I know a lot of creatives. I work with them, I teach them, and heck, I may even share an adult beverage with them once in a while. And one of the most interesting questions I've heard is, "Am I too old for this?" Especially from all you career restarts.
It's a fair question. But there's a pretty clear answer.
Yes, you are too old.
But that shouldn't make a fucking difference. Because we're all too old for whatever we're doing. At least, we all feel that way. We think we should be further along in our lives and our careers. But in the end, we are where we are at the age that we are.
But when you've made a decision to restart your career, you ask yourself that question all the time: Am I too old to be a junior?
Yes. And let me tell you why that's a good thing.
The Ageist Elephant in the Room
I'm not gonna tiptoe around this: advertising is an ageist industry. It's like so many others out there. It loves younger creatives because they're cheaper, don't have any bad habits, and can be worked into the ground without knowing any better.
But, agencies also hate that young creatives haven't developed ANY habits, so they don't know what they're doing. Most haven't lived or learned enough to bring more than their creativity to the table.
They haven't been punched in the face by life yet.
They're not too young to be juniors. They're just like every other junior. And that's where you come in.
New Life, New Career
You. You're definitely too old to be a junior.
You should be further in your career. You should be ordering around dozens of people, who are blushing and bright, early in their years. You should be...you should be...you should be…
"Should" according to whom? Screw that. You've made a choice. It may have been a difficult one, or it may have been a breeze. But you have what no other incoming creatives have: more.
You've Got Skills
You could say that your past career in insurance, journalism, media, analytics was something that you should leave behind. Or...you could look at it as a creative skillset. Persuasion, storytelling, understanding your audience, putting performance of the work first. Any and all of those things make you valuable.
And they also make you more than a mere junior.
Think of it this way, Marissa Mayer, from Yahoo, would have would-be transfers figure this out: “I used to do A, I want to do B. By doing this move, I’m going to learn the difference between X and Y."
You've Got Ambition
Like I said: you've been punched in the face by life. And because of that, you know what there is to lose. So, you have a fire in your belly that most other people don't.
Which means that every project is THE project. Every assignment gets your 200%. Every opportunity you have to prove yourself is one that will never be taken for granted.
And because of that, your energy, your passion will be more apparent than anyone else.
You've Gotta Be a Realist
Does all of that mean that you're suddenly going to get promoted at a rocket ship pace? Of course not. It's still going to be a hassle to find a gig (like everyone else). It's still going to be a pain in the ass when you apply to dozens of jobs, and you're beaten out by someone (like everyone else). But it does make you more valuable to someone who's looking beyond the number of years you've been on this earth.
Now, of course there's a sweet spot: old enough to have experience, young enough to grow. And the further you depart from that sweet spot, the harder it gets to break into this industry. Shit, it's hard to stay in this industry past a certain point.
But hard doesn't mean impossible. And as creatives, we live for impossible.
We're All Too Old
Coming from a young whippersnapper like me, this probably all sounds like lip-service. But most of the people I've had on my team didn't do the "hired straight outta college" thing. They each had their own tangental path that brought them to the creative world. Of course, they needed to be talented, to back up their restart. But the skills they brought with them made them more than a junior.
Even me. When I got my first job as a junior, I already had about a decade of my career behind me. But, I was still a junior. Because I had to start from the bottom. It was frustrating, annoying, and at times a little demoralizing. But it taught me patience.
Because it takes a shit ton of patience. You won't always be a junior. For now, you are. And you're too old to be one. But that's good.