Q: While I was in ad school, I was repeatedly assured that I would not spend more than 2 years in my first job. However, I am now in that first job and I love it. I can actually see myself staying here for quite a while. Will spending several years with the same office be dangerous to my career?
There’s a wonderful book I’m sure you’ll want to read. It’s called Choreographing a Career in Advertising. I have to say, though, that you might have some difficulty in finding it, because nobody’s actually written it. That’s because no two paths are the same.
It’s true you’ll enjoy more success more quickly if you know when to jump agencies and when to stay put. But that “knowing” changes from person to person, and depends on all kinds of factors, including your level of ambition and your tolerance for pain.
It sounds as if you’re having fun. This is great, because fun is absolutely a precondition for making great ads on a regular basis.
But different people love their jobs for different reasons. Do you love your job because you get to work on great briefs? Is it because your creative director makes you want to dig deeper and do better? Is it because your book gets a little better every month you’re there? Is it because you’re hungry to achieve, and this shop makes it possible? If so, you will do very well there, even if you never leave.
Sometimes, though, people love their jobs for reasons that are less noble and less compatible with success. At some agencies, the bar for creative is set pretty low. Work that is merely solid gets generous praise. They don’t pressure you to win awards. Nobody has to pull all-nighters. In fact, nobody ever has to work much later than 5:30 or 6. And on top of all that, the pay is great!
People who stay at such agencies are trading long-term success for short-term pleasure. In these surroundings, even prodigiously talented people will eventually be seduced into the ways of mediocrity. A lazy agency is like a crack house, and it is every bit as deadly to an advertising career.
The day a creative person gets fired from the Comfort Inn (and, believe me, she will), her book will be so lame and her work ethic so badly corrupted that no decent agency will have her.
So, if your reasons for staying are good ones, don’t worry. Staying at one agency won’t harm your career. Not unless a sense of well-fed complacency starts showing up in your work.
- Suzanne Pope