I hate that feeling of seeing everyone I went to ad school with do so much better than me: promoted to ACD, work anniversaries at W+K and 72&Sunny, just hired at Arts&Letter and Apple and Facebook, awards galore, SuperBowl spots, etc. And here I am making no work at a mediocre place not getting any responses from anywhere else. I’m legit happy for them. I just feel like I’m so far behind. Like how was I classmates with these amazingly creative and awesome people? I feel straight pathetic.

likehelpful
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I give this analogy often, so I’m probably doxxing myself to those who have heard it... Advertising is a lot like Hollywood. Of course everyone wants Oscars and awards and to have their name beside a big production. The Marvel universe is never gonna win Chris Pine an Oscar. Would he like to be up there with DeNiro and all some day? Sure. You think he feels bad cashing his Marvel checks? Doubtful. The point is - the people you graduated with are moving up, but that doesn’t mean they’re BETTER than you. It means they found their niche or found the right director to latch onto early in their career. Nothing is stopping you from being an ACD, but find the right shop. Find the right CD to learn from. Stop looking at the name on the door. You think Saatchi was sexy before Tide? There’s a reason why Droga isn’t as hot anymore. It’s the people inside those shops that make the work. Base your next move on your boss, not the agency. With respect to the creatives at WK, I believe I can make work just as great. Wieden won’t give me the time of day, though, so I’m making the best of it at my current shop.

likesmarthelpfuluplifting

You get PAID for being in Marvel. This ain’t Hollywood.

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I was you just a few years ago. Midlevel creative at a midlevel shop wondering how my former classmates climbed so quickly, won so many awards or worked where I wanted to. I would have never believed that my book would be where it is today as I’m on the cusp of ACD. Here’s what I worked on: Resilience—you probably had a great idea that would have made your book just as good as theirs, haven’t you? Well, good. Keep having great ideas. It may be your fifth, sixth, seventh amazing idea of your career that finally gets produced. Intentionality—you don’t like your job, but you have one. Now is the time to hunt for a role you specifically like. What aspects of creativity are you great at? What CDs do you admire who have work-styles you think you could do? Send nice, customized, and meaningful emails to them. Note: this is very different than “just email CDs at Wieden.” Really be intentional in pursuing the voices, clients, and media formats where you excel. Determination—is creativity what trips you up? Probably not. Account? Strategy? Really, really think through the account and strategy rationales both when you’re coming up with an idea and after you have it. Then use that to speak up and defend your ideas, protecting them from death at least in the rooms (or Zooms) that you’re in.

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Comparison is the thief of Joy

likesmart

What they said ☝🏼

Sometimes it's connections. Other times, people are just built for it. They aren't more talented, but they are the right type of person. They just fit in places like that. The agency world isn't a meritocracy. It cherry picks people for superficial and dumb reasons, and casts off real talent in the same callous way. Play the long game. Invest in yourself and your skills. Look for opportunity outside the traditional ad agency world. Then you'll see how far ahead you are at age 40 or 50. Most of these people will be totally washed up. Meanwhile you'll be making stuff that people actually care about rather than ads. Or making money that you care about. Or both. And you'll be thinking "Damn...I'm glad I'm not them"

likesmart

Big agree

It's a long road. Some people race halfway and then stop and never start again. Some people spin their wheels for a decade and take off like rockets. Charles Bukowski became more famous at 60 than any of his contemporaries who were publishing work and winning lit prizes in their 30s could have dreamed of becoming. My last job was somewhere the fine folks on this app would rather die than work. My current job is somewhere those people would kill to work at. Things change. Also, if these are your friends, have you considered asking any of them for help?

likeupliftingsmart

@SC1 Thanks for this, especially about treating emails to CDs like you’re trying to get them published. Exactly what I needed right now.

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Someones making a banner at WK right now

likefunnyuplifting

I dont know you, but I know you are more than capable of getting there if thats truly where you want to be.

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I went to VCU and I haven’t made anything good 🤷‍♂️🤷‍♂️

likehelpful

Right there with you!

Were you doing work comparable to these classmates in ad school? Sometimes it’s just chance that tilts the balance. Other times, skill and charisma.

likesmart

As someone who’s portfolio suffered early on but was able to turn things around, it all started when I took a critical look at myself. I looked at the people/work I wanted to do, and thought about what skills I was missing. Was it production experience? Presenting skills? Leading assignments? Then it was sort of timing/luck, but I religiously kept watch at places that I admired and more importantly, places where something within my shitty portfolio/client experience/skill set might align perfect with a current client, and was able to get myself in. From there I filled in all the gaps to my experience. Follow the opportunity and not necessarily the agency name. That means the bosses and kind of work you can produce there. Everyone’s journey is different, focus on becoming the best you can be. The rest will follow.

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Concentrate on yourself

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Possibly related, social media has shown to make people depressed because we see a curation that's almost exclusively great moments or cool things (or, at least, those are the bits we notice). The end result is that everyone thinks everyone else has a better life (yes, even the people you just saw post their vacation pictures from Iceland).

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Connections most likely. You can be super talented but not knowing the right people will get you no where.

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Once you’re over 35, it’s mostly about money and making it to retirement anyway. I’d much rather build businesses at this point than make brand campaigns that impress other ad folks.

likehelpful

Quick history lesson: Chuck Porter of Crispin Porter Bogusky, wanted his agency in Miami to be better than Pat Fallon’s agency (Fallon) which was doing very well at the time, because they were high school classmates. He thought, if I went to the same school as this guy then I should be as successful as he is. It was a silly notion but that small Miami shop eventually became a global network and agency of the decade. Moral of the story inmho: Comparing yourselves to others is dumb. Using something (however silly) to motivate you day in and day out may not be so dumb. Just don’t over do it. Cause then you’ll get all death of a salesman and nobody wants to hear that story again.

likehelpful

I’m in my mid forties and rethinking my entire career... when I sent the resume “crafter” my list of jobs and accomplishments - many agencies, 3+ economic crashes....and most of my friends stayed in digital and retired in their 30s I think this all the time. Do yourself the favor of writing up a list of what you have accomplished personally versus peers...remember we are all on our path on what drives us in the marketing and advertising field. After doing this questionnaire- I thought...hmm I need to be in a non profit or recruiter role...not standing on hot coals everyday anymore.

likehelpful

I’m gonna skip through all these “work hard, it’ll pay off” or “you are just as good, don’t be dragged down by titles and awards” etc. the truth of the matter is that there is far more luck than anyone is comfortable admitting. It’s pure chaos. Few people do good work because they are lucky enough to get in good positions early on in their career. Most get to high titles for the same reason. At the end of the day we are all employees. My advice - realize that and find a way to create your own opportunities to be fulfilled. This may take you out of advertising, but at least you’ll be happier and not be stuck in the unfair messed up and at times, toxic game.

likesmart

I feel this on a deep level level. My journey into this career has been filled with a lot of speed bumps. Interned for a while, then did ad school, finishing up just one week before Covid. Took 7 months just to get a decent full time job. And they just last week laid my team off due to budgets/Covid. My peers I interned with have since been promoted out of Jr roles and making decent spots. It stings but I have to remember their win isn’t my loss. I’ve heard very similar stories from very high level creatives - widely renowned CCOs, ECDs, even Gerry Graf. Have to remind myself we all have our own path. And I’m sure luck and circumstances play a role I there as well.

likeuplifting

Something I always consider too is that almost every shop has less sexy, even mundane clients. Not all positions, even if they’re the same title at the place, aren’t created equal. I interned at a big agency - huge car brand and other major clients. When I saw mid-levels, a few were doing doing the cool TV spots, while many were helping out on the grunt, dime a dozen emails and social posts. And I’m sure that holds true for other more senior positions. Just a thought.

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Luck over everything. Then hard work. Then talent. Connections help LOTS but those alone make you a hack and everyone else knows it

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Just remember that you only see the astounding success on social media and the stories of those profiles show up. Most of your classmates may be at mediocre places and pretty comfortable about it. You just don’t see it plastered all over.

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