My 2021 in Sketchnotes
Updated: Nov 20, 2021
This year passed like a whirlwind for me. I finally got back into sketchnoting after taking a break in the second half of 2020. Some of you might know that I worked on a big book illustration project in 2020 so I felt like I needed to recharge my creative batteries. 2021 was full of sketchnotes though and here's a little summary of how 2021 went for me. The whole blog post turned out to be quite long so feel free to skip through the months!
Table of contents:
At the beginning of 2021, I discovered LinkedIn. I was inspired by Elizabeth Morgan's posts and content on the platform so I decided to give it a go and start creating content myself. The first sketchnote I ever created was about a talk she gave at Google:
She shared the sketchnote with her followers and I was impressed to see how much engagement it got! After that, I wanted to explore if sketchnotes were in general a content format that would work well on LinkedIn.
I was on a journey to learn more about the platform and came across Jonathan Javier and his company Wonsulting. They provide so many resources for job seekers and people wanting to learn more about career development. Around this time I started working on my profile, creating a personalized banner, an about section and also consciously growing my network. One of Jonathan's LinkedIn Live events was about "Demystifying LinkedIn" and that was the next sketchnote I created:
The sketchnote was highly successful compared to the amount of connections I had at that time (probably around 500). You can also see that this was the first time I ever played around with colored backgrounds in sketchnotes. I'm still not sure what I think about that much color in a sketchnote, but I like to play around with my style and experiment all the time. I also discovered the dotted lines which would later become one of my signature elements in my sketchnotes.
Another really cool thing happened in March: I attended an online event organized by Google to celebrate International Women's Day with international students. The two-day event was full of insights, empowering stories from women at Google, tips on how to advance your career and networking with students from different parts of the world. I grew my network by a huge amount of people on that day (attendees created a Google Sheet to exchange contact details and social media profiles). I also created a sketchnote with interesting pieces of advice from the event, posted it on LinkedIn and tagged some of the speakers from the event.
This is one of my favourite sketchnotes to date. The colors were taken from the visual design of the event communication and make the whole sketchnote look like fun, I love the circular layout and the fact that is not overloaded with information.
The sketchnote also helped me connect with some people working at Google. I applied for Google's Career Upskilling Program which was only open to attendees from the event, attached the sketchnote to my application and GOT IN! This was a huge step in my career development journey and I am sure that the sketchnote definitely helped a lot with that.
For the social media module in my master's degree, we were given the choice to either work with a company or work on a personal project. I knew I wanted to advance my career and I also felt like I had some "momentum" with my content on LinkedIn. That's why I decided to pursue building a personal brand on LinkedIn for my social media project (and earn some uni credits for it). I focused heavily on career development content and was able to learn a lot about the job searching process, interview tips and networking through creating these sketchnotes. I also landed my first viral post on LinkedIn:
Sketchnotes are a powerful tool to convert audio content into something more visual. I listen to a lot of podcasts and talks, but usually forget all the valuable insights pretty soon because I am a visual learner. That was one of the reasons why I started creating sketchnotes in the first place: To memorize all the insights from the podcasts I was listening to.
My favourite way of creating sketchnotes this spring was by attending LinkedIn Live talks and summarizing my takeways. I also came across some really cool new podcasts, one of them being Ketaki Vaidya's "Personal Branding for Professionals" video podcast on YouTube. Here's a summary from one of my favourite episodes:
Another really amazing project happened in April: Elizabeth (remember my first sketchnote?) contacted me about creating some sketchnotes for her Etsy Shop, Lively Liz Creations. This was such a fun project where I got to draw many of her earrings, but it also took me a long time because it was quite different from the sketchnotes I had created previously.
May was the month of the year were I felt like most of my time was going towards sketchnoting. I did some contract work and also kept creating for my personal brand on LinkedIn. The topics I chose for my sketchnotes now dove deeper into developing your career, for example how to become an intrapreneur in your company or how to negotiate your salary.
I also learned that sketchnotes are a great networking tool: I connected with many content creators through the platform and grew my network with many valuable contacts. The networking aspect of it all is probably my favourite part about creating content on LinkedIn: I had so many inspiring virtual coffee chats with people from all over the world.
I also applied for LinkedIn Germany's Reverse Mentoring Challenge and even created a video for it. Unfortunately, it didn't work out - but I am still happy I tried and gave my best!
In June, I officially finished my "personal branding" project for my social media module. I couldn't quite believe when I summarized the results: I had reached half a million views on my content on LinkedIn in just a little more than 3 months. This was a huge boost in motivation, but my creative energy also felt quite drained at that time. Most people don't realize the thoughts, planning and effort that go into these sketchnotes. It would take me 3-5 hours to create a sketchnote, then I still had to write a post, engage with my followers on LinkedIn and maintain an active network. I would not trade the experience for anything in the world, but it was definitely exhausting at times.
This was also the month were I created my favourite sketchnote to day, summarizing an Instagram Live by Elizabeth Morgan where she talked about the 30-60-90 day plan:
July - September
I mostly took a break for 3 months from sketchnoting. July was the last month of the semester with many deadlines for assessments coming up. I also (finally) went on a little camping trip with my boyfriend to the black forest in Germany (one of my favourite vacations to date). I also finished some work for a client. In preparation for my semester abroad, I took a virtual Business English language course in August (and I also changed my part-time job!). No matter what personal project you are working on, always remember to take breaks.
In September, I moved to Scotland for my semester abroad. I couldn't do one during my bachelor's degree and I was afraid that the pandemic would maybe crush my plans - but it worked out in the end and it's been one of my favourite experiences of university life.
One of my modules, Digital Marketing Practice, required us to create a website. I've been wanting to have a portfolio for a while so I jumped at the opportunity and made the website you are on right now! Because of the website project, I also revived my Instagram profile, decided to gain some experience with Pinterest and started this blog you are reading right now.
I was in need of a creative challenge as well. Inspired by some pins I had found on Pinterest, I came up with the idea of "photodoodles": These combine some elements of sketchnoting (different handwritings, doodles etc.) with a picture of photo. I love how a photodoodle expresses more than just a regular selfie and it has motivated me to learn hand lettering soon (which I've wanted to learn for a while now).
November & December
Finally! In November, I was fully back on LinkedIn. I shared how my sketchnoting journey started back in 2019 and also posted my sketchnote summarizing Richard van der Blom's LinkedIn Algorithm Report. Never before did one of my sketchnotes perform as well as this one. So many people reached out to me and it unbelievable for me to see how it circulated through LinkedIn. I started with summarizing research surrounding health topics back in 2019 and this time I was happy I could do the same: Use my skills to add value to some great research that gives a really good staring point how the platform works.
Right now, I have started thinking about my master's thesis which I will start at the beginning of next year. This year inspired me to dive deeper into the topic of building a digital personal brand for myself and I hope I can somehow bring this new interest into the topic for my thesis.
You see, a lot happened in 2021. I am so grateful for this new path I'm on and I can't wait to see what 2022 will bring. Even though this review was focused on my sketchnoting journey, I learned this year that I need to some variety in the creative work I do: Apart from sketchnoting, I enjoy taking photographs, making videos and so much more. I hope that I get to explore other creative areas in 2022 while also continuing to follow my personal branding journey.
I summarized everything I learned this year about personal branding on LinkedIn in this blog post.