In most jobs, the only way to feel like you’re growing is to get a promotion (and, of course, more money). Oftentimes, employees end up taking any promotion or manager position that comes their way, regardless of whether or not the “upgraded” role is applicable to their long-term goals because it embodies the essence of moving forward.

However, if you are in a creative profession, chances are you’ve grown up saying, “I just want to make stuff,” which makes the current infrastructure of most organizations incredibly stifling when it comes to creative growth.

Unlike a conventional advertising agency, where the ultimate promotion to a Creative Director still has you engaged in creative production, many creatives in digital media are getting pushed up while also being pulled away from the thing they wanted to do in the first place – make cool things and tell great stories.

In my last organization, I watched endless amounts of creatives accept promotions as manager because that was the only viable next step that would allot them more money and a higher title. Unfortunately, many soon realized that they:

  1. Never had aspirations to manage others
  2. Did not embody leadership skills or experience to be accountable for someone else’s career growth
  3. Were not socially comfortable engaging with others on a consistent basis
  4. Preferred to be individual contributors who were left alone to create and produce work
  5. Had no other options for growth

To my dismay, I watched a trickle-down effect where newly-minted creative managers were frustrated by their lack of creative production and therefore confused at what they were meant to provide to their direct reports. This resulted in their direct reports feeling paralyzed in their own growth, unclear as to whether or not they were meant to seek power or production.

Worst of all, when these Creative Managers eventually wanted to move onto another company, they ended up taking more managerial roles or higher titles because of the promise of more money (even though they still lacked managerial preparation), setting them up for a path that they never chose and a focus towards power over passion.

More than ever, there is a need for companies with creative teams/talent to provide alternative options for growth in the creative realm where creatives can feel like they are financially growing as individual contributors without the stress of title-seeking in order to get to the next “rung on the ladder.” And those who genuinely seek a managerial skillset should have the opportunity to do so, learning how to properly manage others based on interest.

As a creative, should manager be on the table as your “next step”? See what’s possible where you work in terms of being able to amass more responsibility within your role (and therefore increasing your pay) without taking yourself away from the work itself. Nothing is black and white, and when it comes to being a creative thinker, I think we can all agree that our minds live in the grey.


Annie is a Creative Circle candidate and freelance creative strategist/copywriter working and living in Los Angeles. She knows digital media as well as she knows her own horoscope (she’s a Virgo), having worked at the likes of BuzzFeed and Mashable. She has created branded content strategies for the top Fortune 500 brands, which means she knows the true meaning of “going native.” If you want to work with Annie, contact Creative Circle Los Angeles.