#228 In which our hero considers his choice of footwear and what affect it may have upon his career, part I.
I’ve been thinking a lot about my career lately. And my shoes. In truth, I’ve probably spent more time thinking about shoes than work, but that is still career-related. Maybe. Or maybe not.
Let me back up.
For several years now I’ve been telling people that I have “nearly 10 years experience” as a copywriter. This is, for the most part, a big fat lie. Once I hit the five year mark, give or take, I felt like I could make the 10-year claim. This is stretching the truth to nearly breaking, but if you consider the time I spent thinking about advertising in school, and my feeble attempts to free-lance early on and, um, watching TV commercials during the Super Bowl, it was close. Well, it wasn’t really, but no-one ever called me on it, and besides, this is advertising we’re talking about. Whenever someone starts asking if an ad is “true” or “factual,” my response is that I'm a marketer, not a journalist. Meaning that my requirement to hew strictly to the truth is someone more… relaxed… than in other communication fields.
But I can honestly make the 10-year claim now. More to the point, I can say that I’ve been a copywriting at honest-to-God advertising agencies for eight years (or, “nearly 10!”). This is an important distinction in my industry. Agency writers are generally legit, at least compared to freelancers or people running their own “agency” out of their bedroom who maybe aren’t really writing every day for a variety of clients, like I am.
And I’m currently at an agency that I really like, and I really feel like I fit in. I could see a future here (now that I’ve written that down, I’m sure I’ll be fired tomorrow). But what kind of future? Career progression at an advertising agency isn’t always cut and dry. I’m a Senior Copywriter, which has everything to do with my past experience, and nothing to do with my time at my current agency. The next step up the ladder is “Associate Creative Director,” of which we have two, currently. This title falls somewhere between copywriter/art director (which are parity positions, except that one writes and the other designs--don’t be confused by the “director” in there) and Creative Director, who’s top of the heap in creative. Usually. We have two creative directors, both of whom have been here forever. If one of them where to suddenly quit, they’d be replaced by one of the many people here with more experience at the agency than me, if the agency didn’t bring in someone entirely new from outside the agency. So my chances of ever seeing Creative Director at this agency are pretty slim.
But Associate Creative Director? Maybe. It seems like this title is given to people who are the lead writing/art person on one of the big accounts and/or someone who’s been here a long, long time. I don’t know if that would ever happen to me, either. At the very least, it would be politically unwise, since there are lots of people with years and years more experience at this agency than myself.
Sometimes it feels like I don’t have much in the way of upward mobility. Except, maybe I do. Every now and again the agency just invents a new position. With the last major restructuring of the creative department the title of “Concept Development Director” was unveiled. This is a wholly new title, and one I’ve never seen at any other place I’ve worked at. So, if the agency really wanted to do something for me, they could create a new position. For me. But they probably won’t.
Of course, this is all really about money.
The one thing I’ve learned is that you don’t get big bumps in pay by staying in the same position. You have to jump to a new position or, much more commonly, jump to a new agency. That’s really the only way to command a BIG pay increase.
And this is what has prompted my recent introspection. I like working here--a lot, and it’s been a long time since I’ve been able to say that--but the only practical way to start making more money is to leave.
But what’s this have to do with shoes? More than you might think. More tomorrow.