Throughout college, work was always a competition. Who could make the best design, who could get the first job, who was going to achieve the seemingly unattainable title of Art Director? Everything about the “real world” was made out to be this fancy place where there were thousands of employees all hunched down at their desks working tirelessly day and night in order to crank out the best and fastest work to appease clients.
And on top of that, if you were to choose to only be a designer- that meant that you’d never quite make it in this business. You’d be stuck in the endless dead-end job of being everyone else’s design slave. I don’t know if it was all a ruse to get us to work harder or just our professors trying to lessen the amount of torture it seemed like we were all enduring at that time. I’ve been out of college 7.5 months now and I now know that most everything they attempted to prepare us for was a tad exaggerated.
My first internship was right when I graduated from college, when I got the awesome opportunity to be a designer in the AdClub STL Intern Hop. A team of five interns were assembled from each area of the ad industry and we got to visit eight of the great agencies around St. Louis. We spent a week at each agency, with a new project and its own set of adaptations at each stop. It was truly like an ad agency intensive boot camp.
This was my first experience of the ad world and the biggest takeaway was just how different every single agency is, and that none of them really seemed to confirm the fears that had been built up in college. While every place takes their work seriously, the looming pressure of being able to crank things out wasn’t as apparent. More than anything, everyone was trying to have fun. From branded goodies, lunch outings, happy hours, and the occasional nerf gun battle, St. Louis ad agencies know how to decompress and have a good time aside from all the deadlines. The constant moving and changing that I experienced coupled with the wide variety of work that I was able to do solidified that I knew I wanted to be in the agency world.
After the internship ended, it was the dreaded time of jumping back into the job search. I felt like many others in the same boat- throwing all my time and efforts into sending out applications and resumes to any person I could find. Before long, just as everyone says, I found out that it truly is about who you know. I just happened to check my old school email and found a message from my college professor whose former student worked at an agency that was looking for a production designer. A couple interviews later, and I was hired at Origin. I had finally found a great company where I could begin learning about “the real world” and all that it entails. I was so excited I literally slipped and fell on my face. Worth it.
This being my first “real” job has come with its own learning curve. Sure, every new job comes with its adjustments, but these are just some of the new things that have challenged me in a good way since beginning at Origin.
• Working in the city is exciting. Until you have to spend eight hours in traffic a week. But that time also becomes a great time of jamming out in your car, learning all the words to that new playlist you made to try to curb the traffic frustrations.
• Free time becomes one of the most valuable things in the world once you begin a full-time job. In some respects, I thought that there would be so much more time to do things I actually want to do- designing random stickers, working on illustrations and just being able to relax, guilt-free. But in reality, I’ve found that while I love doing what I do, I feel a lot lazier when I get home and actually need to get away from the computer.
• Ad people are people too. They can be realistic and believe that you can in fact have a little bit of a life outside work. One of the great things about Origin is that they are very considerate. I’ve always thought that you might be seen as a horrible employee if you ever tried to take a break or request a little time off. They actually encourage time off and encourage getting out of the office.
• As much as you may have wanted a job, finding a good fit is a real need. Remember that you’re going to be working with these people for a while in that specific company culture. I went through so many interviews wondering why I got that rejection letter because I seemed to have got along with them so well. Turns out that “it wasn’t the right fit” is a real thing after all. I love the people I work with and the casual environment that it creates just makes coming to work that much easier.
• Share your ideas even if you’re scared, everyone else knows you’re new at this. I’m normally a quiet person, so especially when I’m in a new setting it is intimidating to share my thoughts because everyone just seems more experienced and “better than me”. However, they probably wouldn’t have hired me if they didn’t somewhat value my opinion. That also might be a part of working in a small agency, because we all value each other’s opinions even when we might not always agree.
• Print design isn’t dead! Throughout my college career, I was really drawn to the print side of things and everyone seemed to be sure that no one did print anymore. Everything was digital and if you didn’t do web then you were a lost cause. But I did it! I found an agency that likes print and making tangible things that aren’t just 72ppi and raster!
• Criticism is way better than everyone telling you they liked it. But don’t discount telling people they did a good job where credit is due. Too many people easily just told me “oh I like that” and moved on with their lives. Like, um no. When I make something, I’m almost 100% positive that someone has a different opinion on how it could be made better. This isn’t necessarily learned just in these past couple months, but Origin does a great job at these two things.
• Getting my own desk space and snack drawer is a great point of pride. Everyone has their own way of working, own way of keeping their workspace tidy (or not). I’m a person who loves organization and having this space where I’m going to be spending a bunch of my life at–it should be fit to you. It’s just another factor that goes into productivity and efficiency.
• In school they pushed that files needed to be clean and perfect. Origin takes this to a whole different level. I learned that the first couple weeks. Yeah, this is the real deal and these files need to be good because the whole country is probably going to see it! Learning how production is properly done has been a huge learning curve. But as a result, I’ve noticed my attention to detail has been highly tested and honed. Oh, and just a hint: It’s probably not aligned.
• Chocolate is a must and fellow employees who feel the same way are a great asset. Just because chocolate can fix about anything.
• I still have so much to learn since I’ve now been here 6 months but every day brings new exciting things that make this life a little more interesting.