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The Danger of Taking the Wrong First Job

4 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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You're looking for your first job. You're not picky. You just want a job. Any job, really. You need the work. You need the resume builder. Okay, this first one doesn't define you. You'll just take it and then move on. Sure, it's not the same career you were looking for, but it's a job and you need a job and you won't be there for long...right?

You ever notice that there are a few situations people find themselves in their careers? It's a balance between the job and the place.

  1. Right job in the right place
  2. Wrong job in the right place
  3. Right job in the wrong place
  4. Wrong job in the wrong place

We're all aiming for #1 and do everything we can to avoid #4. And it's easy to see when you have the right job, but the wrong place. Usually you're there to get something out of it, like a great resume or portfolio.

But the most dangerous of them: doing the wrong job in the right place.

Getting comfortable in the wrong job is quicksand.

A reader reached out to me, and he said that he worried some people he knew would rather die wondering what could've been, instead of taking the chance to find the right job and the right place. He said that he has lots of former classmates and coworkers who had dreams of being copywriters, but got into PR and never left. Hopeful art directors who got into project management, and keep on managing. Coworkers who found themselves in media, wishing that they pursued what they were passionate about.

They took jobs they didn't want, in places they hoped to be. And that's a dangerous path.

Now, don't get me wrong, there's nothing wrong with PR, project management, or media. But the danger of complacency and comfort that comes with the security of having a job (any job), or the safety of being in a place you like, but doing what you hate...

It's quicksand that's hard to escape.

Settling for Tangential Jobs as "Stepping Stones"

Most of us live in a paradox when we're early in our careers. We step out of school and feel insanely confident, like we can conquer the world. And at the same time, we're completely insecure and will take anything thrown at us.

It's that paradox that leads people to make decisions, like getting into career paths they never intended on, then settling. Wishful creatives that got into tangential careers, hoping it would lead to a creative path, but never going anywhere with it.

It's dangerous because it's comfortable. It's comfortable because it's the status quo, and disrupting the status quo is hard and scary. And most people don't like hard and scary. So you go years, saying, "I'll start working on my portfolio soon. Then, once it's perfect, I'll look for a creative job." But in the meantime, you're settling in, maybe even moving up in your tangential career. And it's getting harder, because you'll no longer be taking a sidestep, but instead stepping backwards in your career if you move.

But it doesn't have to be that way...

Never Get Comfortable

I've been lucky enough to be working with some hungry as fuck creatives. Creatives that didn't all start as ad creatives. Some were account folk, some were in media, some were in adops, and some were even insurance salespeople.

They all shared one thing: they never got comfortable.

They knew that the job they were currently in, wasn't the job they were aiming for. But, for whatever their reasons were, they took the job they had.

Be picky with what you settle for, but never settle.

Then they worked their asses off. They worked nights and weekends. They built their portfolios. They got advice from creatives. They constantly pushed themselves to move towards what they really wanted.

They didn't get comfortable where they were, if it wasn't the right job in the right place. They kept pushing themselves.

Being Picky Isn't a Right, But You Can Still Do It

I've talked about how you need to make sure you fit the agency and the agency fits you, when you're looking for a job. Most seasoned creatives call me out on that. They say that juniors should take what they can get. That they should suck it up and be thankful they have a job. Juniors can't be picky.

Sometimes, that's the truth. You can't always be picky.

And sometimes that truth gets you caught going in a direction you never wanted to. And it gets hard to redirect yourself. You convinced yourself you couldn't be picky, because picky is scary.

Being picky means you may be passing up on money that you need. Being picky means you may not even have a fucking job. But you can still be picky...

Be picky with what your end goal is, as long as you never lose sight of it. Be picky with how you get there, even if you're taking the long way. Be picky with what you settle for, but never settle.

Thanks for reading!

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