Agency Greenhorn: Baptism By Fire

Written by 5ivecanons Staff

The idea of working at an ad agency is something I thought I’d be prepared for after college graduation, and that I’d be able to hit the ground running. But as I approach my four-month mark at 5ivecanons, I’m realizing just how wrong I was.

There are so many things I’ve learned in this short time that just can’t be taught in school. This “baptism by fire” type of learning started for me when I began the application process.

The job search.

The first thing you realize after school is that a diploma doesn’t guarantee you a job. A degree is a great achievement — the result of many hours of studying and hard work — but in today’s world that isn’t enough. It will, however, help get your foot in the door and your name in the conversation. After that it’s about demonstrating value. You have to show your potential employer why they need you and what benefits you can bring to them. One way to do this is by showcasing relevant achievements. (For me, that meant highlighting my internship experience.)

Jumping in headfirst.

Once you land an agency job you’ll soon realize the importance of keeping several mindsets. The first is a sink or swim mindset. You have to learn, and learn fast. Unlike at school, you don’t get to walk with a mentor and have them show you the way. You’ll have to do many things on your own. For me this meant quickly and aggressively diversifying my skill sets. I’ve been teaching myself how to use graphic design, coding and web development tools while learning how to manage projects and clients. During college I focused on the fundamentals of advertising; I never thought about honing things like presentation and networking skills.

The second mindset you need to have: always go the extra mile. I say this because no matter what you think you know before graduation, the fact is you still won’t know a whole lot. Mistakes will happen, so never let your guard down. (And when they do happen? Own up to them, learn from them, and do whatever you can to avoid repeating them.) Work hard, make mistakes at first, and then work even harder to improve for the future.

Finally, you must develop a mindset where you’re not afraid to ask questions. You aren’t in school anymore, but that doesn’t mean you should stop being inquisitive. (If anything, you should be asking more.) Ask not only about how to perform tasks (such as how to make a Photoshopped image look better), but also about your performance as an employee. Acknowledge your strengths, and figure out how to improve your weaknesses. You’ll never improve if you don’t know what to improve on.

Keeping at it.

Although I thought I was prepared to work in an ad agency, I’m glad that I wasn’t. By understanding that I need to learn quickly, go the extra mile, and ask lots of questions, I believe I’m gaining invaluable career experience — and becoming a stronger asset to the company. If I can pull both of those off, it’ll be a win-win.