Notes from a Baby Dinosaur in Advertising
In a previous blog post titled “Notes from an Acrocanthosaurus,” Dave Warren highlights some of his experiences from close to 40 years in advertising. In 4 decades, he has managed to create some of the world’s most recognizable campaigns, teach at Parsons, pick up some Clio’s, and start his own company. He’s totally an old dinosaur, but in an incredibly rare and inspiring way. There aren’t too many Acrocanthosauri in advertising with their own shops who personally take the time to mentor their entry-level employees. Although I haven’t come close to earning my plaque on the Madison Ave. Walk of Fame—and before you even ask, yes, that’s a thing(seriously, Google it. I’ll wait)— I do believe there’s value in discussing the experience of inexperience (hence the term, “Baby Dinosaur”).
I think that many of us can view inexperience as shameful and something that we need to overcompensate for in any way that we can (especially in an entry-level position). I would actually argue that it’s perhaps your greatest asset. Not knowing anything means that each day is a new opportunity to learn something, to observe, and make new connections from your own perspective. We should never be ashamed of being a student—no matter the context. So don’t be afraid to ask questions until you completely understand, and then keep asking questions because you’re curious to learn more.
I’m still navigating my position as a newcomer to this industry (under the tutelage of a self-proclaimed Acrocanthosaurus) but here are a few things that I’ve learned so far:
1. Advertising is a Great Place to Start Your Career
Learning how to effectively craft a message is a powerful and useful skill in any industry. If you get the opportunity to be on the agency side, you get an exclusive peek at the culture of many companies in multiple industries. It’s a great way to gain exposure and figure out what you’re interested in, while building transferable skills. Once you figure out exactly what it is that you want to do, you’ll be primed with the network and the tools to make that transition. If it just so happens that advertising is the industry for you, then you too can look forward to one day having your own plaque on Madison Avenue.
2. If You’re Starting out in an Agency and Have No Clue about How to Get a Clue…
Copywriter, Designer, Producer, Video Editor, Strategist, Art Director—what does any of this even mean, and how are you supposed to figure out which one’s for you? The answer to all of your problems? Start out as an Account Manager. I will fully disclose that I am well aware that Accounts gets a pretty bad rap (Pete Campbell wasn’t the best mascot), but you get a birds-eye view of how the agency functions and get to be at the center of an extremely tangled but beautiful web. Are clients going to be crazy, unrealistic, and demanding sometimes? Absolutely. Will it be worth it? Absolutely. You will gain unparalleled problem solving skills, learn patience, and an unwavering can do spirit. All of which are things that will eventually come handy in every arena of your life.
3. Do More Than Say Yes. Create Opportunities.
One of the best ways to learn is to get your hands dirty with as many projects as possible. Always take the opportunity to be a team player and see if any of your peers or higher-ups could use some help. Don’t wait for people to come to you for help, be proactive and ask if you can be involved with a task. Then absolutely knock it out of the park, and the next time a similar project comes around, you’ll be a go-to person. Not only will you get to learn new skills with every new project, you’ll also get to work with more people than you otherwise would. Being proactive and creating opportunities for yourself is a skill that will only continue to benefit you for your whole career.