Where to go next?

Monday, 6 April 2015

Looking back: a year's worth of lessons

For my final post, I thought I would share some life lessons with you. Please leave your comments at the bottom of the page. I would love to read about some of the lessons you've learned in your time at school. We can all learn from each other, and I plan on continuing my education long after the semester ends.

1) Don't do anything half way

This is a big one for me. At the beginning of the year, I was unsure if I wanted a career in advertising. I decided to enroll in the Advertising Account Management program because I wanted to gain some experience in an unfamiliar field before I went too far down a different road. The problem is that it took a long time for me to take the program seriously. When you think of something as a "plan B", you're guaranteed to get very little out of it. If you're going to try something out, give it your all. Never think of something as a fall-back. For one thing, advertising isn't really a "fall-back" kind of industry. It happens to be one of the most innovative, creative, and collaborative industries out there. More importantly, there's really no point to exploring your options when you've already written off the possibility of doing anything else. My advice to all of you is to dive into new experience--don't just test the waters. If nothing else, it makes for a better experience.

2) You can learn something from any situation

Never believe that you're too good for the work you're doing. Everyone entering the program comes from a different place in life; some of us have experience with marketing, and others have experience with social media. I had a bit of experience with behavioural research. At the beginning of the year, my approach to many of the projects we were assigned was "well this is how I have learned to do it". The response I got was "That's great. Here's how you're going to do it from now on".

There's nothing wrong with learning a new approach. If nothing else, it helps you develop a more comprehensive understanding of the topics you're investigating. It's also okay to do something you're not comfortable with for a little while. My advice is to try approaching a problem from someone else's perspective. For all you know, it could be a better perspective to take.

3) Never tell yourself you're bad at something

Before this year, I would have told you that I'm bad at using Photoshop. I would have told you that I don't really understand social media, and that I have no idea how to make a GIF or a movie. Since then, I have at least partially developed all of these skills. How did I do it, you ask? Well, I watched a lot of online tutorials, had countless sleepless nights, and more than a few panic attacks. In the end, I did manage to improve my performance in all of these areas. The lesson here is that you should always bet on yourself. People like to talk about the things that they're bad at. I find that a lot of the time, they're just making excuses for themselves instead of sitting down and picking up a new skill. You can learn pretty much anything when it really comes down to it. However, I should probably point out that I still don't know how to pronounce GIF even though I can make one.

4) Mistakes are okay

This is a hard lesson for most people to learn. It's okay to make mistakes. The more mistakes you make now, the fewer you will make in the future. And really, making a lot of mistakes really just means that you're coming at the problem from a different angle. Once you're an established industry professional, this will be a seen as a virtue. If you get something wrong, there might still be some merit in the approach you used to arrive at that conclusion. It's okay to make mistakes; just try not to make the same one twice.

5) Take pride in your work

Try not to think of your work as just an "assignment". The great thing about advertising is that most of what you're assigned will be exciting, rewarding work. You'll have the opportunity to be creative and to express yourself. It's easy enough to do the bare minimum and move onto something else. However, it's much more rewarding to give everything your best shot. Not only will you learn more, your professors will start to notice that you're highly motivated. Do not underestimate the power of impressing your professors. After all, they're  the ones with all the industry connections. 

6) Don't be afraid to try something new

This last point is something I learned from attending school Sheridan College more generally, rather than the Advertising Account Management program specifically. The people who attend school here are engaged in such diverse areas of study, from textile design to finance. Students are constantly doing crazy and amazing things. A few buildings away, there's a group of people learning how to use computer animation software. I am never more than a kilometer away from a future Oscar winner. I'm constantly seeing people paint each other's faces in the hallway or design beautiful displays for the windows in the B wing. The culture at Sheridan College is one of creativity, of exploration, and of trying new things. When you're in that kind of environment, it's easy to imagine yourself doing something vastly different from what you're used to. If there's one thing I want to take away from this year, it's the desire to try new things.

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