Have you ever participated in one of those tests, where they gauge your creativity by seeing how many uses you can come up with for a common object, like a paper clip?
I have. I don’t much like them, even though I have to admit they give an indication of one’s inventiveness. I guess they bug me because they seem forced and arbitrary. Why would anyone want to think of a million uses for a paper clip when you could do so much more with duct tape?
But whether you think of yourself as creative or not, there’s one area where you can’t be too imaginative, and that’s your career.
Particularly in this economy.
We all need to be on the lookout for fresh ways to apply our skills and experience. Here are some tips:
Step Sideways – Our educational systems and business structures train us to think in sequential steps, as in freshman-sophomore or sales associate-sales manager. But what if you stepped off the sales track and used your persuasive skills in marketing communications or personnel training? You’d expand your potential job pool, for one thing.
Turn It Upside Down – Sometimes the best way to fit everything in a car or truck requires changing the way you usually look at objects. Try doing the same with your skill set. For example, if you see yourself as a manager who gets things done, imagine the positions you could seek if you saw yourself as coordinating resources instead.
Free Associate – You don’t need to be in therapy to do this, just let your mind wander and blurt out whatever comes to mind. For a practice run, let’s say I’m in the widget business. I think of widgets, then wickets, then sticky wickets, then croquet, then tea. I try again and think of widgets, then fidgets, then Gidgets, then surfing, then beachwear. Are tea and beachwear potential job opportunities for me? That depends on what widgets are, and in real life you’d need to stick with it for longer, but the process should give you a few new ideas.
Don’t Be Afraid of Fear – Creativity supposedly flows more freely in unrestricted environments, but I’ve never been part of any creative project where desperation didn’t come into play at some point. The trick is to make it work for you. Let your anxiety keep you thinking, concentrating, looking for new leads and pushing at the boundaries. Who knows, you might even come up with a new use for duct tape.
by Danielle Dresden