I’ve been reflecting on my experiences at PRATT lately. I was in graduate school there at 21 and remember being in Distinguished professor and typographer Tony Dispigna’s class when he said, “The worst of you will get jobs.” WHAT!? THE WORST OF US?! We’ll why the heck was I busting my rump if even the guy who sucked was gonna get a job!? As you can see this pissed me off, engaged and confused me all at the same time. As usual, he was right and I didn’t even have to apply for my first job that came after just one year. I was found on Monster.com, called in for an interview and hired. Six out of Seven days I walked around NY without a dollar in my pocket and over night, I had a job in digital advertising with more money than I ever had before at the time. These were the days of the dot coms back in 1999. I worked full-time in the day and finished my graduate degree full-time at night. Then came the bubble.
A year to the day that the job came, It went. I was the first of my group of friends to be laid-off. I saw it coming and three days later, I had a website up and was open for freelance business. It took a year and nine months to get a job again so I freelanced. It was hard but I fell asleep at night having applied to every single job positing on Craig’s list and Creative hotlist. I had a masters degree from Pratt and yet had to work at the Gap to make ends meet. I’d call creatives at work and leave messages at 1AM so that I would be first message they heard in the morning. When they called back, they would leave messages while I was folding sweaters. I’d return calls on my break. Though that time was extremely hard, I had a few clients during that time and the experience came in handy when the market came back.
Fast forward fourteen years later and when I’m in the classroom, I can’t say the same thing Tony said to my students. You are not walking into the same field I walked out into. The worst of you will not get jobs. However, the essence of what Tony was saying to us remains true. Over time as I became more successful in the field, I realized he was really speaking about focusing on the quality of the work vs getting the job itself.
I came across a New York Times Article the other day that piqued my attention. In It the author Alina Tugend cited a recent special report by The Chronicle of Higher Education and American Public Media’s Marketplace which stated, “When it comes to the skills most needed by employers, job candidates are lacking most in written and oral communication skills, adaptability and managing multiple priorities, and making decisions and problem solving.” Interestingly enough this resonated with my aforementioned experience in school and my mission as an art and design educator. Clearly these items cited are the exact things advertising education seeks to develop because combined they are the job description of any advertising job. How does it feel to have the exact skills employers say that most students don’t have?
So though the worst of you won’t get jobs, the rest of you have been trained in exactly what employers want. Yes breaking in and sustaining a career in advertising is hard but you have no excuses. So the question I want you to ask yourself is, “are you using it to create quality concepts and beautiful executions?”