Dear Me, On My First Day of Advertising #31: Jennifer Hohn
Dear 1998 me,
First of all, what the hell is going on with that outfit? Seriously. Do they even make things out of rayon anymore? Between that and the hairspray, pretty sure you’re a walking fire hazard.
Oh hey, if I remember correctly, you’ll get to see Pearl Jam at Fiddler’s Green next month. So that’s cool.
WELCOME TO YOUR FIRST DAY OF ADVERTISING MY OPTIMISTICALLY NAIVE FRIEND.
You have no idea who you are yet. And that’s okay. Take the time you need to figure it out. But be aware now, if you really want to be in advertising, you have to love it. So much so, that you can’t imagine doing anything else. It’s very hard to break into this industry, and staying relevant is even harder. However, getting paid to follow your passion is an honor never to be taken for granted.
STOP FEELING SELF-CONSCIOUS.
As you nervously sit in that agency lobby, completely intimidated by everyone walking by, know you deserve to be there. It’s just the beginning. And beginnings are scary.
People are not judging you – because, like you, they are probably also self-conscious. Smile, laugh and relax. You’ll be fine.
DON’T EVER SETTLE.
Over the course of your career you’ll have many successes and many failures. You’ll learn from them all. I guarantee everyone that does great things had to overcome adversity in some form or another. The defining difference is what you do after a door is closed or a tough card is dealt. Do you pick yourself up and push harder? Or, do you cower behind defeat? Either way, don’t settle for the status quo. Do something.
LEAVE ROOM FOR SERENDIPITY.
Don’t try to plan everything, and stay flexible. In 2009 you’ll show up late to your first Ad Club meeting and miss out on volunteering for The Fifty – which was first on the meeting agenda. Instead, you’ll get the opportunity to launch a new intense portfolio program. This, and the talented people you meet through the club will change your career path. And don’t worry; you’ll get to do The Fifty later.
BE PRESENT AND MAINTAIN BALANCE.
After all those years of getting lost in your own head, you’ll realize your brain’s not wired like most people who can clock in and clock out of a job. You have to create and help others create. There’s not much you can do to change that, but work to balance life better. (If you find your mind wandering when you need to be present, wiggle your toes. Trust me, it works. And it’s only weird if people see you do it.)
COLLECT RANDOM OBSERVATIONS AND INFLUENCES.
These will inspire you in your work and will help you see other perspectives. Never underestimate the power of empathy and divergent thinking. Creativity is simply the ability to combine things in interesting ways. And, without a good idea, the rest is irrelevant. Remember that.
EARN TRUST AND PROMOTE YOURSELF.
Take great advantage of every small opportunity you get. The more you exceed expectations through seemingly insignificant things, the more credibility will start to stick. And you’ll get bigger opportunities.
FIND A MENTOR AND THEN BE A MENTOR.
You’ll learn on both sides of that equation. These relationships are your quickest route through the creative ranks. Helping others grow will help you grow.
RELENTLESSLY SEEK EXPERIENCE.
If you’re not getting the experience you need at your day job, find ways to make those opportunities happen through side projects and volunteering. There’s no short cut for experience. Put in your time and never think you’re entitled to anything. You’ll go much further with hustle and humility than with excuses and ego.
THE PEOPLE YOU WORK WITH MATTER MORE THAN THE WORK.
In your career, there will be one thing you’ll deeply wish you could have changed. At an award show, you’ll run into one of your favorite young creatives that you mentored years ago. With his quirky smile, he’ll tell you things are going great. His distant eyes will tell another story. This will be the last time you see him. And that final memory will haunt you. The most important thing I can tell you is to always be there for your network.
DON’T UNDERESTIMATE YOURSELF AND CARRY ON.
Well, I’ll let you get back to your meandering path through this treacherous, yet exhilarating advertising adventure you’ve chosen. Good luck out there and I’ll see you down the road.
P.S. I really hope this future-self advice doesn’t mess things up in a Back-to-the-Future sort of way. Well, I suppose time will tell, right? (By the way, did you get that winning lottery number list I sent you last month? Judging from my bank account, I’m guessing no.)
To read the entire 2013 'On My First Day of Advertising' series, click this.