What School Didn’t Teach Me About Agency Life
What I learned in boating school iiissss….*
*If you got that reference, kudos to you my friend. If you didn’t, keep reading. Even if you did, keep reading
Much like Spongebob in his various attempts to pass boating school, I spent pretty much all of college trying to prepare myself for my life after the fact. Since the up-and-coming advertising geeks of the modern age aren’t fortunate enough to be taught in the classroom by the Don Drapers of the world (insert sarcasm here), it’s difficult to know what to expect or really be prepared for something until you’re livin’ it. Allow me to elaborate.
Despite having done research prior to being in this position and involving myself in the industry as much as I could as a student, there were still some things my Marketing textbook happened to leave out. While everyone learns differently and has different experiences, I personally can’t say that the stuff I (somewhat) listened to in class gave me what I needed to know to get the job I have today. Granted, I did have some experience with the work that an ad agency does thanks to NSAC, but I didn’t know what it meant to actually work in an agency.
People know people – and you should be one of them
Something I learned very quickly in my initial stages of being exposed to this industry is that it’s relationship-based – whether that be with an agency’s approach to their clients or their approach to hiring talent for their team. As someone who aspired to be the latter (and accomplished that feat), it was really important to get ahead of it. Becoming familiar with the local professionals in the industry around me and inviting them out for coffee was v intimidating but the best first step in the right direction. Pro tip: BUY THE COFFEE – trust me, first impressions matter.
But it didn’t stop there – I had to do some professional stalking prior and try to come up with talking points, mostly to avoid my inevitable tendency to evoke awkward silence. Nevertheless, remember to buy the coffee. Send them a handwritten thank you card – at the very least, send them a thank you email. Touch base with them every now and then. Keep your eyes peeled for opportunities to shadow them or intern. Buy the coffee.
What you see on Mad Men is not what you get. The advertising industry comes hand-in-hand with a unique culture that I’m not sure you will find anywhere else. It brings (or should bring) the best out of us – especially our best sense of humor. It jives with the dog lovers of the world who are down-to-earth, honest, go-with-the-flow kind of people that take their work seriously and their play just as seriously.
Expect to have the perfect balance of random breakroom talk and thought-provoking, what’s-going-on-in-the-world conversations. Granted, it’ll vary in the location you’re in, but speaking from my experience, it gives you an opportunity to actually enjoy the people you work with and learn a thing or two – hence this whole blog.
What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger – Kelly Clarkson
Failing a class in school pretty much means that ya done messed up. But when you’re amongst the pros, failure isn’t always the worst.
As we all know, making a mistake sucks, but we eventually get over it. Even better, there’s always something positive to take away from it, especially as someone who is new to the biz. The culture I just mentioned also fosters a supportive enough environment that will motivate you to do better instead of getting hung up on it. In the words of my girl KC, what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger and we all love a good learning experience.
Ask not what your agency can do for you, but what you can do for your agency.
This title may be a little bit of a stretch from what I’m about to say, but it’s the first thing I thought of and gives me a great Segway into the real stuff.
Throughout the whole process of getting into an agency, or really getting any job you want, you have to be determined and driven. What’s even more important is to take the grit that got you the gig into your new job. Learning how to do what’s required of you is a given, but as you start to get into the groove of things, see what you can take on that’s not already given to you to expand your horizons. Take initiative, people.
I could go on forever on this topic, and as the days go on, the list will only continue to grow. Even though getting a degree matters (or so they say it does) the best way of learning is just to do the damn thing. That’s all I got for today, ma babies.