“Creativity” has become a highly marketable skill in the professional world. But it doesn’t mean companies are hiring more artists. In fact, the meaning of the term has evolved to encompass much more than a knack for artistic expression. Below, we outline a few ways you might have the hot new skill employers are looking for without even knowing it.
1. Creativity is striving for originality.
Dare to be different. That’s really all it takes. While many of us believe creativity comes from being struck by inspiration or having innate talent, the truth of the matter is, it’s a mindset anyone can adopt. Creativity is closely tied to what scientists call “divergent thinking,” or thinking outside the box. If you find yourself wondering, “What if…?” and “Why this and not that” a lot, you’re being creative.
2. Creativity is problem-solving.
The people we traditionally label as “left brained”—science people—solve problems for a living. So do creative people. In fact, creativity requires the ability to identify an issue, examine it from multiple angles, and propose a solution. In science, identifying an issue might mean asking what happens when two chemicals interact with each other; in art, it might mean asking how you can achieve a certain desired artistic effect. It’s all about solving those problems.
3. Creativity is recognising patterns.
We often judge creativity by what we do, and that’s valid, but it’s also related to the way we think. Are you skilled at thinking about the whole picture? Drawing conclusions from seemingly incoherent bits of information? Organising the disorganised? Making sense of endless lines of data? If you answered “yes” to any of these, you can list “creativity” on your CV.
4. Creativity is doing, not being.
The title of this article reflects a common misconception many of us have about creativity: that you either “are” or you “aren’t.” But creativity is about doing, not being. Sure, some of us might have more creative potential than others, but we can’t call ourselves creative if we don’t create. If you’re hemming and hawing over whether to write “creativity” on your list of professional skills, think back on contributions you’ve made over the course of your career that might qualify as creative achievements and make sure they have a place on your job application.
5. Creativity is starting inside the box.
Yes, “thinking outside the box” is the ultimate goal, but you need to start inside of it first. If you’ve ever learned to cook or play a musical instrument, you know how important it is to master the basics before experimenting or improvising. It’s the hallmark of the learning process. So don’t think you’re not creative if you like rules; learning them is the prerequisite to breaking them.
If you don’t think you have what employers are looking for, think again. Often, as is the case with creativity, we have to break down the skill and interpret various parts of its definition to see where we fit in. It might take a little extra time, but employers will recognise the effort when it shines on your CV.
Saga Briggs is an Education Writer for Open Colleges, one of Australia’s leading education providers. Saga has taught and tutored writing at the elementary, secondary, and post-secondary levels. Her educational interests include psychology, creativity, and system reform. She earned a B.A. in Creative Writing from Oberlin College and lives in Portland, Oregon, USA.