Are You Remaining Competitive in Today’s Creative Market?

aquentlogo75x75Editor’s note: This article was originally published by Aquent, AIGA's official sponsor for professional development.

I received a call the other day from someone who’d recently been made redundant from a role he’d held for the past 12 years.  The fact that he’d been let go was bad enough, but as we discussed options, it became clear that the more comfortable he’d become in his role, the more out of touch with his industry he’d allowed himself to become. In discussing his skill set, he mentioned being at an expert level in the program his company was using for their print work: QuarkXPress; a program that’s been rapidly fading from sight for the past four versions of Adobe InDesign. And now that he’s unexpectedly back on the market, he’s first having to play catch-up before he can even try to apply for a new job. It’s an unfortunate situation because he’s a talented designer with 12+ years of industry experience, and he is now functionally obsolete to today’s hiring manager.

This is a scary scenario and is one that could happen to anyone. So how do you go about preventing it?  First, it’s important to keep in mind that no matter how well aligned you are with your company, no matter how long you’ve been employed with them, you owe it to them and most of all to yourself to remain valuable to the industry.

Keeping up with what’s going on out there serves a few purposes: First, it shows your employer that you have an interest in keeping them current and in some cases, competitive. You keep the company up-to-date, and when the time comes for them to upgrade, you’ll be ahead of the curve and able to ease the transition for the rest of the team. This, in turn, shows initiative and big-picture thinking and if nothing else, paints you in a positive light with your employer (think of the possibilities). For you as an individual, staying in tune with the most up-to-date trends, programs and industry goings-on not only acts as “preventative maintenance” (as was needed in the initial example) but also allows you to grow as an individual in your existing position.

Whether you are a designer, developer, project manager or marketing professional, there are industry groups, classes and events available to you for professional development. The InDesign User Group, Design Victoria (Melbourne) and AGDA all offer meetings, courses and workshops for the benefit of those in the creative industry. is a great place to find small local groups who gather to discuss specific topics such as Flash programming, project management or online marketing.  And don’t be afraid to tap into your local university!

It seems that the creative world is changing rapidly.  It’s important to be mindful of that and every so often take a step back to ask yourself where your skill set is in comparison to where the market is headed. Are you ready?

About the Author: Aquent is a global staffing company dedicated to marketing and creative services organizations and is a leader in helping companies increase marketing capacity by providing the right talent quickly. Its network of more than 400,000 marketing and creative services professionals provides access to a diverse field of talent that includes graphic designers, copywriters, branders, managers and market researchers. Aquent is the Official AIGA Sponsor for Professional Development, serving as a source for creative and design talent as well as providing access to great career opportunities for AIGA members nationwide.