5 Things I Learned from My Mentor

My mentor is bomb. She has a quiet, calm energy that commands a room, with a dash of gangster. From the day I met her she’s been a great advocate, and ever since I’ve always been appreciative of her willingness to drop a little knowledge on a youngin’.

drop knowledge

I’m a selfish mentee, and I’m not ready to share her just yet. But I will impart some of her wisdom and hope it serves you as much as it has served me.

Don’t Be Emotional

As much as I try to deny it, I have feelings. And as a woman in the industry, exposing too many feelings in a male dominated field can be seen as being too sensitive or weak. When I approached my mentor about defending work without coming off as something that rhymes with twitch emotional, she coolly shrugged her shoulders and said, they’re going think it anyway. But whatever feelings you show they cannot deny facts. Come with data that supports your work, idea, creative—and there’s no way your emotions will get in the way.

Get Your Coins

Money isn’t everything, but you gotta eat. The first time I had to negotiate my salary, I was afraid I was going to fired. I can’t remember the exact phrasing, but it boiled down to: Do you really want to stay at a place that doesn’t value you? I’m usually pretty quick, but I didn’t have a snappy comeback.  So when the time came to negotiate,  I was confident in my skills knowing that if they valued me as an employee I’d be compensated fairly.

On that note, she also advised not to get crazy with the ask. Research industry standard in your city, while equally evaluating what value you add to the agency.

Watch Your Back

Office politics are probably trickier than actual politics. Sooner that later, there’ll be a bus you can find yourself under. Sometimes it’s stemmed from jealousy, others self-preservation. And unfortunately, sometimes people can be straight up assholes. It’s life.

Though #TeamPetty seems to be the wave, it’s much more advantageous to take the high road. She showed by example that grace, talent and hard work will get you in more doors than burning bridges ever will.

Ask For What You Want

ECD. EVP. SVP. Don’t let those three letters scare you. My mentor encouraged me to introduce myself to leadership and ask for what I needed to succeed in the office. If you need training, ask for it. If you want to help on a project, ask for it. If you need the day off, ask for it. The worst thing that’ll happen is that they’ll say no.

Get Away from Ad Folks

By trade my mentor is an art director. At heart, she’s a really talented artist. At the start of my career I got so swept up in meeting the right ad people and making the right connections that I probably missed out on some valuable friendships and opportunities. There are really smart, talented and creative people who have nothing to do with the industry. And honestly, it’s refreshing to have a conversation that’s not full of buzzwords and acronyms.

Do you have a mentor? What’s their best piece of advice they’ve given you?

Why I Stopped Putting Work First

Back in my intern days, I did everything I could to prove I deserved my seat in the creative department.

Need me to come in early or stay late? There. Work on holidays? Done. Cancel my birthday? Pssh, I have one every year. Donate my liver? They grow back, right? Dad dies in the middle of a pitch? I’ll be there in the morning.

It’s true, the day after my father passed away I went to work. I wanted to prove how dedicated I was. Every book, every blog, every panel reiterates how competitive the industry is and how there are hundreds of other equally talented people waiting to take your spot. So my philosophy was you could be smarter, faster, creativer but I would not be outworked.

In the midst of my grieving I was attending briefings. A week later my grandmother passed away. Still I wouldn’t be outworked.

Then my cousin passed.

Then my cousin was murdered.

Then I set boundaries.

It’s been said that the M-F, 9-5 life doesn’t exist in advertising. That, especially early in your career, you have to make many social sacrifices to climb the ranks. Miss family dinners. Cut vacations short. Sell concert tickets. Send apology texts for cancelling again on significant others, friends, family, doctors, etc.

That’s bullshit.

I know last week I said that you’ll push yourself and make sacrifices, it’s true. I’ve simply traded open availability to flexibility. There are things work can’t touch and you shouldn’t feel shamed, pressured or inadequate for setting those boundaries for when you are out of office.

I unplug. I put my phone on Do Not Disturb. I make things that aren’t for sell. I see shows. I create for fun. I talk to people who love me. I explore. I read. I write. I sleep. I breath. I live. Fully.

A creative who’s able to wholly experience life and its pleasures will produce far more interesting work than those who do not. And you get to decide which pieces of your human experience gives you that freedom to enjoy our brief time here.

These days, I don’t cast my net as wide. My work is still immensely important to me, but it doesn’t come first. I see how rewarding advertising can be, but I’ve also seen how quickly life and it can disappear.

I’m almost certain many Boomers and Gen Xers will disagree and I’m up for discussion. But you have to hit me up before 11pm, that’s when I turn my phone off 🙃.

 

You Get What You Don’t Ask For

I know that’s not how the saying goes, but I find it truer. It’s when we fail to speak up, that we’re inundated with all the everything unimaginable:

  • A desk full of boring projects.
  • Passed over for new opportunities.
  • The box of pens that always run out of ink during meetings.
  • Seated next to the ~eccentric~ art director who clips his toenails at his desk.

Many of us are afraid to ask for things. Even as the “Entitled Millennial Generation” (major eye-roll) there’s a fear of rejection, especially from those we respect or admire, that hinders us from asking for what we really want and accepting what’s simply given to us.

At some point you’ve experienced a form of rejection – maybe you were turned down for a job/internship, weren’t put on the project you wanted, or your crush broke your heart. While those experiences don’t feel good, you’re still out here making moves and thriving.

Part of taking control of your career is communicating the different ways you work and learn to your team and superiors. Not doing so takes you out of the driver seat of your career and gives the wheel to everyone else. You may work better with a regular meeting about your performance or want more training in your field or something as simple as a new computer mouse. If no one knows what you need to grow, you’ll get everything except what you really want.

yes-thats-what-i-want

Now, you won’t always get what you ask for, but what you want and need to help you grow in your career will be out in the ad-universe. You’ll still hear no and if you’re anything like me you’ll hear it often, but I take comfort in knowing that if I don’t get exactly what I asked for, I’ll usually get something comparable that enables me to work and learn the way I need. Remember, your team and superiors want to help you succeed; because when you do, the agency succeeds.