, and Uber have the same kind of competition. Business professionals probably learn this in college, where it is also prevalent around the country. With everyone competing against each other, the odds are stacked against you.

That’s why you shouldn’t compete.

Competing against every one of your coworkers—and potential coworkers—is an uphill fight that will suck the energy out of you. If you somehow win, it will cost a lot of anxiety and hours you don’t spend with your family and friends.

So don’t compete. Instead, set yourself up in a category all by yourself so you have no competition. And being known as the “office creative” is certainly a category that you can dominate almost overnight.

This doesn’t mean that you have to be good at your art! Being good and being first are two different things. What you want to do is be first in the mind of your manager when he or she thinks of someone under them who is extra creative. Trust me, this is a label you want to wear.

Now, you no longer have to compete with your coworkers in the same way as before. Of course, you still need to do your job well. But business students who can do their jobs well are a dime a dozen. That’s nothing special. What is special is being known as someone who has develop their sense of creativity outside of the office and who brings that creative thinking process into the board room. Your manager knows that’s not something taught in graduate school.

If getting ahead in the office is on your mind, then you can’t be afraid to hide your creative talent. Trust me! People will love to see your art. Your art is a light to shine on the world, and you have your hand in the switch. Do you let it shine, or keep it locked away for yourself? There’s no right answer, but if you want to see the full effects of corporate creativity on your career, I suggest letting it shine.

You want to get into your manager’s mind as being a corporate creative. Even if you’re still working on your art and don’t feel like it’s ready to be shown, you can still let him or her know that you have such a passion and practice it daily. This goes a long way! Think of how many other coworkers have an artistic pursuit they practice daily. Now think of how many of those have made it known to your manager. Chances are, you’re alone and on top in that category.

This is the important part. You don’t need to be an amazing artist, but your employers must perceive you as being an artist. This perception is a supplement to the other, internal benefits of being a corporate creative. Having your manager or coworkers perceive you as a corporate creative won’t allow you to do better work, but it will help you advance your career.

This perception is the only reality in the workplace. Assuming you do what you’re told and get your work done on time, everything else is simply based on the perception that others have of you. There is no “best” employee in the office, since “best” is subjective. Anyone who tries to be the “best” is not only running up hill, but doesn’t even know which hill he or she is running up.

So how do you actually put yourself in the mind of your manager and coworkers as being a corporate creative? Start by sharing your journey on social media. Facebook and LinkedIn are probably the two platforms that you are connected with most of your coworkers on. When you feel comfortable in your art (and remember, it doesn’t have to be great, just good!) share it on social media. If you are still working on gaining confidence, then you can share your story. Post about how you’re writing a short story or working on some poetry.

Use the “Check In” function on social platforms to tell your followers when you are at an open mic, poetry reading, craft fair, etc. This tells everyone that you have the creative bug, and they’ll be eager to hear more! Maybe when your coworkers are going out for drinks after work, you can politely decline and casually mention that you will be telling jokes at an open mic instead. Sound scary? That means you’re stepping outside of your comfort zone. That’s where the real changes happen!

You can also spend your lunch breaks working on your art. Don’t advertise what you’re doing, but position yourself so your coworkers will be able to see you and notice what you’re doing. They’ll ask you about it, and you can begin explaining your creative hobby.

If you do things like what I just mentioned, then word will spread around the office about your creative side without showing a single soul your art!

Please understand, becoming a daily creative isn’t about climbing the ladder. It’s about developing your natural sense of creativity while managing to stay in the rat race. But once you’ve done this, you have the ability to use it to your advantage and fly past your coworkers in the mind of your manager. It’s up to you.

Ryan Lally