Advice to live by

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Always be nice to juniors. Some day you’ll ask them for a job.

When I was starting out in this business, my first job was as a secretary for a group of five creatives at McCann-Erickson. One of them, a copy supervisor named Bob, took me under his wing and really mentored me. He gave me creative briefs to work on in my spare time, encouraged me to take classes at SVA, evaluated my book, and was generally a great guy.
 
When I left McCann a few months later for my first writing gig, Bob gave me a parting gift – a code of conduct by which all creatives should live. This was 1990 and the book, Everything About Life I Learned In Kindergarten was on the bestseller list. Adapting the same structure, he presented me with, Everything About Life I Learned In Advertising. Among the 10 codes to live by were “Always make the account guy come to your office for a meeting,” “Never stay for the media part of a presentation,” and “Always be nice to juniors. Some day you’ll ask them for a job.”
 
Now some of my closest friends are account guys, so every so often I’ll humor them and go to their office for a meeting. And these days, the media IS the presentation, so you’d better not even think of leaving. But the last item is one of those codes I don’t think should ever change.
 
Juniors are the lifeblood of our business. They fuel the proverbial fire, motivate the superstars, and scare the crap out of the mediocre teams. Juniors have an insatiable appetite to learn and the good ones will bleed for you if you treat them right.
 
Back in the day, agencies like JWT, Lowe, Lintas and Ogilvy had training programs to nurture and grow young talent. They cared about you and wanted you to succeed. Sadly, most of those investments have gone the way of expense accounts, first class tickets to L.A., and, well…Lintas. 
 
But at my agency, we still take the notion of nurturing seriously. Every employee, from the most junior to the most senior, has a counselor to help them and give them guidance – someone who is not their direct report. We are instructed to meet with our counselees on a regular basis, establish career goals and objectives, and evaluate progress along the way.  Is it perfect? No. Does it guarantee success? Hardly. But it demonstrates commitment and a respect for the transformative power of up-and-coming talent.
 
Maybe your agency doesn’t have the funds to invest in a training program at this moment in time. That’s cool. But I find that compassion, interest and a little well-spent time can pay some pretty huge dividends. And grow some amazing talent.
 
Oh. And if you still doubt the sage-like wisdom of my first boss, consider this: During my first week at my new job, I’m at a department meeting getting acquainted with about 40 creative people who now work for me. I’m introduced to this charming gentleman who begins talking excitedly about the work he and his colleagues are doing and the opportunities now before them when I suddenly stop him in mid sentence and say, “Hey, Bob. You worked at McCann-Erickson, didn’t you? Because I was your secretary.”
 
True story.

DMNotes is DMN's around-the-clock blog. Yes, a blog in 2016.

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