Staying in there


Knowing whether you are in line for a promotion can be really tricky. The key is not to get distracted by the progress of those around you and stay focused on doing the best you can in your role. Start by setting a personal development plan with your manager. That way you can set out the areas you need to work on to achieve the promotion you want. It’s always a good idea to get your hands on the job description of the role above yours. You can use this as a guide for areas of improvement. Once you feel like the job description fits your skill set, don’t be afraid to organise a formal chat with your manager. Remember to be grateful for the opportunities you’ve been given and be confident when stating your case. A promotion means you are given extra responsibility so just make sure you’re ready for the step up in workload.

When to leave your agency/job

There’s nothing wrong with moving agencies. In fact, it’s encouraged. You broaden your exposure to different ways of working, clients and ultimately become a more rounded employee. It will always feel strange moving to another agency but trust your gut. If it feels like too good of an opportunity to pass up, then don’t feel guilty. If your agency is made up of the right people they’ll be sad to see you go but happy to see you progress. If you aren’t enjoying your job, try talking to someone and seeing if you can fix the problem. Work should be positively challenging but it shouldn’t make you unhappy. So if this is the case then maybe a move is the best course of action.

Avoiding burnout

Last year, of all the work days lost due to poor health, almost 50% were related to depression or anxiety.

The creative industry is a two-faced beast. From outside you see brilliant creative ideas, polished finished products, awards, parties and champagne. Look inside and you see the highest of high points, and the lowest of lows. With the awards, alcohol and parties comes long hours, late nights, rejection and criticism.

It’s an industry defined by tension, but also one that creates great tension. It’s fast paced and high pressure, and we face high expectations from ourselves and others, every day. This tension creates stress. By nature, stress is a fight or flight reaction; a response to a perceived threat that dates back to our hunter-gatherer instincts where threats were often a risk to mortality. Our brains are literally wired to avoid stressful situations, as much as possible. It’s fight or flight to avoid.

But we all know how prevalent stress is in this industry. We face it day after day after day. But we ad folks tend to have a stoic disposition.

We put on a brave face and pretend that the hours, the tension, the intense feelings and the stress that comes with our job doesn’t get to us. We don’t talk about stress, we don’t talk about when we’re not feeling good mentally, and we sometimes don’t look after our heads. And it's an issue.

We need to look at, talk about, and take care of our mental health in the same way, and value it with the same importance that we do our physical health.

We all know how important our physical health is and that we have to look after our bodies. If you get sick, you go to the doctor. You leave work because if you keep pushing yourself through it, you’re only going to get sicker.

Mental health is no different.

Routine stress, which is the most common type in our industry, may be the hardest type of stress to notice at first - especially given adland’s stoicism. If it goes on for too long or becomes too consistent it can harm us mentally and physically. For those who are predisposed to mental disorders, it can aggravate them, for those without, it can create them.

Unfortunately, stress can affect some people more than others. It’s important to remember that we all have different tipping points. What may be stressful for one person – say giving a presentation, may be something really enjoyable for another.

It is a reality however, that sometimes the stoic disposition of our adland types can be toxic. Given the nature of our industry, and the types that work in it, it’s easy to feel like we could always be doing more, working harder and staying later. This mindset can be inspired by oneself as easily as it can be inspired by those around us, which perpetuates the issue.

Some of the people you interact with day in, day out will be battling one of the hidden afflictions that make people’s lives very difficult, on an all-too-regular basis. People say you can’t "see" mental health conditions, but this simply isn’t true. You just might not know what to look for.

Now, we’re not saying to drop everything and exit the industry. We’re just saying to look after yourself. Pay attention to and talk about how you’re feeling. Take care of yourself and others. Encouraging people to talk about how they are feeling and what they are experiencing does have a really positive impact on people and their quality of life.

If it’s a colleague you’re worried about, speak to them. Tell your boss. Make them listen. If you’re the one suffering – it is never too late to make a change or to get help.

There’s no shame in this stuff.

Finally, aside from being a legal and moral requirement, the commercial benefit is clear: mental health treatment is available and does work. If somebody is suffering, their performance will follow.

Work/life balance… what’s that?

The creative communications industry isn’t known for its great work life balance. The fast moving nature of advertising demands an always on response, and the nature of offering a professional service means you always have a client to keep happy - it’s a recipe for an always on work life. But even as a junior, you still have the power to control your own work life balance.

Go home.
Make a point to leave by a certain time every day. Sure, there may be exceptions, but if you let yourself stay in the office until 8pm every night, you’re letting your colleagues know you’re available at 7:30pm for a new task.

Learn when to say no.
It’s not something you want to be known for doing, but if you really do have too much on your plate, talk to your managers about it and say no to the things you just don’t have time for.

Interrogate the deadline.
Does this piece of work really have to get done today, or is that just what it feels like? Were you given a deadline at all? If not, ask for one, and understand what’s driving it.

Don’t look at your emails outside of work hours.
There aren’t that many things that can’t wait until Monday. There will be times when a crisis emerges and something has to be done outside of hours, so make it clear to your colleagues and clients that the best way to reach you in those instances is via text message, not your work inbox.

Be aware of your team.
No one in this industry works alone. Know when your team is slammed at max capacity, and know when there’s room to shift a task onto someone else who has the time to help.

Set expectations.
All of this comes down to reminding the people you work with that there are boundaries. If you want them to respect those boundaries, you have to respect them too.