The clash of generations

I recently found quite a few boxes of a magazine we printed in 2013 — The Identity Journal was quite popular back then. We're mailing a free copy out to anyone who buys the digital edition until we run out of them.

Flicking through all this old stuff brings back memories of people I've worked with which is a nice way to trip down memory lane, and also put other things to bed.

Last week I met with an ex-colleague of mine — she's currently working as a Creative Director in a small and very successful brand agency in Sydney.

We caught up on the premise that she was facing some issues at work and she wanted my opinion on how to handle them. I also wanted to see her as it had been a few years since we last saw one another, and I was naturally quite fond of her. An intelligent, strong Designer and a kind and interesting person.

“I’m fucking sick of all these youngsters coming out and calling themselves CDs without paying their dues!”

She said this as we ordered our coffees and exchanged the small-talk that usually fills the beginning of this kind of catchup. She continued, “They waltz in thinking they know it all, they give themselves any title they want, get bored of jobs I give them, expect to be paid top dollar, stay a year and leave.”

I could go on, but you get the picture.

This, it seemed, was the crux of the issue she was facing in her business. An inability to manage her frustration at young, emerging creative people with a different view of the world then the one she had.

She asked for my thoughts so I jumped straight to the point.

Of course they know it all, and yes, they can give themselves any title they want, they can pick and choose the jobs they go for and they can command any salary they can get — and yes, they can come and go as they please.

My friend the ex-colleague was taken aback, almost offended that I would chip away at her vision of what was right. She believed that her years of experience, paying her dues and climbing her ladder to the role she currently held was in fact, they way. She was older and they were younger and they should fall into line.

I listened carefully to see if there was anything deeper, more substantial, but that was it.

Here was an older creative person, feeling the pinch of the younger, emerging talent coming up in her industry. Externalising her frustration by focusing on things as empty as job titles, independence and a command of the earning power.

In an industry that lacks an accredited and accepted framework for career progression and continued professional development, you can give yourself any title you wish. You can start a new business as soon as you finish reading this article, and have paying customers well before the next one is even conceived.

You can command your own salary because today, you can run a successful side hustle or two, that pay you more than the average salary the industry you're some are so desperately trying to get into, is willing to pay you.

You can up skill at your own pace, build an international network of colleagues and mentors and walk into a job interview with a broader world view, and experience, than the person that is interviewing you.

You're in a position to rewrite the framework and unwritten rules that govern the way the creative industry works and the norms and imbalances that are accepted.

You can stick it to the man and tell him that you're not that jazzed about working in his 'boutique design studio' because you're going to start your own and maintain a sense of independence that he's not willing to give you.

You know everything there is to know and if you don't know something, just Google it and you'll know.

There is no magic. There are no dues to pay.

You don’t have to fall into line.

You owe nothing to anyone.

You just have to do something. Make something.

Move forward and run your own race.

As for my friend, that day I asked her to look in the mirror and diagnose her own career growth — and to ask herself if she honestly liked what she saw; or was the frustration she was feeling, simply envy for the things she lacked?