School vs Work: What I learned my 1st year out

Here are some tips and tricks from a junior art director after her first year working in an agency. 

You may be surprised by what she's learned. 

Use it to help make yourself better.

5 things you didn’t learn in school that you learned in your first year as a junior

1. You probably won’t like your first (second and third) year in advertising.
To be clear, this is not a ploy to deter people from a career in advertising. It’s just a way of saying you’ll either hate it and/or love it.

2.  Be vocal about your needs in order to do the best work possible.
As a junior, you don’t want to complain and look incapable of dealing with something on your own. But sometimes you should actually address a real issue. Project requirements, timelines, the brief, work relationships, etc. Just because you’re at the bottom of the food chain doesn’t mean you have to bend over and take it. After all, juniors are human too.

3. Step back from advertising.
It’s not easy because if you go from ad school straight to an ad agency, advertising IS your life. But advertising that’s inspired by other advertising is actually really tragic. Unsubscribe, turn things off, go outside, and force yourself to be inspired by life.

4. It’s okay to not stay in this industry.
Of course some people do want to stay in the industry (which I’m actually really envious about because they’ve found their life’s calling). But so many people talk about doing improv, writing scripts/screenplays, having a gallery show, creating a fashion brand, procreating, fighting Voldemort and saving the world. So work hard, save up that money, and go follow your dreams.

Always. What if something happens at your agency and you get laid off? Would you rather have good work in your portfolio to help you find another gig? Or bad work in your portfolio but some money to wipe away your tears? Good work will eventually lead you to more money.

5 things that school prepared you for

1. Presenting.
I was actually surprised at how many people don’t know how to present. Here’s some quick tips I learned during school: Keep it short, concise, and confident. Make it your own so you’re telling a story versus selling something. Put only the necessary basics on presentation slides. Take advantage of pauses. Know your work so you face your audience and don’t read off a wall with your back to them. Remove all “Uh… um… yeah…like…” from your vocabulary. And NEVER start a sentence with “So…”

2. Understanding strategy/strategists.
I gained a lot of respect just by reaching out to the strategists to learn what their original thought process was. Sometimes their explanation changed my mind and I would get inspired. Other times, we’d talk it through to push it to a place where we all felt strong enough to move forward. It helped me to learn how to be push the work respectfully and present strategy, which apparently many creatives don’t do.

3. Socializing is half your job.
I was pretty friendly before Brandcenter. But I once I got there, I was faced 200 new friends at once with presentations, crying, laughing, massive eating and drinking sessions with people from all over the world every week for 2 years. It was pure madness but amazing at the same time. It definitely prepared me for the ad world.

4. The stress.
A professor once told me, “Don’t stress out. It’ll eventually make you hate the game of advertising. And once you hate it, you’ll never come back.” It’s sound advice.

5. Fail.
Pitch your best and craziest ideas, even if they’ll fail. At least you tried. Don’t be predictable and safe. This is one of the few industries where we have the freedom to do that. Take advantage of it. You want to be Mozart and not Salieri.