On the campaign couch ... with JB
A view from Jeremy Bullmore

On the campaign couch ... with JB

Q: I've just landed my first job, in a marketing department of a big blue-chip company. I'm rather disheartened to discover (after a drunken confessional among us newbies in the local pub) that graduate recruits in other departments such as IT and HR are being paid more than I am. Have I chosen the wrong career?

A: If you're mad about money, and money's the only thing you're mad about, then you've certainly chosen the wrong career. But very few people are interested only in money and when they are, it's usually because they haven't yet stumbled on anything else they're interested in and money seems to have the attraction of utter simplicity. You know where you are with money. When comparing jobs with college friends, starting salaries provide unidimensional evidence of relative success. A job paying 30 must be a better job than a job paying 24, mustn't it? Stands to reason. It's very easy to believe that money's the ticket to everything else. Unfortunately, if everything else hasn't yet revealed its allure, then money's just a ticket to nowhere. A First-Class ticket, certainly; but to a barren destination.

In one respect, people who are interested in nothing but money are extremely fortunate. Not for them all that tiresome agonising about worth and value; about the satisfaction of a job (immeasurable) versus the money you get for doing it (measurable). In every other respect, they're deeply unfortunate. The richer they get, the more perplexed they'll become: why aren't they having a nice time?

In your case, I advise you to turn conventional thinking on its head. Instead of believing that jobs are necessary to provide you with money, you should realise that money is necessary to allow you to do a job. The ideal job is the job you'd do for nothing if only you could afford to. It follows that salaries exist mainly to permit people to do a job they really, really want to do and still have a bit left over.

If you regret having taken a job in marketing because you can't stand the thought of marketing, then you've certainly made the wrong career decision. But if you continue to find the prospect of marketing enjoyable, then forget about the money and get on and do it. People who do things they enjoy usually do them well. And people who do things well sooner or later get adequately paid for doing them.

If you're still unhappy, console yourself with this thought. I bet those IT and HR newbies were lying through their teeth. They're just envious, that's all.

Q: I've just got my first job in advertising. What are your three most important bits of advice for someone like me?

Advertising is, or should be, all about ideas, wheezes, hypotheses and improvisations: why don't we... ? what about... ? let's try...

A: Good advertising makes difficult things happen - and almost everything that's going to be suggested, at least in its initial expression, will be patently flawed.

As an eager young recruit, you'll be sorely tempted to display your intelligence by pointing this out: by focusing the blinding light of your analysis on the obvious inadequacies of each fragile weakling; and almost certainly in the presence of the weakling's author and the author's superior. What's more, it will be clear from your expression that you expect praise for this act of wanton demolition.

So my first piece of advice: never, ever do this. It's the easiest thing in the world and the least constructive. If you want to be valued, you need to display a consistent ability to see potential in the feeblest spark and help to coax and cosset it until it blazes into glory. If you can't do that, just shut up and listen.

I don't know what the other two are.

Q: If you were a graduate today, Jeremy, what part of the advertising business would you want to make your career in?

I wouldn't want to be in part of the advertising business; I'd want to be in the advertising business. It's still possible. Within ten years, there'll be so many specialists that anyone who knows about advertising will be as rare as a unicorn.

Q: I've just got my first job in advertising, thinking the men would be as smooth as Don Draper and there'd be martinis galore. Why not so?

It's sometimes said that a certain naivety can be a considerable asset in the advertising business. If so, you're in for a storming career. I hope that helps temper your touching disappointment.

"Ask Jeremy", a collection of Jeremy Bullmore's Campaign columns, is available from Haymarket, priced £10. Telephone (020) 8267 4919

Jeremy Bullmore welcomes questions via campaign@haymarket.com or Campaign, 174 Hammersmith Rd, London W6 7JP

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