Nikky Lyle is a Creative Recruiter with conscience and 10 years recruitment experience. Vice President of Hope for Post Quarantine, TEDx 2021 Speaker, The Dots list of 100+ Rising Stars, D&AD President Judge 2020 and a Side Hustle Cheerleader.
Nikky Lyle Creative was created with a clear vision in mind. To work in a better, more diverse, and more equal creative industry. With a dedication to helping clients and under-represented groups navigate an industry that can sometimes be tough, to make sure the best talent finds a home where they can thrive.
Congrats on the TEDx talk! How did that come about?
Thank you, I can’t believe it’s happening. I’ve often thought it would just be such an amazing thing to do. So a few years ago, I saw that they were advertising about it in Folkestone, but I didn’t have an idea at the time.
You’re actually speaking to me at a really good point, where things are going quite well, but the last two years have been a real struggle. Anyway, I just so happened to meet somebody that was responsible for bringing TED to Folkestone and we’d meet and have coffee and a catch up all the time. I kept saying to myself “don’t pitch a TED talk to her, don’t pitch a talk” because that must be what everyone does.
Eventually, just through natural conversation, I was talking around the subject of privilege within the design and advertising industry and she said to me “that sounds like a TED talk”. I wasn’t sure, but she was and was then on my case to submit the idea.
Did anything hold you back from submitting the idea?
I was hesitant at first and questioned if I’d be good enough, or if I had the right idea for it. I knew if I was going to go for it, I really wanted to go for it. After applying, I was interviewed by a few people and I’m not going to lie, this was really hard on top of the pandemic and everything else going on.
I guess what a lot of people don’t realise about me is that I’m a freelancer, technically. Take away how I package myself up and how I present myself to the industry. I’m a freelancer, just like anyone else. I have my clients, I work my jobs, I chase my invoices, but I just brand myself differently because I’m a recruiter.
One of my favourite quotes that really helped as I was creating the script was “Read until you’re full and write until you’re empty”, and that’s what I did. I kept reading about my subject matter over and over and over again and then I would try putting pen to paper.
“Read until you’re full and write until you’re empty”
What would you say to anyone who was potentially afraid to speak up about diversity and inclusion, for fear of saying the wrong thing?
Being an ally is essential. And it’s better to be an ally than to be afraid of putting a foot wrong. I had a really good chat with Kate Moross about gender, marginalized people, non-binary and the correct terminologies etc. And even Kate said, it’s better to try and make a mistake than to not engage because you feel awkward and you feel uncomfortable.
How privileged are we though, that all we get to do is feel bloody uncomfortable? There are people that have lived experiences of struggle, so we need to show up and be vocal in those meetings. It is hard, but that’s the only way that we’re going to have the right change within the industry that we need.
“How privileged are we though, that all we get to do is feel bloody uncomfortable? There are people that have lived experiences of struggle, so we need to show up and be vocal in those meetings.”
Do you call out bad practice in the industry as and when you see it?
I’m not for everyone. I have ‘Creative recruitment with conscience’ as a banner across my business. I don’t place people in toxic work environments and to answer your question, there have been situations where a client asked some quite sexist questions, and I did push back.
When I worked for other people, it was really hard to be vocal about this, because back then I would have my boss pulling me into a room and saying, “Oh, why are you aggravating our clients, you just cost us an account” whereas now I work for myself, I can be selective about who I work with, so I only work with awesome agencies, awesome people, and the jobs fill themselves.
But I’ve got more work than I can handle at the moment and I’m getting really busy, which just goes to show that it’s working for me.
Do you think the market for junior and entry-level roles are now on the up again?
It is a really hard time for grads, but it’s always been a hard time for grads. It’s one of those industries where you have to have grit and resilience, and you have to want it so badly that you won’t quit.
Someone described it recently to me as driving around trying to find a car parking space. Actually, it’s just the luck that someone’s pulling out at the moment that you want to pull in. But you have to be driving around, using your indicators, you’re not gonna get a car parking space if you’re sitting at home. You have to be out there in the industry, going to events, speaking to people.
“It is a really hard time for grads, but it’s always been a hard time for grads. It’s one of those industries where you have to have grit and resilience, and you have to want it so badly that you won’t quit.”
In our industry, we have a really lovely, friendly, kind set of people and if people can spare their time, they will. But that being said, a lot of people work long hours, and they’re really busy, so for graduates to get ahead, they have to take all the advice on board, and they have to be prepared for the fact that no one’s going to spoon feed them.
They’re not just going to walk into a job.
What advice do you have for final year students, about to head into industry in search of jobs?
When you go for an interview, you need to really be pitching to the client what you’re going to do for them, because you’re very green. You might have talent, you might have potential to be brilliant, but you’ve not yet worked on multi-million-pound accounts. You’ve got so much to learn.
“You might have talent, you might have potential to be brilliant, but you’ve not yet worked on multi-million-pound accounts. You’ve got so much to learn.”
So you’ve got to be humble, keen and enthusiastic. Whoever is hiring you has to see you as an investment, as someone they like, that they want to bring in, grow and nurture. If you go in like “I want this, I want that” with that kind of bravado of entitlement, you’re not going to get a job.
Unfortunately, unis might hype up these grads, to feel like they’re the best thing to ever step foot into the industry. And they can be. But they need to be quite humble and learn their craft first.
How can a young creative really pitch themselves to a studio?
Every studio has something they can learn from you. There’s something that the younger generation can provide that the older generation want to learn. You’re on trend with everything and this is what we need to learn from you. You’re the future consumers, you’re the people brands want to be reaching out to and communicating with.
It’s also really important to get across your character and who you are. And obviously, you can’t get across your entire personality in a one hour interview, but make it 50% about you, and 50% about the company. Ask intelligent questions – interested people are interesting!
How frustrating are people that just talk about themselves, right? But if you say “How do you find it working here?” or “What projects have you enjoyed producing for this agency?”, it shows really great personality traits and people skills.
Do you recommend applying to as many jobs as possible to boost your chances, or really focusing in on a few select positions?
You want one job. So if you just want one job, or one internship, why are you applying to 200, 300, 400? 200 agencies of which may not even be right for you. Find your niche, find your home, coordinate your portfolio and your experience appropriately and really go after those ones.
Loads of people do this kind of spray and pray, and then get disheartened, because you’re saying to your friends or whoever, “I sent out 100 applications today, but I didn’t hear back” and you’re almost harming yourself through the process of looking for work. You wouldn’t have got 80% of those anyway, because you weren’t right. So just focus in a little bit more.
How do you tailor that perfect portfolio for the one job you want?
Do a really personalised, crafted portfolio. Even if you just switch the first slide to the name of the agency, and the name of the person that you need to get the attention of, they’ll go “Wow, this person has taken time” and most of the time, they’re more likely to take five minutes to get back to you, because you’ve taken 10-15 minutes to create something for them.
Tell us more about your current side hustles? *TW: Suicide*
I call them passion projects, because side hustle sounds exhausting. But a passion project is meant to be something that reinvigorates you, it should be an outlet and a way to express something new.
Post Quarantine, was all about writing a letter to your future self for once this all kind of blows over. It was actually created after I lost a good friend of mine to suicide the first week of lockdown, because when it all happened, she just couldn’t cope with it. And I thought “Okay, what can I create that gives people something to look forward to?”. Then the plan was to display all the letters in a gallery and have a private viewing, where everyone was reunited with the things that they wanted to say.
Just the simple act of writing down your thoughts, slows everything down. It’s incredibly therapeutic. I actually started journaling in 2020 and it’s been a lifesaver for me. I spin these plates all the time and it’s good to just check in with yourself and declutter your mind.
Why do you describe yourself as a side project cheerleader?
Side projects are good to diversify what you’re doing. We all have our day jobs that pay the bills, but that doesn’t always create the most exciting work. However, if you do a side hustle or a passion project, then that’s you creating work on your own terms. That can then really demonstrate to the market what you want to do, when it’s you deciding how you spend your time and what you want to create.
How do you find the time to do these passion projects?
Well, you can’t complete Netflix, can you?! You can try, but at the end of the day, it’s all about choices! You choose where you put your time. There’s no right or wrong way to spend it, but it depends what you want out of life and what kind of career you want.
What would you say to anyone who perhaps wants a passion project, but doesn’t know what it should be about or for?
You create a passion project for one of two reasons. You either love it so much that you can’t stop talking about it. Or, it really pisses you off, drives you insane, and you need to solve a problem. Either way, it’s got to be something you can obsess over. If you want it to be good, you have to put time and energy into it.