Why Personality Matters for Young Creatives in the Virtual Workplace

Mastering a sometimes overlooked skillset

Young creatives focus on improving their skills because they are only as hireable as their skills. When we are self-assessing our capabilities, do we consider personality to be within our skillset or is it just a nice-to-have? I am of the opinion that personality, whether introverted or extroverted, is one of the most important skills one can bring to the creative workforce. It's what sells ideas, makes work less "worky," and builds relationships. Yet, so often young creatives only hone the traditional skills taught in school. A copywriter will spend countless hours on a manifesto, and an aspiring art director will tweak .psds to the nth degree. While these are important crafts to master, I'd challenge young creatives to view personality as a stand-alone skillset, one to be practiced until it's an asset in the creative toolbox. 

Personality is the best presenter.

In an industry rooted in communication, it's a necessity to work on personality as a skill. This rings especially true when it comes to presenting ideas, whether to executive creatives or to clients. Our mouths keep moving, and if we're monotone or dull, few will lend an ear and our great ideas won't have a chance to be heard. When young creatives have accrued enough of a persona in others' minds, they will look forward to our out-of-the-box or even wacky ideas. Subconsciously they'll attach our presentations to us. If they like us, they'll be slightly more biased to like our ideas. Personality is that skill that can bleed into all of our work and help us make the work we want in our portfolios. Don't let your lack of effort to display your personality stop your killer work from getting produced.

Not an extrovert? Not a problem.

Don't think that my instruction to show off your personality only targets those loud extroverts out there. No, showing your personality is for the introverts, too. Many introverts make great work and foster meaningful, effective relationships as well. What's important is that one shows their personality, however that looks. We are people, not robots, and we are all programmed just a bit differently. Legend Bruce Lee instructs to "Always be yourself, express yourself, have faith in yourself, do not go out and look for a successful personality and duplicate it." 

Working with spice makes everything nice. 

At the end of the day, we are all people who work together to make ads and sell products, but that doesn't mean we can't enjoy our time together. When I think of the next 35 years of grinding on an advertising career, I suffer a minor heart attack; however, when I change the lens and bring relationships into that timeline, it seems doable. Personality makes work entertaining and collaborative. What would you rather do, grind to the end to get your commercial in the Super Bowl, or grind and chuckle to the end to get your commercial in the Super Bowl? Warm personality in the process reminds us we are all persons.

No one wants to mentor a dud.

Newcomers in the creative field are seeking mentorship, and in a virtual world that can seem impossible. How will someone want to invest in me if I'm just a name on the screen? And vice versa, how could this person in a 16x9 block even invest in my future? Personality is the first step to wanting to give and receive mentorship. Personality is that extra effort, because it's not technically in the job description, and when we put it forward, others notice. It's so easy to just do our jobs. Fortunately, it's also easy to do our jobs and bring a little bit of energy and spunk. When your exerted personality is noticed—and it will get noticed—others will gladly invest in your future, which will have a more friendly angle than an assigned, formal mentorship. 

Curious how to shine in the virtual world? I gotchoo. 

Showing personality is a little challenging in the virtual world, but it can be done. I was recently told that I "bring so much color to the agency." That's coming from co-workers who have never met me IRL, and maybe don't know my personal hygiene habits—don't worry I showered today—but somehow that personality can seep through screens. There are a number of tactics to implement into those daily emails, Zoom calls or Slack messages. First, fire up the chat. Normally, there'd be chit-chat in the office hallway, where you can make connections and bond. In lieu of that, don't be afraid to spark up a side convo to build connections. In addition, as cringy as they sound sometimes, attend "extra curricular" activities your agency offers. Whether it's a game night or a coffee hangout, more likely than not you'll leave feeling more connected to your team. Finally, just as you would for an in-person meeting, prepare yourself in advance, so you can bring energy to the call. Whether that's having a snack, or stretching beforehand, coming with the right mindset will show through the screen. 

Bringing personality to a workplace, even if virtual, is valuable and noticed. If you still don't consider your personality to be an asset, I ask you to reconsider and try some of these tips. Splashing a dash of personality into all your work brings worthwhile results. My personal hero Jim Carrey, who is well known for his personality, once said, "The effect [we] have on others is the most valuable currency there is." So, don't sleep on your personality. Put it at the forefront of all your creative output to make the work more sellable, the grind less of a grind, and to turn those relationships into friendly mentorships we need to grow.

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Cole Davis
Cole Davis is an art director at Deutsch New York.

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