I spoke this week at a sixth form careers day for one of our new clients, Cheltenham College. It was really interesting to challenge myself about what it’s like to work in this industry, what’s good about it, what’s bad about it, what attributes you need and the rollercoaster journey that I’ve been on so far in my career (it really has been, so hopefully I’ve got it all out of the way!).
As I examined the journey I’ve been on and the decisions I’ve taken along the way, there were a few stand out pieces of sage advice that I felt I should convey:
- Choose a career that you’re passionate about and fascinated by. Don’t pick a career because you think it’s what your parents want you to do, because you think it’ll make you rich, or because it’s in a place that you want to live. You have to turn up every day, forever (creative licence), so you really need to enjoy it.
- Work out what differentiates you – what’s your USP? Know your strengths and weaknesses. If you’re going to work in the advertising industry, you’re going to spend your life trying to do exactly that for clients’ brands.
- Get some experience somehow – do it for free, do it in your holidays – show a prospective employer that you’ve got the drive and desire to work in the industry.
- Don’t give up or be deterred – invariably your path won’t be smooth, and there’ll be highs and lows. Things will work out if you want them to and you’re determined.
I concluded that the following things are what make advertising a great career:
- It changes the world – we positively influence how people think, feel and behave.
- It doesn’t stand still – because we’re on the cutting edge of trends and technology, we have to be dynamic.
- You have some really interesting experiences – photo shoots, TV shoots, radio recordings, meeting celebrities, presenting new campaigns, public speaking, etc.
- It’s a young industry – younger than most, which makes it a good choice for a graduate.
- It’s good fun – the best of the agencies that I’ve worked at have kept ‘having fun’ at the heart of what we do.
- It’s pretty informal – much more relaxed than a big, corporate career, in many ways, but not to its detriment.
- It’s got great career prospects – there are clear paths for progression up the ranks and, because we have to work closely as a team, including across departments, there’s bags of opportunity to learn from your peers and some brilliant people who’ve been there and done it.
And here are the qualities, in no particular order, which I concluded you need to have (probably with a bias towards account handlers, although most apply across the board):
- Sense of humour
- Good communicator
- Hard working
- Motivated (and motivating)
Hopefully the students found it informative and interesting, but only they will know that. Of course some were more engaged and interested than others, and some were clearly sitting in on the sixth most important (to them) on their list of six talks that they chose to attend, but that’s fine as this industry isn’t for everyone. If one of them was positively influenced by something I said, I’d consider that to be a good use of a morning. The lunch put on for the speakers afterwards was excellent, too, so thanks to everyone at the College for their hospitality. Maybe I’ll be back again to do the same thing next year.
So, why do we do stuff like this that we’re not going to get paid for? Well, firstly, it was really quite interesting to be forced to reflect on the career I’ve chosen – it’s helped to reaffirm a few things – secondly, because we’re totally committed to our clients – a loyal client could ask almost anything of us (within reason!) and we would move mountains to oblige. Respectful, trusting and productive relationships are worth their weight in gold. We value, and don’t take lightly, the commitment that they have made to us and we try, every day, in everything that we do, to reaffirm their decision to put their faith in us. We believe it’s the best decision they could possibly make, but we don’t take it for granted.
So, to all our loyal clients, if you ever want to ask something similar (or dissimilar) of us, please don’t hesitate; whether it’s ‘can I park at your offices when I go shopping on the weekend’, ‘can a relative come and do work experience with you’, ‘can we use your offices for an internal meeting’, or something else altogether, the answer will most likely be yes.