Published in Mar-Apr 2017
1) Thou shalt suppress the need to change jobs every two years
Your first job is like the first house you move into. It might be on rent and not permanent but you will think carefully before choosing it. Your first job may not be ideal, but give it a year at least and if it’s an agency with good people and decent accounts don’t worry about the size. Make the most of it. Look at the bright side. Smaller accounts give you more leeway to experiment. Take the advantage to put together a robust portfolio. If you end up at an agency with big accounts, a good atmosphere and a chance to grow then stick with it. Grow and develop in that environment, be professional and behave responsibly. Eventually you will have the chance to straighten out any kinks in the system and help others within the agency to grow as you have.
2) Thou shalt learn to make small talk with the client
For all purposes we are the cool kids on the block. Where the ideas flow and the clients get to escape their spreadsheets and number crunching. So if you want to start your meeting on a good note, make sure the environment is conducive. Start a conversation that probably has nothing and something to do with what needs to be discussed. Talk about the weather, the latest movie playing in the cinema or a great viral campaign you have seen. Diversify your conversation – from sports to superhero films, from fashion to Shah Rukh Khan, from a silly YouTube sensation to a thought-provoking social hashtag. Mine for insights into your clients. What do they like/dislike, what makes them tick.
3) Thou shalt not covet thy neighbour’s success
When you question your neighbour’s success you question your boss’s judgment in awarding them the assignments they and you have. Why does she get to work on that account? Why does he have a better designation? There is a simple explanation. You don’t get rewarded for the number of years you spend in this business. It’s the depth of your experience that counts. Ultimately it all comes down to the work your produce, your potential to do more, your attitude and aptitude. Skill set is important, but so is keeping your skills sharp and picking up new ones. If you feel bogged down by the accounts you handle, give ideas on accounts you don’t handle. Build a spirit of collaboration not confrontation.
4) Thou shalt refrain from trashing other agencies
It might seem like fun and in keeping with current toxic online trends. But this is a bad idea. Like it or not, at some point you may be interviewing at the agency whose work you ripped to shreds gleefully. Also, you may have noticed that the people with a proven track record, the industry success stories, et cetera, generally refrain from doing so. And that is why they are where they are. Whereas you, my bitter cynical-before-time friend, will always be where you currently are. So just keep this in mind the next time you gleefully pound the keys. If you haven’t produced anything worthwhile then you are probably not in the best position to pass judgment.
5) Thou shalt not run after awards
I don’t know how to break this to you, but if you joined the advertising industry with the intention of creating that mind-blowing viral video that wins you a Cannes then brace yourself... it’s not going to happen. Yes, clients can be rigid, consumers too literal and the industry focused on sales and brand building. It will never happen because you are just not good enough. To win your clients’ trust you need to produce business-building work. To produce meaningful work you need to have depth in your thinking. Read – the written word exercises the imagination and gives you creative muscle – study art, explore music, and get out of your comfort zone. With a little bit of humility, make yourself better.
6) Thou shalt not use the word resignation in vain
Your current agency might just call your bluff. Simple as that. Please keep in mind that increments and promotions are not dependent on years of experience, your familial/financial responsibilities, or the number of hours you spent at work. It is dependent on the quality of work, your attention to detail, agility in responding to challenges, a positive outlook and the willingness to chip away at the status quo without creating craters in the organisation. PS: Don’t use an offer letter to procure a better paycheque. You do it once, you will do it again. And at some point it will all catch up with you.
7) Thou shalt not kill the inner child in you
No matter how much time you spend in this industry, do not allow the dark side to overcome you. There will be arguments and personality clashes, toxic people in the workplace or at the client’s table, last minute changes, rejections of great ideas and many, many late nights. When you feel particularly frustrated, take a walk, swear with abandon or put on some music. Then get back to work. Have you ever seen a toddler having a bad day? A small tantrum and a few tears, then it’s all forgotten and they are off zipping around precariously on their scooter or chasing butterflies. They are amazed by a lot and bogged down by very little. So go ahead, chase a few butterflies, be unafraid to express yourself and don’t take yourself too seriously.
8) Thou shalt learn to mentor and give credit
Pass your knowledge forward. Help them, guide them and support them. Show them how that concept needs to be written, how to craft that idea, how to present in an engaging manner. Earn their trust. And when necessary, fight their battles for them. But choose who you decide to mentor. Coach them all, but mentor the few who have genuine promise. An honest mentorship also keeps you on your toes; when you teach, you will also learn.
9) Thou shalt not be de-motivated with every round of feedback
Grow up. Working in the service industry is never easy. It’s painstaking and backbreaking. It can also be incredibly rewarding when you see the results. Advertising is a tough industry. To go down that road, you need a thick skin and clear vision. You need to ensure that you are seen as someone who bounces back from adversity, has a can-do attitude and a solution oriented mindset. If you persist in being a whiner, don’t expect your team to respect you. Feedback sessions can turn into battlegrounds. Like all battles, be strategic in your approach and remain cool-headed. Fight the fair fight. Concede where it matters to the client and push back on what matters to you.
10) Thou shalt remember that you too are a brand
A good brand ticks all the boxes but a great brand has integrity, vision and an essence that evolves with time. An essence that others can relate to or aspire to. You are a brand. Be honest to your values and associate with people who share them. Values are not the same as opinions or beliefs. There you need to accept differences. Integrity is key. Be transparent and clean. Think about what you want to stand for. And stick to it. You don’t have to be liked by everyone or try too hard to be cool. You do need to be respected. Be comfortable in your own skin. That’s actually quite a tough one. You may constantly wonder whether you need to be someone else, wear a more acceptable façade. Too much work and not worth it. Trust me. It really is easier to be yourself.
Rashna Abdi is Executive Creative Director, IAL Saatchi & Saatchi. @rsabdi