Story: How You Can Become A Partner At An Agency At 25
Short answer – by taking risks.
Long answer – to tell you how I became the Creative Director at a digital studio, I must start with how I got into the creative side of things.
I live in India – a country that churns out thousands of unwilling engineering graduates every single year. Four years ago, I was one of them. One of a hundred-strong group of 20 year-old boys and girls in an average ‘engineering’ college located in the outskirts of the national capital, attending classes that didn’t tickle my curiosity, in an environment that wasn’t conducive to learning how to engineer things, occupied by a constant yearning to do something else. Something that would excite me.
As I explored different interests over a course of few months, I realized that ‘that something’ was creating something new. Specifically put, copywriting. During my third year of engineering, in-between attending classes and not attending them, I began taking assignments from several different ad agencies across the city.
I was paid equivalent of a dollar for coming up with 100 tags for a TV jingle – once. That was also the most I ever got paid during the whole year. As a 20-year old guy working as a freelancer where ‘free’ didn’t just refer to the nature of my employment with my employers, I, naturally, hid my foray into copywriting from everyone around me. Not even the closest people knew. And they did not, till they read the last sentence.
By the time I graduated I had lost interest in being a Computer Science engineer. I had loved coding when I was in school but the next 4 years in college sapped every ounce of interest I had in translating logic into lines of code. I continued moonlighting as a copywriter and also took an evening shift at a call center where my job was to make tech sales to people calling from the United States. I quickly realized that it wasn’t the right job for me – mostly because my heart was never in it. I took it up to earn some bucks and I came to know that money wasn’t something that drove me even though it was always a pain point growing up.
All truly amazing things in life come forth because of massive tectonic shifts.
2015 was the year I decided I was going to explore as many roles as possible when it comes to my ‘career’. I joined a fledgling agency as Social Media expert, got promoted to the Sales side of things where I learned the intricacies of bringing in clients and then servicing them – a skill that I still employ every single day as a Creative Director. In the meantime, I continued working as a freelance copywriter and also jumped into Art Direction for some of my friends who needed some help with their own creative projects.
Next 3 years were all about honing these skills and in early 2018, I and one of my workmate decided to open our very own design studio where we continue to service all kinds of global brands with our primary focus being delivery something amazing for each of our client.
How To Find Your Passion?
Often I get a chance to interact with young students and fresh graduates from all kinds of streams. One of the most common questions that come up is how to identify your passion.
Firstly, passion is relative – your passion might be wildly different than mine. I believe I have found an easier way to help you identify what might your ‘passion’ be. Here’s how it works.
Close your eyes. Take a deep breath. And try picturing yourself doing something day in and day out without getting any money in return. Whatever you can see yourself doing in such condition is, more or less, what you’re passionate about.
Now, it definitely does not mean that in order to do what you’re passionate about, you need to be poor and un-appreciated. The point is that you need to be ready to give away the security and comforts of making a lot of money.
I realized a few years ago, that I found the most pleasure in creating new things. It could be an ad copy, a graphic poster or coming up with a new logo – these things excite me.
Identify what makes you wake up early and stay up late. And then work towards it.
And never pass up on a good opportunity. If you ever happen to come across an opportunity that offers some interesting rewards but is also fraught with incredible risks, give it a chance.
In such cases, I often say ‘Yes’ first and then start thinking about how to turn that opportunity into a success.
Take risks – you may get nothing but you may also get more than what you thought you ever will. Tried is always better than regret, anyway.
How To Become Good At What You Do?
Here is a short guide:
> Always be learning
I’d any day hire someone who is highly inquisitive and curious than someone who has higher grades in their graduation. If you have the hunger to learn about things and to get better, you’re already on your way to become pretty good at what you do.
In today’s world, there are tons of ways to hone your skills. There are guides, YouTube tutorials, books among other things to get better at whatever it is that you do.
In addition to that, you must never stop learning from people. I work with an incredibly amazing set of people who teach me something new every single day. I have never met a person who didn’t teach me anything.
Some people teach you what to do while some people teach you what not to. Both are equally important.
> Care about your work
Don’t half-ass things – it’s worth spending time to get things right.
I am at a position where I don’t receive as much backlash for ‘average’ quality work as I would if I were an intern. But that has never stopped me from making sure that the work I and my team delivers is nothing but the best we can.
This is the result of being dedicated towards what you do. It will only come when you’re working on something that you actually care about.
And you’ll only ever really try to get better at things that you really care about. Not because it helps you look good amongst your peers but because it helps you sleep better at night knowing that you gave it all.
Develop in these two areas and you’ll see incredible growth in your career.
> Aim Higher
We all are capable of doing much more than we think. Aim higher so that even if you fail, you are well above the average.
Don’t have the ‘I’ll try’ attitude; instead develop a ‘I’ll do it’ attitude. That way, you won’t rest easy by just trying. You’ll try surpassing it and will find it easier to give your best, day in and day out.
What was your first job or nuggets from jobs you had that helped you to get to where you are today?
I have worked in several roles over the years and each job taught me something valuable.
Working in a 20-member strong organization taught me how to rely on my own wits to get things done.
Working 11-hour shifts taught me the importance of discipline and focus (and also that working for 11-hours is not the best long-term strategy).
Working in sales taught me how to approach problems from the perspective of clients. And how you don’t ever need to employ ‘salesy’ tactics if the clients feel you actually care about their needs.
As I mentioned above, I’m highly grateful to every single place I’ve ever worked at as each place has taught me something valuable.
How do you prepare for interviews?
Strangely enough, I’m yet to fail at an interview – I have also ever given only around 5 of them, so I’m not sure if what I do works or if it’s just plain luck.The only time I appeared in an interview and didn’t get selected was when I was still in college. So maybe make it 4 out of 5 wins.
I follow a simple mantra for acing interviews – don’t try too hard. Humans, like wolves, can smell desperation and fear from a mile away. If you are trying too hard to impress the interviewers, it will show on your face and in your words.
Instead, have an air of nonchalance. It’s a thin line between seeming uninterested in an interview and seeming secure in your abilities. Aim for the latter. Make the interviewer realize that you’re a catch. Show them not what they get when they hire you but what they lose when they don’t.
Humans always lean towards loss aversion – make it work for you.
Books that helped you?
I try reading as much as I can and across all genres. There are several books that have left a significant mark on me. Some of them being:
Screw It, Let’s Do It – a great book that has helped shape my ‘let’s do it’ attitude.
‘When Breath Becomes Air’ taught me that our lives are incredibly fickle. There is no reason why we should do things that we don’t want to do. Life is short – so why not spend our time doing things we love.
‘Atonement’ taught me how important it is to say what you feel. Love like you have a spare heart. Tell people what you feel. Open yourself to criticism, ridicule and rejection. It’s much easier to get over rejection than to get over the regret of never having tried or never having said what you felt.
Advice for someone looking for job?
It’s okay to not feel very interested about working in the field you studied for. Early 20s is a period of change – your tastes, interests, priorities and a hundred other things see changes.
Try identifying what drives you as early as you can and then work towards it.
Small organizations are not as bad as people make them out to be. In fact, I advise fresh graduates to work in small organizations as working in smaller teams means you have greater parts to play in whatever you do and hence you learn more and that too, at a faster pace.
Don’t make money a priority. Most of the ‘successful’ people I’ve talked to echo the sentiment that having money as your primary driving force doesn’t work well. Once you start making your ‘target bounty’, you’ll realize that it doesn’t help you sleep any better than if you were making a few hundred dollars fewer.
Money will automatically come to you when you start doing good work. Instead, focus on learning. If you have applied the ‘learning’ part with dedication, there will come a time when you will be so confident in your abilities that you will know that making money will never be a problem for you. Aim to get there.
And lastly, even if you don’t get a job you wanted, try doing your best at whatever it is that you’re tasked to do.
Amit is a Creative Director at SimplePlan Media – a digital studio that delivers design, branding and marketing services to brands all over the world. Amit has over 6 years of experience in marketing, design thinking, copywriting, social media as well as sales.He shares is knowledge and wisdom on Medium at https://medium.com/@a_myth