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What It's Like to Doubt Your Every Move as an Associate Creative Director

4 min read

Jeremy Carson is an Associate Creative Director, working in the advertising and design industries for over 15 years.

This isn’t a big secret or lesson about the industry.

This is just me.

Because I’ve seen lots of creatives not knowing where they sit in their agency, in their career, or even in the industry. I’ve spoken to lots of people questioning if they made the right decision about what to do with their life.

They ask me for answers.

And I don’t always have them.

All I have are my own fears and doubts.

So here they are.



#1 - I Doubt If I’m Creative Enough

In my first four years as an agency creative, I didn’t think I was going to make it.

See, my father has a small marketing agency I had worked with for almost eight years, since I was sixteen. Then, I decided to branch off on my own.

I was terrified that I wouldn’t be good enough.

Conceptual enough.

Fast enough.

I mean, with the kind of head start I had, why did I feel this way?

I didn’t realize that every creative, no matter how good they are, has had that same thought. We all start out knowing nothing.

But I keep doing two things:

#2 - I’m Worried I’m Making Bad Creative Decisions

In the startup world, there’s a thing called “imposter syndrome.”

Startup founders go from people who make stuff, then become these people with responsibilities, management needs, and all these other people that depend upon them.

They feel like they’re fakes, unqualified or undeserving of what they have.

The same thing goes for me.

I look at what I’m responsible for, making creative judgement calls on ideas put in front of me, and I don’t know if I’m always making the right choice.

We’ve all been there: our creative director kills an idea that somehow pops up from another team or another agency, and it’s awesome. “Why was my idea killed?” rings in our minds.

The truth is, I just do my best. And I’m realizing that so is every other creative director out there.

#3 - I’m Afraid Others Are Beating Me

There’s this new term called “whataboutism” popping up.

Essentially, you look at someone else’s success or failures, compare them to yourself and say, “What about me?” or “What about them?”

I’m guilty of it.

I look at 28 year-old creative directors and wonder why I’m not there.

I see others’ ideas get bought while mine get passed over.

I say, “What about me?” too.

All you control is you.

But you know what, it’s a waste of time. It took me a long time to realize that. To get beyond whataboutism.

To understand that all I control is me.

My work. My skills. My time.

If I want what someone else has achieved, then I need to make it happen. How do you think they got it?

#4 - I’m Afraid of Being Left Behind

One of the scariest things in the industry today is the fact that everything is evolving so fast. And it’s a legitimate fear that those who refuse to evolve with the industry will get left behind.

Hey, if you’re coasting on your good looks and Lions, then good for you. Look forward to your retirement, because that’s all that’s gonna save you.

I have to stay fresh.

I have to be one step ahead.

I’m not just talking about watching all the latest ads. I mean being completely aware of where the trends of attention are going.

Today that’s social.

Tomorrow that could be something else.

I remind myself that if I stay nostalgic of how things used to be, then I’m sure to be left behind.



#5 - I’m Afraid I’ll Get Bored

It didn’t take long for me to get bored. I was only working for about four years before I realized the monotony the future held for me.

TV spot. Print ad. Banner ad. Rinse and repeat.

I decided to start experimenting. I was lucky. I was at a place that allowed me to do that.

I started a podcast on marketing. Kinda fun.

I did an Instagram series with the COO about how agencies work. Interesting.

I began a weekly newsletter about bleeding edge social creative…

...that triggered something.

As I dug deeper into that world, I found this new world of advertising that reminded me of the wild west. It was so fresh and unencumbered by the traditions of the industry. It allowed me to explore, experiment, test, reiterate, communicate...do so many things that I couldn’t do with even some old-school digital mediums.

I moved my seat to be next to the social media strategist.

We talked every day.

We hypothesized.

We pushed advertising boundaries. (She went on to become Executive Communications Manager at Facebook, so turns out she was a good person to befriend.)

New platforms let me play. And having a place where you feel fresh and playful is important in your career.

Luckily, I get to play all the time now.

None of Us Are Alone

No matter what your fears are, I guarantee you that others feel the same way.

That doesn’t mean that your fears aren’t important. Quite the opposite. It means that they’re incredibly important.

Because others share your fear. Others share your doubt.

So reach out. Talk to people. Don’t try to be Superman (I’ve tried and I realized I couldn’t fly.) The only way you can grow is to realize what you fear and to attack it head on.

Then prepare yourself for the next fear.

And keep on beating them.

Thanks for reading!

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