I remember reading a section in a copywriting book recently about starting a task. It’s inherent knowledge that there’s nothing scarier than a blank page and the only way to overcome the fear is to just get something down. Anything. Luckily since we moved from carving things in to stone to pixels and buttons, nothing is permanent. Just having jibberish or a scribble means you have something that can be developed, moulded or scrapped. I had been looking at this screen having not written a post for around a year. This will be another one of those annoying nostalgic ‘you don’t realise over 12 months how much can change until you look back’ posts as I share some of my thoughts from the last year. Hopefully you’ll find something interesting or useful. Or if you’re a creepy social media stalker like me – you might have just come to read to be a bit nosy.
Speaking of social media, if you’ve ended up here via Instagram you may know a little bit about me already. This time last year I’d finished a graphic design course (which many people disregard due to it’s short length – read here to hear the story first-hand) and landed a job at Clemenger as a designer/finished artist. Most recently I posted about completing AWARD school and moving into a job at Ogilvy as an Art Director. From an outside perspective it looks like an unbelievable trajectory, and from the little celebratory posts here and there, probably quite a painless experience. More often than not, we view our peers’ careers and lives through the rose-tinted lens of various social platforms and very rarely get a true representation of what goes on behind the scenes and second-guess our own paths and abilities. Well, that is if you’re anywhere near as neurotic as I am. So I wanted to share some of my experiences, because that’s what they tell me blogs are for.
As I’ve written about before, getting the design job at Clemenger was a massive surprise. With no advertising agency experience, I didn’t think I’d be considered. True to the rumour that it helps to have connections and that creative agencies are about fit as much as ability, they hired me after I managed to confidently bluff my way through an interview and a friend put in a good word for me. Despite being armed with just 3 months of experience on the tools, I figured everything else I’d learn on the job. What followed was six of the most intense months of my professional life – ridiculously long hours, constantly feeling overwhelmed at being out of my comfort zone and burnt out. I came incredibly close to quitting, often wondering whether I’d made the right choice to leave my secure career behind and take the risk to do something new. I would find myself worrying that someone would realise that I did in fact have no idea what I was doing. I have since read some fascinating research on this feeling, better known as ‘Imposter Syndrome’. A concept describing people who have a constant fear of being exposed as a ‘fraud’, it’s more commonly experienced by women than men. Plagued by self-doubt, I felt like a rabbit in the headlights on a regular basis, but the more I spoke to other friends and colleagues, I began to realise that most of us feel that way, at some point in our lives. There is an excellent quote by Luke Sullivan than sums it up nicely, “the things about yourself you fear are the most personal are also the most universal.” Given the world we live in seems to be changing daily, even the people at the top are still learning every day and will feel out of their depth. It would seem that we’re all faking it until we make it, except there’s no such thing as having ‘made’ it.
Finally the hours started to change and I realised I’d become a master at working efficiently by accident. It seems what doesn’t kill you really does make you stronger. Or at least it helps you memorise a fair amount of keyboard shortcuts. If you’re feeling uncomfortable and out of your depth that’s a good thing – it means you’re learning, probably more than you realise. However, with my aim of making my way into creative, next on the agenda was AWARD school – a course for aspiring art directors and copywriters. The application was the fun part – two weeks to answer four questions in creative ways to try and convince the Powers That Be to give me one of the 14 places in the 2017 class (if you’re mildly interested, this was my application). After passing the test, I was faced with 12 weeks of juggling full-time work with after hours lectures, seminars and briefs. I really had no idea what I had let myself in for. Imposter Syndrome was back with a vengeance, along with the rollercoaster of choosing a subjective industry as a career. Intense highs of feeling like you’ve cracked a solution, only to be torn down by other people’s opinions. Severe lows as you attribute having no ideas to you being a talentless individual, to having an epiphany two hours before your presentation. Oh, and sleep deprivation. Everything is worse when you haven’t had enough sleep.
As part of answering creative briefs and hunting for lateral solutions I developed an interest in philosophy (perhaps subconsciously searching for the meaning of life, in sleep-deprived desperation…). Books like ‘Happy’ by Derren Brown suddenly had me reading about early philosophers, covering the likes of Stoicism, Epicureans, life, death and everything in between in a much more interesting way than I can articulate. What started as a general curiosity soon piqued a fascination as I realised how much philosophy is still relevant today, with links to an array of relevant disciplines for anyone in advertising, specifically psychology and behavioural economics; how we react to situations, perceive each other and even links to the future of artificial intelligence. Daniel Ariely’s blog is a great resource for short snippets on behavioural economics and general life insights. He’s also hilarious.
Three months later, my AWARD portfolio was finally submitted. Despite feeling like the shell of a person, and predictably disappointed with my final submission, the class were reminded how we often judge ourselves by our immediate surroundings and forget to consider how far we’ve come as individuals to reach the same point. As part of the course, we were given the opportunity to take creative directors at local agencies through our folios which led to an interview at Ogilvy. During several rounds of coffee interviews, I realised a creative mind will take you part of the way in advertising, but a curious mind may mean the difference between a job and an empty discussion. Advertising continues to change as technology and human interaction evolves and engaging people is no longer a simple case of media consumption. AWARD school fostered my interest in podcasts (SYSK, Tech Stuff), and a Facebook ban for the 12 weeks meant I replaced the thumb action with Reddit and BBC News. It’s easy to get lost in the industry you work in and only look at what everyone else is doing for inspiration – it’s your personal passions and interests coupled with random facts and topical news that give a unique spin to anything you create.
Six paragraphs can’t really encapsulate the last few months and there are definitely more elements still to mention – like the networks, friends and mentors that helped me achieve the above without going insane – but I’ll leave those for another post. Which will hopefully be in less than 12 months. Famous last words.