Fresh off my graduation from Ball State University’s renowned advertising program, I found myself as the newest member of the media department here at CurrentMarketing. Textbooks were replaced with job numbers and clients soon replaced professors. Although change is good, it can also be overwhelming when you’ve spent the last four years cramming for exams and completing projects for make believe clients.
It’s the classic dilemma of theory versus practice. The perception is that one’s degree is supposed to completely prepare oneself for their desired career. But let’s be honest, this is one of our society’s biggest misinterpretations. Theory can only get one so far in this creative, ever-evolving industry. As a result, a gap exists between what one learns in school and what he or she should expect in the so-called “real world.”
In an effort to help bridge this gap, I’ve compiled a list of thoughts about what one might expect when landing that first agency job. So take out your moleskin and jot these down, because I bet you didn’t hear this in your introduction to advertising course.
1. It’s real now. The days of gold stars and grades scales are over. Clients as well as your employers expect to see your A+ work everyday. It is important to remember that this is a business where money is at stake. Mistakes usually end in financial loss for the company instead of the usual 5-point grade reduction.
2. Listen up! It’s easy to walk into the first job wanting to impress your coworkers with all your skills and knowledge. After all, you did just spend four, maybe five, years of your life with your nose buried in a textbook. The best bet, however, is to listen and learn as much a possible. Knowledge is only as good to someone who knows how to apply it.
3. Warp speed. Efficiency is key in an agency. One must be able to work quickly and accurately to keep pace with client needs. So, get organized and learn to multitask. Cramming won’t cut it either because quality of work will suffer as a result. Unlike the golden years of college when you knew what tests or projects laid ahead, your workload at an agency can change in a heartbeat. In other words, always be ready to kick yourself into warp speed.
4. Traffic Jam. When working on campaigns in the academic realm, you either worked alone or with a small group of peers. Thus, simple after class conversations and the occasional text message usually facilitated communication amongst the group. At a full-service ad agency with several dozen employees and a client roster longer than your monthly grocery list, workflow is a bit more complicated. So when you step into your first job, be ready to learn about the wonders and importance of traffic. Failure to do so might lead to missed deadlines and a pink slip in your mailbox.
5. Leggo your ego. No, I’m not saying you have to give up your morning waffle, only your ego. As much as you might think you know it all, I assure you that you do not. Your employer understands that you are new. Entry-level positions are not about what someone can do now, but what they can learn to do later. That being said put your ego aside and ask questions. And above all, be honest with yourself and others. Do this and you will be a great asset to the agency. Don’t worry; you’ll have plenty of time to build up your ego again as you acquire more experience.
6. Oh yea, it’s fun too. If you truly love the industry, working at an agency is fun. In school, you only learn about the business side of things with little attention given to the fun that takes place inside an agency. And yes, the work hard play hard myth is true, at least at the good agencies. So for those of you on the job hunt, consider the company’s culture as much as its client roster. Doing so will make you much happier in your own brave new world.