Life As A Creative Advertising Graduate in London

Graduate, London, Advertising — yep can someone throw the life ring now please because I am drowning, just like you said I would.

The hardest part is not the “hmm, you’re not right for us right now” book crits, or the £3.40 cups of coffee we have to pay for just for my art director and I to have somewhere to work on our portfolio together in a cramped Nero. It isn’t the resentment you feel when you put another £10 on your Oyster, even though you topped it up the day before, only to travel to another advertising agency who don’t want to give you a placement, and then top it up again to come home. It isn’t any of that. It’s worse — it’s what all of that makes you feel.

Lecturer’s at University tell you that it is going to be hard, your parents tell you to be safe and ‘try not to get stabbed’, your friends tell you that you’re going to smash it, but secretly probably think you’re mental, and you don’t really actually think about what you’re doing at all. You just search, move in with a bunch of strangers in a part of London you’ve never heard of before, unpack your stuff the same as you did for the past 3 years at Uni, get ready to feast on a diet of beans and pasta all over again, and you just do it.

The thing they didn’t tell you was that you’re going to be like a Sim (as in the game, not the card) who’s desperately flashing red when it comes to energy, happiness and passion.

You’re going to fear for everything, hate everyone, cut your hair a bunch of times so you feel sexy again (only to regret it later) and more than that, you’re going to fucking hate life a little bit. Here’s a step by step guide of what you are going to experience, future graduate of advertising, when you eventually move down to London — and shock horror, the words avocado, pilates, “this shit is so amazing”, “I am so rich” and Uber, are not used once.

  • You’re going to live inside a blur for a while, you’re going to Tweet a lot about moving, you’ll feel super excited about changing your Location on Facebook, Twitter and whatever to ‘London’, and you’re going to feel pretty damn smug when you receive your front door keys. Woohoo capital of the UK, you live in the same city as Jude Law, life is incredible…
  • Almost immediately after this moment, you are going to freak out a tiny bit and think OH SHIT I AM NOW LIVING IN LONDON. WHERE IS EVERYONE. I KNOW NOBODY. I AM SO ALONE. NOW WHAT? Followed by two weeks of saying “HOW MUCH?!” a lot, and maybe a couple of “oh my god I hate my life.”
  • It is then a case of watch the bank balance disappear, watch the food cupboard empty, feel envious of your jazzy housemates who are older than you and actually have cool jobs (I live with a fucking make up artist, yeah so great for the self esteem) and get ready to hustle.
  • You then realise after 1 month of meeting up with your creative partner half way in central, and spending approximately £15 a day for the pleasure, on top of buying lunch because you forgot to buy cling film or a storage tub again, that your life cannot go on like this and you either need to get a placement NOW, or, do what the older advertising clever people said and GULP, sign on because the rent still needs to be paid, even though you haven’t achieved your dreams yet.
  • Sign on, feel shit, get free money, don’t tell anyone, and move on. Survival of the fittest my friends.
  • You now have money to live, but are sick and tired of working for free, you crave a challenge, you want someone to take you seriously — you need your big break… and now, the part I am talking about, the worst part of all, the part where you sit and you think “fuck this, what am I even doing? I have been in London for 3 months now and I still don’t have a job. This isn’t what I expected at all. I don’t even know if I want to do this anymore.”

And this ladies and gents, is the part that your lecturers were talking about when they said it’s hard. Moving to London isn’t that hard, living in London isn’t that hard, surviving in London isn’t that hard, but sustaining a love, passion, desire and need for the Ad Industry when they constantly wave you out of their shiny doors, don’t reply to your emails, and the competition is looking pretty bloody massive — is hard, even impossible at times. But the biggest piece of advice I would give to you future grads (me 1 year ago) is that, it is shitty, but there will be a light at the end of the tunnel, and if there isn’t, there’s a whole load of other shit to do in this city so hey, just calm your stress and live every day, in the city you aspired to be in, be 21/22, go find free stuff to do, buy a flask, make your lunch for a change and stop wishing you were a Creative Director already and have faith that you WILL get there. Because the more you worry, the more you stress, the more you resent everyone including your partner at times, you will just end up churning out shit ideas and be a miserable person to be around.

You’ll get there in the end — yes you have to be patient, no you don’t have to be miserable or hate life. Go get ’em tiger, in your own God damn time.

“Everyone of you in this room will make it in to advertising if you really want to, one day you’ll get there, you just have to be patient.” — Uni Lecturer №1

I wrote this because I wish I had read it a couple of months ago.