It’s just a job
If you’re thrilled with what you do to earn a living, or if you don’t need to work for a living, you really don’t need to read any further. Your life is awesome.
The rest of the working population varies from ‘occasionally happy’ to ‘permanently miserable’ and you’re going to hate what’s coming if you’re one of these. I’m afraid it is partly your fault. Normally, being chained to a job that you don’t quite like is caused by the fear of change, the number of ‘what-if?’ questions that a job change could bring, and the worry about whether there is another job out there we could be doing.
First things first
A job choice should primarily be a lifestyle choice. You spend more waking hours on the job than you spend doing anything else so the lifestyle choice should be the first criterion. If, for instance, I’m more thrilled by the great outdoors than anything else, I shouldn’t ever pick an office job. If I like meeting a bunch of new people every day, I’m probably not suited for a night-shift security job at the cemetery.
It took me a while to land at an agency and, even if I enjoyed previous jobs, this is the first time I’ve felt that I’m where I should always have been. Rather than being upset that I didn’t start my working life in an agency, however, I feel that all I’ve done before has helped provide me with the skills, the patience, the contacts, and the experience necessary to make me a little better at what I do. So don’t be too upset at your current job if it isn’t all rosy – chances are you’re learning valuable lessons that will serve you in good stead in the future.
What’s agency life like then?
Prepare to thrive on stress.
If you’re fuelled by pressing deadlines, this is the place for you. You’re the last to know about a client’s deadline and you’re the first to have to deliver on it. You’re expected to make up for rapid changes in a client’s situation. You’re meant to be ahead of the communication curve. This fuels every member of our team but then again, they’re used to this life and wouldn’t be here if they weren’t.
Loosely translated, that’s ancient Greek for ‘everything changes’. Agency life is in a permanent state of flux. Audiences change habits and preferences, media channels shift to suit these preferences or to help shape them. Products evolve and aesthetics flow in and out of fashion as often as the little black dress does. If you don’t like boredom, this life’s for you.
If you’re the kind of person who can quickly tell a story that helps someone understand a complex notion, this could very well be the life for you. Telling stories that many people can understand is at the core of all communication that’s made for the consumption of an audience. Screw your CV. If you’re a storyteller by nature, you belong at an agency.
Like everything that’s awesome, it isn’t for everyone. Not all can thrive in an environment that includes weirdos like myself, an occasionally disordered approach to an ordered outcome, oodles of flexibility, and the ability to handle rejection of your most precious ideas. Agencies are where most great ideas go to die, shot down by peers or clients, often without a reason that is instantly apparent. Learn to handle this, and you can handle an agency. If not, play safe and keep clear of most of the creative industry.
Where to start
Pitch yourself to an agency you like. No need for CVs in most cases. The better agencies recruit great people not their CV. Tell your story in a way you’d like to hear it. Be honest about your passion, your flaws, your ambitions, and the unique skill set that will rock the stripy socks of a potential employer and, more importantly, their clients. If your pitch is strong, you stand an excellent chance of a meeting at least. And if you’re really good, a meeting is all you need to get yourself into a job you’d love.
As my pet skull often tells me, always quit while you’re a head. In an ideal scenario, you quit your job when:
You have nothing left to learn
You have nothing left to teach
You have another job lined up
If all three factors align, you’re golden. Write a sensible resignation letter that doesn’t burn any bridges and just let yourself go. Literally. If you’ve just been ‘let go’, then take that in the best way. You’ve been freed. Whatever the cause of freedom, make sure your next choice is one that suits your lifestyle. And when you’re head’s cleared, start putting that pitch together.