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Why ask why - getting a job in a creative agency

3 min, 10 sec read
15:30 PM | 13 March 2015
by Adam Oldfield
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Guest post by Jeremy GarnerExecutive Creative Director, Hiveworks

Getting a job in a creative agency isn’t easy. If there’s one thing you can be certain of, it’s that there’ll be plenty of setbacks along the way.

When you show people your book, there will probably be as much negative critique as positive, and there may well be occasions when you’re close to despair and feel like you’re banging your head against a wall.

But, with a little adjustment to your thinking and approach, you can actually turn such negativity to your advantage and learn to thrive off such moments.

Plus, it isn’t that hard to do. It just requires a slight reappraisal of the world and the ability to see things from a different perspective. 

And the thing is, because you’re just about to embark upon your career, it’s worth remembering that small adjustments you make now may have a large bearing on future events, because they can determine which agency you’ll get into and which briefs you work on once you’re there.

You’re at a stage now when your outlook, approach, way of thinking, mannerisms and way of explaining ideas, are all fairly malleable.

One of the good things about this business is the lack of rules. That’s probably what’s attracting you to it in the first place. But, if there was a single rule-of-thumb that is worth keeping in mind, it’s simply to keep asking ‘why?’.

Not necessarily out loud. Just to yourself, in all situations from looking at client business problems, approaching projects, when trying to get your head around an insight, when considering what might be the best way to execute something, when brainstorming the most appropriate channels to reach a target audience. 

Questioning ‘why?’ will help you approach briefs in a more informed way. It’ll help you choose the right creative partner - why do I really want to work with this person? Why do they want to work with me?

This will all directly feed into your work and help make it the best it can be. Plus, by asking ‘why?’ at every step of the way when you’re concepting, executing or sketching ideas, or figuring out the campaign architecture, it’ll ensure you’re a whole lot more adept in explaining your work once you begin meeting people in agencies and talking about it.

Plus, if you do ever get compromised by tired / stressed / rushed creatives in agencies, then asking ‘why?’ will always a) cut to the crux of the point they are trying to make, which will b) help you learn more quickly, which will, in turn, allow you to c) improve your work more quickly.

This constant questioning is all to help you get under the skin of things as far as you can. 

What you’re ultimately after in your career is a deeper understanding of things so you can do the more edgy, interesting and unexpected ideas in a more unusual way. Asking ‘why?’ will help you get there faster.

Always questioning why helps to cut past subjectivity. ‘I’m not sure why I don’t like it, I just think there’s better ideas out there’ is a classic subjective brush off, and it’s an actual quote from a senior creative I once met. Trying to discover exactly why someone feels this way could take you along more interesting avenues, and hopefully lead to a better place.

In essence, to ask ‘why’ is to really interrogate something.

And to strip away the glossy veneer of things - whether thoughts, ideas, execution, techniques or insights - is to see what really makes them tick.

That’s why an inherent sense of curiosity is a valuable character trait.

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