What was your first ever job?
It’s difficult to answer exactly because I worked in a collection of different advertising agencies for most of the holidays during my time at art school. My first full time job was in a small design company called PSA. Great experience and wonderful people; my boss used to bring out a bottle of champagne to share with his department every day, at about 4pm… ahhh the 80s!!
How did you clinch your first job in adland?
I got on the phone and talked to a lot of people. I researched all the industry bodies I could find, called them, went to their offices and asked for advice. I created a hit list of companies and pestered the creative directors, asking them to see my portfolio. After a few weeks, I had three job offers. As I said, it was the 80s!
What advice would you give to students to help them promote themselves and get a job over the next person?
Sending a CV with all your details just isn’t going to cut the muster. Think laterally about how you might break through the barriers that are created in agencies to prevent being flooded with employment enquiries. Be original and creative - even if you’re applying for an account management job. Today more than ever, an ability to think differently and be creative is a minimum requirement for all agency personnel.
And for those aspiring to work at TMW, what do you look for in a potential employee?
An agency is made up of people who spend more time together than they do with their families. We all need to get on and support each other through what can be very challenging work and client environments. That’s why, on top of the usual academic and training requirements (regardless of the department you’re applying for), we’re always looking for people with good interpersonal skills (wallflowers need not apply), who can be both creative and inspiring and have the ability to construct good arguments for whatever they’re doing.
What’s the best idea you’ve had and where did it come from?
That’s a hard question. I spend much of my day coming up with ideas and even better looking at other people’s ideas, so identifying a single ‘best’ one is almost impossible. Perhaps the best idea I had in my career was to start my own agency.
What inspires you and gets you out of bed in the morning?
I work in one of the fastest moving and most inspiring sectors imaginable, digital marketing. Every day is different and every hour brings new challenges and opportunities. Sometimes it feels like today is the first day in a new job as the pace of change is so fast that I’m constantly learning new things. I have to work harder than ever to keep abreast of new developments; sometimes when I go on holiday for a couple of weeks I feel that I’ve got to spend the first day back just reading about the technological developments in that short time. I‘m inspired by everything that is new, innovative and slightly edgy.
Who would you like to share a desk with?
It would be Bob Greenberg of RG/A. What impresses me is the ability that his company has to reinvent itself, to move away from its roots in special effects, film and television, to become a leading digital marketing specialist. I like change.
Why did you start your own agency? Did it take a lot of courage and would you recommend this to new talent.
To start an agency you need to have a screw loose; anyone with any intelligence would stay in a nice cosy job with prospects. For the first 10 years of TMW, I was earning less than my peer group, and working twice the hours, but I wouldn’t have had it any other way. To start an agency you have to be very thick skinned, ambitious and single minded - I would only recommend it to such a person.
Is there any more advice that you’d like to share
Yes. People like me have vivid memories of trying to get into this industry, especially just after graduation. We remember very well the people who helped us, who gave up their time to advise us on careers and employment. We can’t pay those people back, but we can do the same for the next generation. Most people would be very happy to share their experience with new graduates and do everything possible to help them. You, on the other hand, have to accept the likelihood that they’re probably not in a position to give you a job but they can give you advice. This advice could help you to get internships and jobs. My advice is: ‘talk to everyone’.
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