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Why Annual Reviews Make Me Feel Like an Asshole

3 min read

I'm Jeremy Carson, and this is everything I wish I knew about the advertising and creative industry when I got started. And everything I'm discovering as a Creative Director today.
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I sat across from one of my copywriters, thinking, “I’m about to say the same shit I was told years ago. Now I’m the asshole. Super.”

Reviews suck. It’s as simple as that. But why? Well, not surprisingly...

  1. We hate getting them...
  2. And we hate giving them.
  3. They’re either awesome...(Yay, a raise!)
  4. Or they’re a waste of time. (Boo, I need to “get better.”)

While annual reviews plague every industry, as a creative in advertising, it comes with a unique issue:

The problem is, there are no definitive steps for becoming more creative.

Reviews suck to get.

We’ve all been on the receiving end of the review. Now, coming out of it, we usually want one of two things:

  1. A raise. (Here’s how to get it…)
  2. Or a promotion. (...and how to get that.)

But that’s not what a review is about. No, it’s about airing dirty laundry. Hearing how that one conversation we had with the Account Exec didn’t go well. It’s about how our people skills need work. Or maybe why we need to show more initiative.

Reviews just seem like a formal time to tell us why we suck.

We sit through it, grinning and bearing, when all we want are our bosses to tell us how to get what we want.

Reviews also suck to give.

But, all your boss hears is that you want something. And they don’t know how to give it to you. Because you need one thing. It’s the same thing I was told before I became the boss.

“You need to get better.”

Oddly enough, rarely does anyone say they want to get better on their own review. But that’s the single most common hurdle in every creative’s next step.

How do you get better at being a creative?

Who knows you best?

So, we look to others...enter the “360 Review.” Basically, you reluctantly ask a bunch of randos to answer questions about you, while you furiously avoid having to do the same for everyone else.

Sure, it’s great to get feedback about how I play well (or don’t) with others. But what’s an Account Executive, Media Director, or Project Manager going to tell me about how I can be a better Creative?

That’s up to your boss. And guess what I just found out.

Even your boss doesn’t know what to say sometimes.

A good boss will help surface where you are falling short. A better boss will note things that worked for them.

But everyone has their own path.

Answer it yourself.

Your review helps make you a better employee. You have to become a better creative.

Creativity can be fostered. It can be sharpened. Over time, you can probably even learn it. But to become better, or to be more creative...there are too many paths to that end.

90% of creative employee reviews will be exactly the same. However, the truth is still there. I hate to say it, but you need to get better.

But ultimately, you need to “get better” in your own way.

Thanks for reading!

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