Leaving my first real creative strategy gig was heart breaking. I will admit I cried in my office – at the time in a printer closet I had lovingly turned in to the infamous “Nook on 9” of Energy BBDO’s Chicago office. I never had imagined leaving the agency and suddenly I wanted to spread my wings.
As a young pup in the strategy world, leaving Energy BBDO meant that I would be leaving the people I grew up with. And leaving family is never easy. I was consciously walking away from the smart minds that had taught me to count to ten before speaking; those who said read presentation decks backwards to find errors and the co-workers who I spent countless hours with on the editing room floor for pitch after pitch bringing our consumer to life through film.
The day I quit my first creative strategy job was a blur. I believe I rambled nothings to our CSO as I apologized profusely for making the decision to turn in my badge and pride of working for such an amazing company. I felt like a spouse who had been caught cheating. A scarlet letter burned on to my chest as I left the office.
The day I quit and the following days after I was fortunate enough to realize what, as a strategist about to enter a new agency in a more senior-role, are the things to value in your first strategy gig. There are four I’d like to share as you may contemplate leaving your first post.
1. Your people. When I quit, my first reaction was panic in that I would have to tell my family in the agency that I was moving on. It will be a natural reaction, now having gone through the experience of leaving an agency twice. You will sweat. You will get clammy. Hell, you may even cry. The most important aspect of any job in advertising are the roots you build with the people you spend nearly half your waking hours in a week with.
2. Your salary. When I quit, I was leaving for the opportunity and more money. The latter is a heavy sin that I readily admit would be something I would think about twice now. There is nothing you should value more than the agency that supports you. That someone is going to pay you to hang out with interesting people and share your thoughts about people, brands and the world. On quitting your first strategy job, make money your last priority. There will always be more money to chase, always.
3. Your work. When I quit, I was afraid I would lose my work. Not the tangible decks and briefs I had slaved hours over, but the pride and passion for what had been accomplished as part of a kick-ass team. It’s important to value your work in the moment; congratulate teammates on thinking big, write notes of encouragement to junior staff and always defend the work you know works.
4. Yourself. When I quit, I suddenly questioned if I was going to make it. Was I making the right decision? Am I ready for the challenges ahead? I spent hours speaking with my mentors behind closed doors looking for support and affirmation. For a brief moment, you will not believe in yourself. You will look your best friends and mentors in the eye and realize that your first strategy job is the most important. You learn who you are, you will learn to trust your instinct and learn to be proud of yourself and what you can do.
I always encourage junior staff that approaches me now about leaving a post to weigh the value of these four things before they decide to move forward. I challenge you to do the same.
Remember, regardless if you’re leaving your first job or your fiftieth – you’re always moving onward and upward.
Photo Credit: Abdulrahman