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Glad tidings for the young and terrified, di Suzanne Pope.

On you desk, there is a brief. Let’s read it again, shall we? Your internal presentation is tomorrow. You have no decent ideas. Actually, you don’t even have any lame ones. Clearly, there is only one thing to do. You must try to get a hair appointment. Since heir grows on agency time (if you would prefer to get your legs waxed, that’s fine, too. The same principle applies). And as the snick-snick of the scissors lulls you into a trance, pray, oh pray, that the hairdresser doesn’t ask, “What is it you do, again?” Because then you’ll have to have the conversation in which you smile and agree that the ad business is for sure totally neat and glam and fun and, oh yes, very competitive… Oh, yes.  But privately, you are terrified. You fear that your book is not up to snuff. You fear that the business is even nastier than you thought. You even fear that you might get fired. You are craving rassurance. You ache for glad tinings that will restore your hope. I would like to give you those glad tidings. I’ve got three of them, actually. Here goes:

Glad tidings number 1: your book is not up to snuff. 

You’ve been showing your book around, and the meetings haven’t gone remotely the way you fantasized. No one’s said they’d love to hire you. No one’s invited you to use his name with other CDs in town. And the campaign you thought was killer? Two creative directors have told you to take it out of your book. So how does that qualify as good news? Well, for starters, you’re in excellent company.  95% of student and junior books get that lukewarm, keep-working response. “I spent two years building that book” they’ll say. “Besides, some of the feedback I’ve gotten has been really positive.” But you’re not of those people. You are a faithful reader. And because you’re a faithful reader, you’ll know better than to waste one precious second kidding yourself about what that faint praise really means. If you want to get into a top agency, you will understand that the time has come to rebuild your portfolio from scratch. Rather, you’ll shrug your shoulders and START MAKING ADS. LOTS OF THEM. Maybe five or ten a day. Pretend that your portfolio is actually a monthly magazine, and you have to come up with new stuff to fill it every thirty days. If you do this, I guarantee that in three months you’ll have your good news: a book that’s miles ahead of what the 95% are lugging around.

Glad tidings number 2: the business is even nastier than you thought.

Maybe you’re at an agency where senior creatives will take you under their wing, guiding you, calming you, amusing you with war stories. Then again, maybe you’re at an agency where senior creatives regard you as a threat where you hide your ideas for fear they’ll be poached. Wherever you are, your response should be the same: BE NICE. Very few people can tell you offhand who was dominating the award shows six or seven days ago. But everyone can remember who is easy to work with, who’s straight shooter, who’s not a prima donna. The good news here is that a reputation as a nice person is more enduring than a Cannes Lion, and it’s a lot easier to get.

Glad tidings number 3: you might get fired.

You see furrowed brows, you hear anxious whispers: if we lose the Snorbix account, we’ll have to let three teams go. And so it comes to pass that the Snorbix account does move. And you are let go. This is the most devasting thing that’s ever happened to you. Or maybe it’s the best thing. Ours is the only business I can think of where there isn’t any particular shame in being fired. And this blameless hiatus might be just what you need to reboot your work. But there’s one helpful trick of the mind that’s available to everyone, with or without job: WORK FOR YOURSELF. This doesn’t mean going freelance. What it means is that while you work hard for other bosses and other brands, you should also work for your own development and your own brand(which, of course, is all about creative excellence). Creative directors will love your entrepreneurial spirit: And you will be sure in the knowledge that your improving skills are like a carpenter’s tools: they don’t belong to anyone else, and when the job is done, you will pack them up and take them with you.

You won’t ever have to worry about finding a mentor in this business. You already have one. It’s called uncertainty. Make friend with it now, and you’ll go far.