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Friday, February 21, 2014

Celebrate the Moments of Your Life

     I've always been a complete sucker for advertising, and this ad constitutes a milestone celebration in the skewed world of advertising. As a child I'd watch the ads and then leave the room when the program came on (unless it was, like, Dallas or The Dukes of Hazard). How poetic that I grew up to be a copywriter! That's what I'm grateful for today. Although I no longer work, unless you count writing books and raising kids--which most people don't--I'm so honored to have had that experience.
     I didn't plan to work in advertising. When I graduated from college, the economy was similar to this one (maybe this one is a fraction worse, because I was at least able to hold down a retail job that provided benefits all through college). I wanted to be a movie director! The only problem was I lived in Detroit, not New York or L.A. I did a few unpaid internships at a radio station and then another unpaid one at a PR firm, which eventually became paid. All while still working at J.C Penney for the benefits. I was on an academic scholarship and maintained the good grades necessary to keep it, but it still took me about two-and-a-half years to find a job after the internships ended. I finally got a bite from an advertising agency. The position was secretarial for the PR director. That was my in.
Is this kid being 'scattered' or imaginative?
     I was a horrible secretary, but the job entailed other things at which I was marginally better. I was expected to contribute to the employee newsletter, maintain a catalog of press clippings, write the occasional press release about new hires, represent the department in an in-house volunteer organization that handled charity events and corporate parties, and relieve the switchboard operator once a month at lunch time. I handled expense reports, ran copies, arranged for meetings, ordered food for them, tidied conference rooms--it was truly a Jack-of-All Trades position. I would've liked it a lot better if my boss didn't act as though I was failing somehow.
     The best thing about my job was that my desk was situated smack in the middle of the Creative department. I had a writer in an office directly across from me. Listening to him answer his phone was quite amusing: "This is (Name changed to protect the innocent)" Pause while the other person asked how he was. "I'm naked! How are you?" They were truly the most lovable bunch of nuts in the history of the universe, in my opinion. It didn't hurt that they were treated a bit like gods. I was starstruck. The writer's art director partner would stop by as I clipped articles, the newsprint turning my fingers black. He'd check out the sports page while making small talk, and probably wondered what the hell I was doing cutting holes in the paper! By that time, I was wondering as well.
      One day my boss took me into her office and told me I was "scattered and unfocused." I was devastated. Up until then, I'd always been an overachiever and while I knew I was failing at the secretarial portion of the job, I told myself it was because I hadn't really been prepared in my college classes, which were all theory-based or writing intensive. Nothing useful! That night I applied at a bank to be a teller, because my boss also told me she was giving the PR coordinator job to one of our interns.
The best way to celebrate
     Before I took my job in banking, another opened at the agency. In proofreading. While they were generally looked down upon, a proofreader got to read every ad that went out. I needed my boss's permission to apply and she jumped at the chance to get rid of me! So I started in proofing and eventually took a shot at writing in the same style as the ads. The art director who used to stop by my desk was now an associate creative director on the non-automotive accounts (which are very desirable in Detroit advertising, because the car industry has so many downturns). I stopped by to visit him this time and pitched some headlines, which he liked. Once again, I was working for free, but I was building a reputation as someone who could write ads. And--lucky for me--my friend Don was way more supportive than the boss I had in PR. When a writing job opened up, I had samples, and I got the position even though a bunch of other writer wannabes applied. Turns out I could be less "scattered and unfocused" when I wanted to be.
     So today, I'm grateful to Don, to the advertising industry and my proofreading colleagues (who felt like family from the first) and even to the boss that rejected me. In fact, mostly to her! All the rejection I've had over the years is a little easier to handle when there's a little voice in the back of my head saying: "Who's to say this person is right?" Because one time, she wasn't. Now join me in some General Foods International Coffee--or a nice birthday s'more--to celebrate the small things.

4 comments:

  1. Sometimes when one door smashing in your face, another, better door breezing open. You just have to make the effort to step through it. Glad to hear things worked out for you.

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  2. It is interesting the things we learn over time, especially from the negative experiences that happen to us all. They can either make us a better person or take us down. Glad you came out on the positive side. Nice to meet you :)

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  3. Thank you for sharing this story, glad to hear it worked out.

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  4. Thanks for stopping by, everyone. I've been thinking about advertising a lot lately, because the book I've just finished is all about the industry. It's a murder mystery--hopefully the beginning of a series--and I'm so excited! Writing this book brought back some really good memories of my first so-called career!

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