When I graduated in 2002, my first preference was to join an advertising agency. After a few missteps, I was lucky to be hired at a reputable agency and I owe a lot of my success to what I learnt there. So I always advise students to spend two years of their lives in the account management department of an ad agency in order to learn the ropes of marketing.
Here is what I got out of my time in advertising:
At any given time, you are handling multiple clients from different industries, all of whom are active and demanding. You meet market leaders regularly to understand how they think and this is an education in itself. The only thing you have to do is to keep an open mind and try to grasp everything happening around you.
Cross-Industry application of ideas
You will meet intelligent (and sometimes not-so-intelligent) and successful people from a cross section industries. Generally people who start their career in a specific industry and stay there for long time lose the ability to think out of the box. Those who work with different industries have this incredible ability to apply the ideas that have worked in one industry to another, which becomes the difference between a marginal hit and an overwhelming success.
You are not as smart or as good as you thought you were
This is what hits you the hardest. Because you spend so much time meeting people who have their own thoughts and ideas, you spend time learning how companies and brands actually work in the real world. It is only after some time that you feel you are in a position to contribute with ideas and suggestions. You need to give yourself time and respect the people who have been in the field longer than you have.
This is the most important lesson. You may be the best at what you do and be 100% dedicated to your job but if even one person is not on-board with you, the whole structure comes crashing down. It is your job to ensure that this doesn’t happen. You will have to work with people you do not like – learn to live with it!
Look for solutions, not problems
When you are working in a high stress environment where the client, your CEO, creative Department, media and even the studio expects you to get you that extra day/hour/minute of time and at a time a million things could go wrong, it is for you to keep a sensible head on your shoulders and try to for solutions. Problem solving and street smarts as the two traits that every successful advertising professional possesses.
The first thing my Account Director ever said to me was, “Here there are no timings. You are not paid to work your hours; you are paid to get your job done. Whether it requires two hours or 26 hours – do it!” This has been my mantra for life. I work jobs not hours. The secret is to work smart and not waste time doing tasks that are unimportant or which can be done later.
When you are handling multiple accounts in an agency, things happen very fast. The secret is to plan your time in such a way that your day moves ahead in slow-motion and you have time to accommodate all your tasks. Breaking up your day in slabs of 15 minutes or 30 minutes each and allotting each slab to a particular task really helps. In the beginning you may need to do this manually but later this is done mentally. With time this becomes second-nature and that is when the fun actually starts and you are able to complete big tasks in a single day through this process.
Be ready to learn and learn you will
As you are at the bottom of the food chain in the agency, you get ample opportunity to do everything. If you are willing, you learn each and every thing which gives you the ability to understand how you would plan a marketing strategy in the future.
"Your ability to see things from the ‘other side’ gives you incredible insight into your expectations, goals and deliverables which in today’s fast-paced world is invaluable."
Secondly, you get your hands dirty and do things yourself. After a while no task seems beneath you, no job overwhelming enough and no timeline so unrealistic that it can’t be met.
Things will go wrong
The only certain thing about a usual day in advertising is that the last thing it will be is usual. The secret is not waiting for things to get better but working to get it better. Things will go wrong, your ability to make it right and how the speed at which you do it will make a difference in your career. Do not be overwhelmed by failures (they will happen more often than you like) but celebrate the successes (which will happen less often than you hope for).
The satisfaction at the end of the day makes everything worth it
Every day is a new day. Keep yourself motivated by breaking down your tasks into small goals that you achieve and look for the next challenge. No one will praise you the way you want, except that small voice in your head – let it speak, better yet let it scream!
The writer is Head of Marketing, Meezan Bank Limited.