As the new year is starting, people are trying to start fresh in various areas of their lives, and often, that area tends to be in their careers. David Baker’s talk is sound career advice for those hoping to make a change in their careers, whether you are a creative jumping from one industry to the next, hoping to start your own venture, or entering the creative world for the first time. For some background on David Baker and the lecture he gave, check out this Creative Mornings post, which includes Baker’s bio and a video of the entire talk. For those unfamiliar with Creative Mornings, make sure to check them out, as they are a great resource for creatives.

The theme for this Creative Morning’s lecture was “Crossover”. Baker broke it down into a three-step process, where Crossover is the pivotal point one makes in their life, going from an area of Competence to one of Creation. Mainly, it means taking what you do and doing it well; well enough where you feel confident enough to make the switch over to something you love and would love to do more often as a career, and finding the strength to make that transition.

Well, yes, obviously, that’s plain as day, right? Well, you would be surprised. Many people fall into the same perfunctory routine, all the while wishing they were doing something that suited them better. They don’t feel challenged but don’t do anything about it. Or they try to take on something new without having any idea what they’re doing. The problem with the latter is that said person, more than likely, is doomed to fail because they are not competent enough in the work they are doing (or hoping to get into) to make an impact. The same people that are working day in and day out bored with their work may very well be competent in their work, but because they lack drive, do not impact those around them in their role. Baker stresses that this is the first step in crossing over; being competent enough in what you do every day to make an impact. You have to do what you do not just well, but exceptionally well before you can even consider being making a change. Prove that you can do the job, do it well, earn respect, and gain competence before you can move forward and be heard.

Baker offers the following tips to become competent:

  • Become disciplined in your work, no matter what it is.
  • Learn from anyone. You never know who you can pick something up from if you’re not open to it.
  • Have meaningful conversations, often.
  • Gravitate towards world citizens, and try to become one yourself.
  • Be honest; the truth is your friend.
  • Fight fairly.

After you become competent, you can begin the process of Crossingover. This tends to be where people get stuck, cause many people, like I mentioned before, get comfortable in the day-to-day monotony, doing enough to pay the bills. Crossingover requires strength. There is a lot of doubt in this step of creating the new you. Baker, having gone through several iterations of the process himself, highlights a few doubts: Where are you in the process? How much do you know? What’s the worthiness of your industry? Is what you’re doing bullshit? To get pass these doubts, Baker suggests you gather your strength and hold it, reminding yourself why you want to make this change in your life. You have to come to terms with whether or not failure is an acceptable outcome, and if it is, don’t think of the implications of making the change.

Creating your new self involves making new patterns out of old ones. It’s an opportunity that’s better for you because it suits your true self. But how do you get to this? Part of crossing over into your new self is figuring out what your unique ability is. That’s not always the point that you start from or the ability you gained competence in. Here, Baker suggests reaching out to those close to you, and have conversations with them about your unique abilities. Sometimes, things that are not as clear to you are readily apparent in those that know you well. Writing, he says, also helps a person verbalize their uniqueness.

Baker makes a great analogy after going into detail about each of these three steps. He says that every person he has interviewed in the creative industries has gone through this process four-to-six times. Going through the process is a lot like GPS navigation, he goes on to say. Every time you go through the cycle, you acquire a new satellite, which further helps you pinpoint your place in the world. So, creatives, don’t feel dismayed if you feel like what you’re doing now isn’t where you want to be or if your skillset now doesn’t suit you. You’re still figuring it out. It takes time, and you just need to keep working at it. You probably only have one or two satellites under your belt. Just got to keep chugging to acquire the rest.