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Drawing by Albert Hahn

Warning Signs that Your Job is Killing Your Advertising Career

Written By Bart Cleveland | Sep 2, 2015

I have reviewed thousands of portfolios and interviewed dozens upon dozens of job candidates. That experience taught me one thing about career success: working at the wrong job starves career potential.

Many of those not offered positions with our agency had stayed too long in the wrong job. Their work wasn’t where it should have been. Sadly, the prime opportunities for reaching their potential had passed.

Don’t be one of those people. Do some analysis of your current job to see if it’s helping you succeed or if it’s sinking your career. If you answer “no” to these questions, it’s time to find a better opportunity and get your career on the right trajectory for success.

Have you put anything new in your portfolio that is better than what you did in school?

Your school portfolio should be replaced with professional work after two or three years in the industry. That isn’t to say that whatever you produce professionally should do the replacing. If you aren’t replacing your schoolwork, it makes you look like an underachiever. Be ready for a big opportunity. Another may not appear.

After a year on the job, are you working on meatier assignments that accelerate your growth?

Everyone has to earn their stripes. Doing grunt work goes with the territory of being a beginner. But if you haven’t moved on to meatier projects after a year, one of three things is at play: you are not busting your tail to grow, you are not taking advantage of opportunities that do come your way, or you are being held back by a lack of opportunity. Nine times out of ten, the reason for a lack of growth is the first item.

Have you earned any recognition from the industry?

Wining awards in our industry is easy. Winning the right ones is the opposite.

Many of the best companies in our industry won’t consider a candidate who hasn’t won a national or international award from an esteemed show. If your current work doesn’t supply an award-winning opportunity, supply it yourself. Get a pro bono job for a public service or a small company, for example. Do whatever it takes to be on the big stage.

Focus your energy on great thinking and great craft.

You may have noticed—there were no questions about getting promotions or raises. When it comes to building a great career, they don’t matter. Focus on growing your skills and doing great work. Titles and better pay will come as you build your career.

There were also no questions concerning bad bosses, poor clients or low budgets. None of those stop a committed professional from doing great work. They can be tempting excuses, but don’t give in to that temptation. Focus your energy on great thinking and great craft. Delivering those consistently will overcome the obstacles that keep you from getting the career you deserve.

Bart Cleveland has developed branding for a broad range of companies, including: Coca-Cola, The Ritz-Carlton, CNN, DuPont, International Paper, Carter’s Baby Clothes, Applegate Organic Meats and James Hardie Siding. In 2012, Bart founded Job Propulsion Lab to help people entering advertising plan and manage successful careers.

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