A quest for creative autonomy and community in Israel
After nine years as a graphic designer in established Israeli studios, I have decided that a nine-to-six lifestyle is not how I do my best work. Until now, I have held jobs for about a year and a half at a time. I bounced from branding studios to advertising agencies and back. A cycle formed and repeated at each role.
I always started with enthusiasm and a happy feeling in my gut. Then after six months, I began to think, “What am I doing here? What do I bring to the table?” I inevitably compared my work and process with other designers. I felt inferior to their studio experience, their seniority, the design school they attended, and when they got more positive feedback.
Talk about imposter syndrome.
I questioned whether I was good enough. I imagined I was hired by chance, that I had happened to be at the right interview at the right time. I began to lose myself. I kept coming to work, of course, but the excitement and joy were not the same.
My creativity dwindled and I ran on auto, which is the worst for a person who is expected to be creative for a living. As a graphic designer, you innovate all the time — whether you are creating an ad campaign, a web banner, or a new brand. When you are uninspired, it is hard to push through and conceive something fresh. My output was not as powerful. Finally, I would meet with my boss. By the time this happened, I knew they were dissatisfied. I came prepared to be canned. We parted ways.
The feeling of getting fired is not pleasant. Still, I couldn’t resign because I feared missing out. The idea of stopping the familiar morning routine and not sitting with my friends, working, sharing stories, and jokes at lunchtime made me feel sad. For any person dealing with anxiety like I am, a change in customs can be scary. So each time, I had someone else make a move for me.
In most instances, parting ways was a mutual decision, and I was well-liked in the office and left on the best of terms. Each separation led me to something new and more suitable. I felt like I was moving forward.
And then, a breakthrough.
The last creative role I had was for a small studio founded by a designer. It was a place to think bigger, and I was excited to build it from the ground up — no small cogs in a large system there. I helped name the practice, redesign the website, build a social media presence, create content, as well as produce client work. I kept on good terms with customers and helped grow the business. The pay was less then what I was used to, but the commute was significantly quicker, and I got a taste of a shorter workday. Eight hours instead of nine doesn’t seem like a big deal, but it made a difference.
I love learning new things, and I used my free time to attend professional meetups and lectures. I went to Jolt and discovered a new world of work. One that is not necessarily confined to a full-time position or being someone’s employee. I met like-minded people eager to learn together.
Israelis are tight and brotherly. I was glad to witness this in the design community, as well. The entrepreneurship spirit is evident here — after all, we are a start-up nation.
I found that people from different fields are facing the same challenges. We are all vulnerable and desire to find the right path — which is sometimes different from how we earn a living presently. Through this community, I enriched my soft skills and professional skills. I learned about storytelling and how it can enlist clients, UX/UI, positive psychology, uncertainty as a creative strategy, and data visualization.
I learned how to master the mindset of public speaking, negotiate my salary, pay attention to body language, create my own business plan, sharpen my intuition, make meaningful connections through networking and social media, make wiser decisions under pressure, write a blog, write cold emails, provide useful feedback, and create a sharp 30 seconds speech to earn clients.
Most importantly, I learned how to navigate a new professional world.
After two years — the longest time I have ever stayed in one workplace — my boss told me that she was cutting costs and letting me go. By then, I had helped hire and train two designers. As a senior employee, I earned relatively higher pay. Moreover, she explained that the two creators were enough, and she didn’t want to grow more or bring new clients. If I stayed, I had to accept a demotion.
You can relate, I’m sure — I wanted to move forward, not backward. So we parted ways. I got severance and started thinking about my next path.
Israel is a small country, and the large design studios concentrate in Tel Aviv. The infrastructure is tight, and I have experienced most of it. Taking a role within it will merely reboot the familiar sequence of excitement/disenchantment/good-bye. There is another way.
The community I found awakened me to new possibilities and taught me the tools to build my own business. It’s time to use these resources and forge a freelance career, with the flexibility and terms that amplify my ability to make an impact. We are meeting in a new chapter.