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How to Master the Move From Student to Junior Creative

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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It's hard to shift from being a student to a junior creative.

Most of you wanted to be creatives because you have big ideas. You fell in love with the ability to come up with solutions to problems that impacted the world, and you could bring that vision to life.

But when you leap from academia to agency, something changes. You go from one world full of freedom and creative control, then enter another where you're at the bottom of the food chain and you don't feel like you have as big of an impact as you used to.

That mental shift tends to break young creatives. And when it breaks you, it makes you look like an incapable junior, even if you aren't. But it doesn't have to. In fact, it can be something you use to your advantage. Something that makes you stand out from the sea of shocked faces. Because, if you know about the shift, you can beat it.

From Control Freak to Out Of Control

You learn a lot in school. Strategizing, concepting, do it all.

You get used to it. The full-fledged control is taken for granted. You even despise it at times, needing to do everything, because you're in charge of everything.

And that's the beautiful part. You want to shift the concept, you can. You don't like the color of the logo, you change it. You think that headline isn't risky enough? Boom, you're using language that would make the old lady across the street clutch her pearls. You have complete, utter control over the entire project, start to finish.

Then, you get a job.

You're the intern, the junior, the entry-level creative that's gonna deliver an idea that'll blow the creative director's mind. Raw, untethered creativity like yours can't be ignored. And you intend on aiming that big, creative brain of yours at the biggest problems.

But instead of being handed a project, you're handed a piece. A fraction. One seemingly insignificant portion of the giant pie that you were so used to serving up as a student.

And you don't understand what's going on. This wasn't what you were promised or expected. And that's where the break happens. That's where the idealist in you starts to die, and you start to doubt the reasons you got into this career in the first place. Because, if you can't form the idea, what are you doing?

How to Not Break

It's pretty simple: you need to earn and learn your way to full control. It's just like any sports team. You don't just walk on and start. But you're still going to run the drills, go to practice, and pay in the same sweat that everyone else is.

But, different agencies approach it in different ways.

A Bigger Picture, but a Smaller Role

Agencies with big clients have a lot of big projects. They're not just big as far as scale, but big as in the number of deliverables they need. And that means that there's a lot of pieces to go around.

You, you'll be playing a small part in a bigger picture. And it's hard to handle, because you see the huge opportunities in front of you, just out of reach. But, it gives you something to aim for, and someone to learn from.

Take advantage of where you are in the larger picture, because every bit of it is vital to make it complete. Take pride in your role and it'll be noticed.

A Smaller Picture, but a Bigger Role

But maybe you want that total control. You find that your ability to keep everything flowing together is part of your creativity. Okay, there's a solution for that.

Smaller agencies, smaller clients. It's a lot less pressure on the agency, which means they can trust a larger chunk of the work on someone without years of experience.

You're going to play a much bigger role in the project, but it'll be a much smaller picture. Now, in this sense, you'll probably be happy as a clam that you're producing professional work that'll live in the real world. But, it may not have the glamour and flash that you wished upon your student projects. No "and we'll put it in Times Square" with these ones, but you'll be in control.

Keep the Student Sparkle

That optimism that you had as a student, that's what we hire you for. We want you to keep it as long as you can. At some point, you'll get sucked into reality. Your creativity will always be there, but it'll be different, more practical, more realistic.

That blue sky, I'll-handle-it-all type of attitude is what we all hope to hold onto.

You're not a student. But that doesn't mean you're not in control. You're in total control of what you do and how you do it, in every creative opportunity, big or small. Take each one, each piece that you have, and push it as much as you can. Ideate and execute as if every bit is a Super Bowl spot.

Because one day, it may be.

Thanks for reading!

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