10 Pieces of Real Advice For Young Creatives

real advice

Earlier this week I posted on Facebook about my last three days spending time with an intern. At day 3, I found myself feeling really good about our experience together and it made me realise something: I actually, really enjoy imparting knowledge. Especially, when you can see it has made a real impact. This was my initial post on Facebook:

Friday thoughts: These last three days I had an intern shadowing me. And what is the usual thing you do when that happens? You give the intern the lacky work to do right? I decided to do things differently this time. I asked her what she wanted to do; what exactly about this industry it was that she was interested in. She told me that she would really enjoy the strategy and ideation part. And she was in luck, that was exactly what I specialised in. I gave her a big task: competitor review and strategy for a real brand. I sat with her for hours and we brainstormed together. I taught her how to position her ideas into a strategic framework that will help us “sell” it to clients. On day 1 she was not very interested in shadowing me, because she probably thought I would put her on coffee duty or something meaningless. I didn’t. Today, day 3, she came to me with a full digital strategy (a fucking good one too) that was so on point that it looked like it could have been done by one of my seniors. I could tell she was super invested in her work. And that made me happy.

With this new-found learnings about myself, I decided to put together some real pieces of advice for young creatives, because this is the type of stuff that I wish I knew when I first started out in the industry. (because I’m a control freak like that)

  1. YOU WILL GET A JOB
    Trust me, you will. And that may seem like bullshit right now but I promise you, it’s not. You just have to never give up. Work for free. Do another internship. And write it off as work experience. What have you got to lose? Except time and money spent on public transport fees, right? But look at it this way, you’ve already made the commitment to study something creative. You must have known how hard it was to get a job after you graduated. Don’t be a pussy now and give up. I struggled for two years to get a job. And not just any job; the right job. I was not prepared to take a job just for the sake of earning money. Dreams are more important. Money and time are important too. So don’t let all those years and money spent studying go to waste because you couldn’t stand going to another one of those grilling interviews. Instead, use the free time while you’re job-hunting to hone your craft. You can thank me later.
  2. DO EVERYTHING
    When you do get that job, make sure that you pitch in as much as you can and do a little bit of everything. You sort of have to become a jack of all trades. And working in a small agency or start-up will enable you to do this. Because only when you’ve had exposure to every aspect of digital marketing, no matter how small, will you really know which area you’ll be best suited in – irrespective of what you studied. I never went to strategy school, because 1 it never existed back then and 2, I thought I’d be a writer all my life. So even though I studied Copywriting, strategy turned out to the area that I excel at and I would never have known this if I said “that’s not part of my job description” to every task that was out of scope.
  3. READ BOOKS
    When I interviewed at the Red and Yellow School of Advertising, one of the things that stands out from what Brian told me was “read a lot of books”. He told me to read at least one new advertising and marketing book a month. Even though I didn’t end up going there [I did get in,obvs] Brian’s words still haunt me. And to this day, I still try to buy myself one new marketing book a month. These books will teach you things that you would never have learnt in any Ad School. And it will also teach you things about yourself that you didn’t know before, which ultimately, will help you discover exactly what type of creative you are. Here are some of my top recommendations:

    1. The Accidental Creative: How to Be Brilliant at a Moment’s Notice
    2. Quiet Impact: How to be a successful Introvert
    3. I Have a Strategy (No You Don’t): The Illustrated Guide to Strategy
    4. Caffeine for the Creative Mind: 250 Exercises to Wake Up Your Brain
  4. READ BLOGS. AND HAVE AN OPINION ABOUT THEM
    So that you can keep up with the conversation at the next company meeting. Just the same way books will open your mind to new ideas and new ways of positioning your ideas, so will blogs and newsletters to these blogs. So whether you’re a designer, a copywriter or a strategist, sign up to as many relevant newsletters that you can get your hands on. Because information is being shared every single minute, literally. Yes there are a lot of crap, but there is also a great volume of valuable reading out there. And hey, you have the time. Again, here are my top picks that are relevant to me: Contently.com Hubspot.com ContentMarketingInstitute.com Newscred.com Quicksprout.com Marketo.com Mashable.com – for funzies
  5. GO TO MARKETING CONFERENCES AND WORKSHOPS
    Now that you’ve signed up to the newsletters, you’ll learn about conference events and workshops all the time. You’ll get invited to workshops that will teach how you to be the next Steve Jobs. But you’ll also be invited to cool conferences where experts share their experiences about what works and what doesn’t. It’s a great place to learn a trick or two and a great place to network. I met a recruiter at a Facebook conference. We then exchanged business cards and that led me to one of my first jobs. So it’s a win-win.
  6. FIND AN AGENCY THAT SUITS YOUR PERSONALITY
    Not the other way around. Because only then will you be able to be your most authentic self, and creativity flows when you are free. I know what you’re thinking; everyone wants to work at the big brand agencies who win all the awards. It’s an ego thing. The truth is, you’ll learn more about your skill at the startups, the smaller agencies because you’re able to be more entrepreneurial. Once you’re comfortable there, move on to the bigger agencies, because then you’ll have the experience to show that you’re worth your salt. Nothing beats big agency experience, the chance to work on blue chip brands and of course, the awards. But monitor yourself and if what you’re doing is starting to feel like a formula, a copy and paste mass-produced formula, then get out. Because what is the point of being a creative, when you can’t really be creative.
  7. START YOUR OWN BLOG
    And your own Twitter account if you don’t already have one. And while you’re there, clean up your Facebook newsfeed and take down the profile photo where you’re wearing a Borat swimming costume. This is because when we are looking for reasons to hire you, the Internet is the first place we’ll go to. For signs of whether you’ll “fit into our company’s culture.” Your social media profile is your brand and you ideally want your brand to be the best representation of who you are. Unless you really are an uncultured weirdo with a fetish for neon swimsuits. That’s right, your personality matters just as much as your qualifications do – so make sure you have both.
  8. BELIEVE IN YOURSELF
    Because if you don’t, who else will? It’s a tricky one, because you need to find the right balance between humility and believing that you produce great work. Too much on either side of the spectrum can become dangerous. Nobody likes someone who is a shit hot creative but they’re arrogant and untouchable. Because what happens if one day you run out of ideas? Gods don’t ever run out of ideas you know. You will go much farther in life with a little bit of humility.
  9. YOU’RE NOT GOING TO BE GREAT ALL THE TIME
    There are going to be days when your ideas are going to suck. Or worse, you’ll have no ideas at all. It shouldn’t happen all the time, and if it does you’re in the wrong industry. But when this happens, don’t beat yourself up. It’s normal. In an industry where you’re required to be creative every moment of every single day, you are going to get to a point where you are juiced out. That’s why you read the books I recommended. Use this downtime to open your mind to new perspectives and give other people a chance to be “the great one.” This is why you need the humility I mention in the point above.
  10. YOU WILL LOSE YOUR FRIENDS
    Because you will spend all of your time at work, building your career and trying to become that shit hot creative that I’ve flooded in this post like a 90s SEO tactic. That, and also because your job will be so damn exhilarating that you’ll want to talk about it to anyone that will listen. And to your friends, it will seem as if you’ve become this boring person who only talks about work. But to you, it will feel like they don’t understand your passion and they can’t relate. And you’ll wonder why you were even friends in the first place. In turn, you’ll make new friends, build deeper connections with people from work, or those you met at conferences or on Twitter and they’ll become your new BFFs. Why? Because they get you. They bring out the best in you, the laugh at the same things you laugh at, you don’t have to make small talk with them and..you can talk about work all the time without feeling guilty for, well, talking about work.

That is all.