Some Advice You Can Actually Use
This February, I was invited to speak at an event in Omaha called Meet The Pros. It's two full days of speakers, portfolio reviews and networking events for students interested in advertising. The topic I assigned myself was: real talk. Things I've learned in the first five years of my career that we don't tell students, but should. Because maybe a great way to get more students to choose advertising is to actually explain what they're choosing and how to be really good at it. Maybe.
Are job interviews a big deal? Yes. But the moment you put that kind of pressure on yourself you become a bland, nervous mess. The best interviews I've ever had involve normal conversation about things I'm interested in that are completely unrelated to the job. Movies. Podcasts. Comedy. But job-related topics from a macro point of view can be interesting, too. What I think makes good creative. How I think people work best together. Try this: In your next interview, ask the interviewer a question in the flow of the conversation. If they ask why you were attracted to the job, answer, then ask what they love about what they do. This pseudo-interrogation is now a conversation, baby.
Networking. The word alone gives me 80s-shoulder-padded visions of exchanging business cards and shaking hands. The great news is that that kind of networking (while it exists and is also valid) is not the only way to connect with people, thank God. In fact, you really just need to meet a person. One good one. And thanks to Kevin Bacon somehow, that person can connect you to other people. And those people can connect you their people. And now even little old you has a way in to whatever agency you're pining after or the next best thing.
Can we stop telling students that the best way to show they're engaged is by asking questions? Please? The fact is, you don't need experience making advertising to have opinions about advertising. It is vastly more interesting to hear someone state, "I'd like to present this idea to the client." than to ask, "Have we decided who's presenting in our meeting?" Forgoing questions and stating ideas is not only empowering, it opens the floor for discourse instead of flat-out answering a question with a "no."
Speaking of having opinions, this industry is in desperate need of new perspectives. If the people making the ads bring their honest experiences and personalities into their work, then the work becomes inherently more honest and therefore more relatable to the real consumers, excuse me, people, we're trying to talk to.
B2C. B2B. All of it. Infusing "humanity" into the creative shouldn't be an exception reserved for certain industries or projects. Humanity should be the rule. Always.
The dichotomy of "account side" and "creative side" is kind of bullshit, right? If I, as a creative, can understand the business objectives driving my clients' requests, I'm so much better-equipped to come up with ideas we can actually sell. Instead of some whacky idea our creatives dreamed up, we can pitch creative solutions worth investing in.
Emails, meetings, timesheets, time management—you do have to be on top of this stuff. But it's not just busywork, these things serve a purpose. Clear communication makes the fast pace more bearable. Timesheets help you understand how much value you're adding to the agency and client work (hello, billable rates and overtime.) Efficient operations leads to productivity which leads to more revenue. It's obvious to us, but connecting the dots for those just starting out is really helpful. File this under: basic shit they don't teach you in school.
The point here is just that nobody knows exactly what they're doing. Not your boss. Not even your CEO. Get comfortable with being uncomfortable, all that jazz. Every so often, it's important to validate that other people feel the same way. This can help stave off some imposter syndrome.
This one is my favorite because it's taboo and it makes people act weird. But it shouldn't! We're all just trying to do our best and get compensated what our best is worth. And by the way, worth isn't limited to dollar signs. It also means energy, time and emotional effort. You have every right to ask for what you deserve and to draw boundaries as you see fit. Furthermore, it's in everyone's best interest to advocate for the worth of those around you every chance you get.