Five years ago I was pulling weekend pints in a heavy metal bar while whittling away my weekdays tweeting apologies to folk who had been spending a considerable amount of time on the lavvy after dining at a certain world buffet chain.
I was working as an apprentice for a social media agency and as much as I hated it, it wasn’t without its teachings. I now know that any charlatan can claim to be a "social media guru" and charge you for the privilege of knowing that Hootsuite exists. Also, more fool anybody choosing to dine anywhere that promises to take you on an in-house culinary excursion to 80 different destinations for the tidy sum of £12.99.
In the meantime, most of my mates were off celebrating the end of uni and broadening their horizons at the bottom of a bucket in South East Asia. Suffice to say I was a frustratingly mild shade of bitter. My prior stint at university, where I had been working towards a degree in art and design, had fallen by the wayside following the death of a close family member and a rough ride on the seas of depression.
My creative worth had crumpled into itself and confidence in my ability withered. I worked my way through a series of in-house marketing roles, which seemed to be punctuated by frustrating discussions with senior colleagues and a constant stream of hair-ripping moments. A business owner I once worked for informed a room full of people, including myself, that he thought my photography work was hideous. This same gentleman also insisted that a size 16 font was not at all large enough for a catalogue and his customers would not be able to read text of this size in certain sunlight.
The resilience these occurrences gave me, though I didn’t know it at the time, has now come to define me.
In September of 2017 I turned 26 and was accepted onto the New Blood Shift programme, an intensive 12-week course in creative advertising from D&AD. This was for people like me – without a degree but with a burning desire to create. I had applied on a last-minute whim and never expected my dabblings in design and illustration, which had kept me sane over the years, would end up changing my life.
Shift opened doors for me and gave me the platform I’d been yearning for, which I feel would never have been possible otherwise. We were thrown in to the world of Pencil awards, prototypes, pitching and everything else the advertising world has to offer. We were pushed to our creative limits, doing things we’d never thought possible, and in a blur of train tickets and sleepless nights, my creative worth was found again.
The recognition provided by D&AD set my soul on fire, and now there’s no turning back for me. I urge you – agencies, recruiters – to look beyond your usual application criteria, which so often demand qualifications and experience. Creativity doesn’t adorn itself in dissertations. It’s calling last orders, it’s pushing the 9-5 grind, it’s behind the desk of dissatisfaction and it’s waiting for you to give it a leg up!