What does it take to get ahead in online advertising? Innate talent gives you a leg up. Experience and practice keep your craft honed. Then there are all the soft skills that help in any business situation: public speaking, personal organization, and management techniques. Those are all important when working in a creative agency. One element that isn’t often discussed in this context is gratitude. When you start to take things for granted, it’s going to get under the skin of your boss and coworkers. When you get a sense of entitlement, you aren’t actively moving your career forward.
This isn’t an easy field to work in. However it is easy to feel sorry for yourself when your ideas aren’t getting the reception you expected, or a campaign isn’t delivering the results you’d hoped for. If you let those feelings take over, you’ll resent the rounds of revisions, the feedback from coworkers and the client. Your work will suffer.
I’ve run an advertising agency in Austin, Texas since 2009. In that time I’ve worked with plenty of tremendously talented people. But I noticed the ones best suited to agency life are the ones who do not take things for granted. They have lived a little, seen the good and the bad in other agencies or professions, and understand that this company isn’t set up just to serve them.
One of my most loyal hires came from an Austin advertising and digital marketing agency where he was laid off through no fault of his own. He liked that job but they had trouble bringing in new clients. After a while working at my digital marketing agency, Rock Candy Media, he told me he was grateful to be in a place that was focused on business development. He was able to do his job because I was doing mine. Two different star employees came from startup cultures, where they saw people let go day in and out. Eventually, those companies went under, and those employees were left high and dry.
They don’t take the close to 17 paid days off a year for granted, a top-notch insurance plan that made me so proud to offer (it takes a while, people,), cash bonuses on the regular, catered lunch, a matching retirement plan, and a boss that wants them to be smarter than her (me). I don’t do this just out of the goodness of my heart; I do this to retain the talent I have, and to attract like-minded strategists that are able to take educated risks. Give me street smart over book smart any day. Give me someone who is self-taught over a masters degree any day.
Admittedly, I flip out when I feel like the smartest one in the room. I shouldn’t be. I hire people to change my minds. On the other hand, when someone feels like they know everything, I just know that isn’t going to happen and they’ll end up hurting the clients. We aren’t in an industry-specific sphere; I’d quit my own job if it was that dull, and straight up the shady people in our field are the ones that only do one kind of marketing (but that’s for another day).
That brings me to the heart of this topic: a team doesn’t work when everyone on it is too self-interested. The most loyal employees know that their positions wouldn’t exist without the hard work of everyone in the office. He and she never felt superior to others or more entitled than the rest. There needs to be a certain amount of gratitude and humility given to the collaborative process. There needs to be an acceptance that things don’t always go according to plan, and that it’s OK to take personal responsibility for mistakes as well as successes.
The best marketers have to be humble. We are looking for the data that surprises us because that’s the data identify through automation or software (including you, Adwords). An egomaniac wouldn’t follow the data, and I don’t have room on my team for narcissists of this sort. Period.