Hi everyone... it's been a minute.
Let’s catch up. Let’s start with ten major takeaways from my first twelve months out of college (specifically in the advertising world).
I’ve been meaning to evaluate my progress, thoughts and experiences since graduation for a while… and now seems like the perfect time to reset and recollect my feelings.
I’ve compiled some advice that I’ve been given, also some lessons I’ve learned in harder ways. I’m hoping this can spark an open and honest conversation for my fellow young friends entering the working world, and maybe even inspire others with more experience and time in the industry.
I spent three years studying design and advertising in college and had a handful of design and marketing internships. I moved to Omaha after graduation in May of 2016 to intern at an ad agency for roughly 5 months before I was eventually hired on full time. I’ve been an associate designer for roughly 11 months and I’ve been freelancing for 3 years.
HERE WE GO. 10 things I learned. Woooooo.
1. I’ll start out with a basic for my designer friends: Pay attention to the proper uses for Illustrator, InDesign and Photoshop.
So hopefully you know this. But coming from the girl who tried to create a 20 page magazine in Illustrator her senior year?? Oops.
Check out this super helpful guide for when to use each of the golden Adobe programs: https://99designs.com/blog/tips/photoshop-vs-illustrator-vs-indesign/
If you’re working a certain way because it’s the way you’ve always done it and you’re scared to try something new… you’re likely missing out on a more efficient process to achieve higher quality work. Try something new and be experienced in a range of programs.
2. Manually kerned type is a thing you should do.
Typography is everyf***ingwhere. Practicing good typography is more than looking like a sophisticated type setter; good typography can completely disrupt a viewer in a positive or negative way. Attention to detail matters. Spend the extra time to polish the smallest details of your work and your entire portfolio will appear more professional and put together.
Learning how to properly kern my type has been a long, slow process and it takes years to develop the eye for the right type treatments. But you can start here: http://www.magazinedesigning.com/how-to-kern-type/
3. People who’ve been burned by the industry (everyone) appreciate your enthusiasm as much as your talent.
Initially, I was so caught up in performing my best and being the most talented designer that I could be that I didn’t even notice my own energy and enthusiasm. Naturally I was happy all the time because I was doing and exactly what I wanted and people could see that. If you think about your contribution to the people you work with every day, and your focus is 100% on the product you’re providing them and 0% how you treat, approach and speak to them, the product might not even matter at all.
So regardless of the circumstances, your attitude and the way you treat people can often trump the product or service you’re contributing. Be nice.
4. Paying your dues doesn’t have to mean burning yourself out and hating your life after the first 3 years of working for an ad agency.
Find a more realistic way of giving back to those around you other than spending 18 hours of the day, 7 days of the week to working and thinking about work.
Trust me. Not only are you doing yourself a disservice by never disconnecting from work, you’re also failing your peers by burning yourself out and working on a 30-50% battery most of the time. There will be some rough days and some seasons of long hours, but making a routine of being a slave to the work is detrimental and good for absolutely no one. Your work will suffer and your coworkers, your managers and even the clients will pay for it. Find a healthy balance that benefits everyone.
5. Quality over quantity in your side gigs.
Saying yes to every project and every opportunity to help someone, even if you know how to do it and do it well, can absolutely drain your time for chasing the things that matter most to you. Be selective in your side work as soon as you have enough experience and options to do so. Kindly turn people down who don’t share the same goals and values as you. Value your own time and experience even when it’s hard to simply say “no”.
6. Assume your first idea is never the best idea–chase the higher-hanging fruit always.
This is a challenge for fresh-out-of-school students, and it is still a struggle for me. In school, your first and favorite idea is usually what you turn into the professor for a final grade.
Working with real clients means finding the best solution for someone other than yourself. Be relentlessly curious to explore options after you’ve done your research and asked the appropriate questions. Be prepared to provide your recommendation as well as a couple additional options, but never assume your first favorite will be the chosen one.
7. You may not agree with people. You may not function the same way others do. You may not like people. But you can't let this consume you.
Everyone goes through this, especially young adults entering the work force–you just don’t work the best with certain people. After being a student and living mostly at home for 18-22 years, spending 40+ hours a week with a sea of new adults and new egos is a challenge.
Even if your job and the people you work with aren’t forever, treat them the best you can. Don’t hold yourself back from getting the most out of your job or getting to know people just because you got a bad first impression. Be patient, be slow to get angry about little things, and take a deep breath.
8. Putting all your worth and joy into your work is ultimate turmoil.
This is a hard lesson for everyone to swallow, but let’s get serious for a second. Your worth is not in your job, your talents, your relationships, your money or material objects. Your worth is not in your past or your future. Your value cannot be calculated by a sum of your accomplishments and possessions. You are not your job.
With that being said, there are grave mistakes in being consumed by work and temporary things like work. You can go above and beyond while maintaining a healthy, happy, balanced life (see point #4). And you can truly care about your career without placing your self-worth in a title, money, or even what you think your managers think of you.
See the value in just the person you are, the truest form of yourself. Work, relationships, money all removed.
9. Realize you won’t make everyone happy every single day.
You can’t please everyone and you won’t always be their cup of tea.
Give your best to every person you encounter, but turn most of your focus toward those who radiate energy and appreciation for you too.
Personally, I can get so caught up on a rough interaction with someone. One iffy conversation and I’m uneasy, sweating and nervous all day. I’ll even remember some conversations months later and kick myself for it. But some of the greatest freedom I have experienced is letting go of the nervousness that someone doesn’t like me or thinks less than highly of me. You can let go of the pressure to please someone while still maintaining respect and peace with that person.
10. If you wait until you feel ready, you’re already late to the game.
Something that has held me back over and over in the last year is me telling myself “You’re not ready.” Or “You don’t have the skillset or experience to do this.” Or “There are others who would be better at this than you.”
If there is something you’re excited about, speak up. If you think you might be good at something, or you would at least enjoy doing it, speak up.
Don’t disqualify yourself before you’ve even tried. Putting yourself in a situation you may not feel prepared to do can be terrifying. But others will recognize you for your excitement and eagerness to try new things. You may even learn a new skill or discover a new passion that will open new doors of opportunity.
One last thing we've all heard before, but is so hard to accept: It's okay to not have it all together.
Whether it's your own expectations or someone else setting expectations for you, things hardly ever fall into place the way you think they should. Upon graduating, it's easy to create a big to-do list of adult things you think are necessary in order to move forward in life. The perfect job, the perfect apartment, and you must get a new car, the list goes on. If you're diligent in pursuing the things you want, and your patient in trusting the process, good things will happen in time.