Dear Me, On My First Day of Advertising #19: Mandy Stevens

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When I look back on my first day in advertising, it’s pretty hilarious actually. My art director partner and I were a Chicago start-up’s first hires (they’re still in business). Fresh out of Portfolio Center in Atlanta, we had no idea what to expect and, boy, were we in for a rude awakening. It would take the agency about six months before they could afford to lease proper office space. We commuted out to the suburbs of Chicago and cranked out campaign after campaign while sitting at wobbly folding card tables haphazardly situated in a tract house basement lit by blinding incandescent bulbs. That was my beginning. Full of “you can’t write this stuff” kind of stories. We lasted there almost a year before we hopped on the big agency bandwagon for a while. Here are a few things I would tell my junior copywriter self if I was just starting out on what I hope continues to be a long, interesting advertising road ahead.

Here’s the most important thing to figure out.

Always do work you’re proud to put your name on.

Here’s what you need to ignore.

What everyone else is saying.

Here’s what you need to pay attention to.

What everyone else is doing.

Here’s what you need to work on most.

Learn to start a project without overthinking it. A thought-starter doesn’t have to be perfect. Come back to it again and again and again. Whatever you write will eventually become exactly what it needs to be.

Here’s what you need to embrace.

The pressure never goes away.

Here’s what will get easier.

Your confidence in your craft.

Here’s what won’t get better (so get used to it).

Your first pass at something will never be approved as is.

Here’s what’s pretty cool.

Every project is a chance to impress yourself with what you’re capable of creating.

Here’s what fear will go away.

Do I have what it takes to make it in this industry?

Here’s what fear won’t go away.

Do I have what it takes to continue to make it in this industry?

Here’s what should motivate you.

Everything everyone is doing inside, but more importantly, outside of advertising.

Here’s what will get you into trouble and hold you back at times.

Stupid integrity.

Here’s what will allow you to sleep at night.

Integrity that’s not so stupid after all.

Here’s the most important thing you’ll realize 15 years from now.

Be open to every opportunity you have to learn something.
Open your eyes.
Open your heart.
Open your mouth.
And the rest will follow.

Wishing everyone a great 2014!

To read the entire 2013 'On My First Day of Advertising' series, click this.


Well said Mandy.

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