Everyone starts out somewhere. I started as an intern at Eller Media (now known as ClearChannel Outdoor) in 1996. Since then I graduated from the University of Houston, have worked at six local ad agencies and am now a Media Planner/Buyer at Love Advertising. Over the past 15-ish years I’ve learned a lot – not just about media buying – but being in “the real world.” Trust me when I tell you that some lessons were learned the hard way. So here, dear reader, are some things I’ve learned, and I would encourage those of you new to the business to please heed my advice.
Focus on the positives. Don’t get caught up in where you park compared to someone else or who has a better workspace, or compare your work situation with anyone else in the office. You are new. Be happy you are employed. Besides, getting caught up in this nonsense is a total waste of time. Put blinders on and mind your business. I once had this obsession with someone in an office where I worked who arrived 30 minutes late every single day. I thought it was so unfair. It ends up it was part of her agreement with the company to get her to come back to work there and – truth be told – she almost never left on time.
Don’t participate in office gossip. Don’t listen to it, don’t contribute to it. Nothing good ever comes out of participating. Plus, half the gossip isn’t even true. Naturally, if you witness a co-worker doing something illegal, you need to report to those in charge. Other than that, just mind your own business. It’s easy to want to feel aligned with a coworker but avoid this manner of doing so. Bond over your love of archery instead.
Your Facebook page. I have no experience with this because the Internet was still a mysterious new world when I was in my early 20’s. But, you should be cognizant of what you post or are tagged in, or remove anything you wouldn’t want your boss to see. Even if they are unable to see your page other people are and the ad biz is a small world, and you are a grown-up now. So, those photos of you passed out on the pool table, get rid of them.
Exhibit a strong work ethic. Make every effort to be the first person there and the last one to leave among your department and work hard from the time you arrive until the time you leave. It shows that you are a hard worker, can be relied upon and, eventually, you’ll be given more responsibility. Your supervisor/boss and/or person you are assisting WILL notice. I promise.
Try to problem solve on your own when you can. One of the best lessons I learned early on was the “pretend your car is broken down on the side of the road” example. This was before everyone had a cell phone, but the point is, do everything in your power to find solutions to the situation at hand on your own as if you had no help.
Assume nothing. This one is extremely important. Don’t assume anything. EVER. No matter what. EVER. No exceptions! In my first year as a media coordinator I made a $1000 mistake on a Chronicle ad that the agency had to absorb because I assumed we had a contracted rate. (No I didn’t lose my job, but I thought I would).
Business Etiquette. This includes a variety of elements that seem simple but will make you stand out that include but are not limited to:
- Compose your e-mails in a professional manner. Always have an opening, a body and a close.
- When attending a meeting be cognizant of where you sit. Don’t sit at the head of the table unless you are an Executive of the company.
- Learn how to shake hands and look someone in the eye.
- When you pick up the phone, say hello and introduce yourself.
- When attending industry events, always be aware that you are a representative of your company and behave accordingly.
- Be courteous to everyone you work with.
If any of this eludes you, ask someone who exhibits this behavior or merely observe how they conduct themselves.
Ask questions. Never pretend you know something – no question is too dumb and other people in the meeting probably have the same question but are too scared to ask it. However, once you get it answered and understand, don’t ask it again. Learn from it. If you keep asking the same question, people will start losing faith in your abilities to move forward.
Write it down. Have a tablet of paper and pen/pencil/quill and scroll with you at all times. If your supervisor asks to meet with you on a project, take notes on what you are supposed to do. If you are in a meeting, take notes. And when you ask questions, (#8) write down the answers.
Never become complacent. Even if you pay no attention to anything I’ve said here, always know that there is a line of eager people who would love to have your job. I’ve seen many people be let go because they thought they were irreplaceable.