3 Things I Learned from a Day of Mentoring High Schoolers

Advertising professionals speed networking/mentoring with NYC high school students.

This week, I participated in a speed networking event where NYC students got to speak with advertising and media professionals (like me!).

Hosted by the 4A’s at the Initiative office, the students I spoke with attend one of two high schools in New York City that focus on advertising: MECA (Manhattan Early College School for Advertising) and iAM (High School for Innovation in Advertising & Media).

I was one of a handful of creatives/copywriters — the only one with a purple, 5-inch-long mohawk. So I walked in feeling like a rockstar, thinking I could inspire these kids about that #adlife. But I walked out with so many new, meaningful, and mindblowing learnings.

The two students in the middle have already started creating their portfolios. Amazing!

No. 1: The highs of my job outweigh the lows.

I told the kids that there were challenges to being a creative. Like when a client turns work you’re proud of into work you regret. But I didn’t get into the specifics of the anxiety you feel before a review when you think your work is crap. Or about the crushing disappointment of someone saying your masterpiece is boring. Or even the annoying office politics. All of which make you wonder why you want to work in advertising in the first place.

But when asked if I liked my job, I told them the truth. That I’ve had so much fun doing what I do. Yes, I’ve had my share of horrible moments in advertising. But those bad moments don’t compare to the fun experiences I’ve had with the fun people I’ve worked with. I get to say that I wrote a commercial. I get to say that I had a billboard in Times Square. I get to say that I have 3-AM karaoke parties with coworkers on a Tuesday!

As terrible as work can feel sometimes, nothing can beat the excitement you get and the people you meet from agency life.

“…I told them the truth. That I’ve had so much fun doing what I do.”

No. 2: I know who I am. A creative.

Every one of the nine students I spoke with asked me this question: “What made you want to be a creative?” I found myself answering with my own anecdotal high school experiences about making short films and writing short stories and joining the drama club and designing the yearbook.

Then it hit me. I’m a creative now because I’ve always been a creative. And I know what that means now, more than I ever did before. Because being a creative is more than just a job title or a course of study. It’s who I am, who I always was. And I’ve never been more sure of it.

Maybe my answer to their question wasn’t a clear answer for them. But it certainly cleared something up for me.

No. 3: Seeing their passion rekindled my own.

I thought that I was giving back. But those students probably don’t realize what they’ve given me. I finished my day feeling more inspired than ever to actually get back to work. It reminded me of everything I loved about my job.

When you’re so swamped with work, it’s easy to have a mental breakdown (which I had last week) and lose sight of the successes you’ve made, are about to make, or aspire to make. But seeing the enthusiasm from the students put things in perspective. And made me remember why I’m on my journey in the first place.

“…seeing the enthusiasm from the students put things in perspective. And made me remember why I’m on my journey in the first place.”

Final Thought

As much as this day was about helping and guiding the next generation of ad people, there’s a lot that they taught me about myself. Talk about being inspired. These kids are just starting to chase their dreams. Which I now believe never ends. This day of mentoring has showed me that the dream—my dream—is still alive. #grateful

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