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(Reposting for our 2016 graduates.) Having been around the ad schools over the years, I overhear conversations in the hallways and the computer labs.

“Dude! You know Ashley? Yeah, she got into Goodby and I didn’t even get an email back from them. God, I suck.”

People, here’s the thing.

You probably don’t suck. It’s just that you’ve been raised in a culture that places a lot of emphasis on winning. “Winning isn’t everything, it’s the only thing.” “Winners never quit…” and all the others.

Fact is, America has been obsessed with winning ever since we won first place in WW II. We copped a silver in the ’50s space race (damn Sputnik), but we came back and nailed the gold with Apollo 11. Ever since then, we’ve been all, “Who even remembers the second man on the moon?”

It seems we’ve left the grading system and become a pass-fail society; in fact, more like Winners/Failures.

“What? You didn’t get into Harvard? You only got into Notre Dame? Duuuude.”

“What?? You didn’t win the Super Bowl, just the AFL title? Lose, much?”

So, students. Repeat after me:

“I did not get a job a offer at Goodby.

But I did get a job offer from (say) Shelby & Hammerstein in Chicago.

And they want to pay me for my ideas.

I am not stocking Bic pens on the shelves of Wal-Mart.

I have landed my first job in a creative industry.

From here, I can probably go anywhere.

Because I have a career now.

It has begun.”

So let us bless our friends who’ve landed jobs at the high-profile agencies. (The jobs come with some extra stress. Sure you want that?)

Let us be kind to ourselves and become “recovering perfectionists.”


For graduating ad students: Two things from GSD&M GCD, Ryan Carroll.

Ryan_Portrait_color-1024x679(Previously published post, reprinted for those gearing up to go interview or take an internship/job.)

People? Quiet, people. Okay, your substitute teacher today is Mr. Carroll.

You remember Mr. Carroll. He visited us in January? I expect you to give him the same respect you give me. … People? Settle down, people.

• • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • •

Some thoughts on what CDs are looking for in new hires:

Have a T-shaped skillset. I hate using this term since it’s so overplayed, but the truth behind the word is important. As a CD, I don’t want just a strong writer; I want a writer that can flex other muscles – shoot and edit content, or write code, or who are DJs at night, or write for McSweeney’s. I need to be able to lean on you for other skill sets beyond advertising writing or art direction.

Any given day, we may be building prototypes for clients, shooting and editing stop-motion videos for Instagram; we even develop new products. There isn’t a “Miscellaneous” department at the agency that handles this work. It’s up to our creatives to execute.

And beyond the tactical value of having these skill sets in the building, when you have skills beyond your core craft, it shows me you’re a hard worker. It shows me you’re a well-rounded thinker and you have a curiosity that pushes you to discover new things.

Show me you have some serious side hustle. I love juniors who have entrepreneurial drive or at the very least have built a their own brand. When I see an art director who has 20,000 followers on Instagram, it shows me they understand branding. When I see a junior writer who built an online Queso business, it shows me she thinks like a businessperson.

It’s this kind of junior who intuitively understands the realities our clients live and breathe every day. Combine this side hustle with the other things I [wrote for this blog two posts ago] and you’ll be an unstoppable force. The days of “crazy creatives” with crazy ideas are gone. Budgets are smaller, problems are aplenty and it’s nearly impossible to find a client who will gamble on an idea that isn’t directly tied to solving an actual business problem. That’s not to say audacious ballsy ideas aren’t still needed. But when they’re tied to a solid strategy and solve a business problem, they aren’t audacious anymore. They’re just smart.

• • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • •

There’s lots of other advice for recent grads and juniors on

Oh, and here’s Ryan’s bio: Hello. I am a Group Creative Director at GSD&M. My work has been recognized by Cannes, The One Show, Communication Arts, The Webbys, FWA, The Wall Street Journal, The New York Times, The Early Show on CBS (which made my Mom proud) and Maxim magazine (which made my Dad proud).  I like tacos. Follow me @digiryan

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