What they don’t teach you in college: working advice from a first year AE

I just finished presenting a project to our client, I have three deadlines to meet by the end of the week, and I still need a more creative title for this blog post. I’m swimming in strategies, spreadsheets, tasks, and processes.

To think, just 365 moons ago I was waking up in my college bed, groggy from yet another Senior Week adventure, days away from graduation, living the millennial dream without a responsibility in the world.

I’ve been a Junior AE at FVM for around ten months now and it’s been a rollercoaster. In some ways I feel seasoned; in others I feel novice. But through it all, I’ve learned a lot.

So this blog is for the bleary-eyed, 21 year-old, college student I once was. Here’s some insight and advice on how to wake up and enjoy the ride.


Day one

Week one wake up call

My first week at FVM was pretty typical: Read the employee handbook, learn everyone’s names, and communicate directly with a senior designer to finalize a piece of creative. It didn’t get any easier from there. By day four I was contributing on important marketing projects for our clients. You could call it a steep learning curve.

Tip #1: This is a real job, not a baby-sitters club.

Diving in head first

The “deep end” is something we talk about a lot. Metaphorically, the deep end represents something beyond surface-level thinking. In marketing, the deep end is the research, questions, answers, and analysis that are required to burrow into a client’s challenges.

My own personal deep end is balancing varied responsibilities at what seems like hyper-speed at first. During these nine months, I’ve gone from inexperienced college grad to fresh-faced pair of hands, to frequent contributor, to wing-man of our EVP of Client Services on key accounts. Oddly enough, I’m even growing a beard like him, although mine is not quite as “experienced.”

Tip #2: Dive in head first, because you can’t learn to swim with your feet still touching the bottom.


The deep end

Questions, questions, questions

I used to think that if I didn’t know about something mentioned in a meeting or conversation, it was better just to nod along and then look it up later.

I wouldn’t risk asking stupid questions like, “Will this need to be printed?” or “Is this strictly a digital piece?”

But when that one question I never asked came back to bite me in the ass, I stopped thinking that way.

Guess what? It turns out that everyone in the room is more knowledgeable and experienced than you. They like it when you ask questions. And their answers provide far more first-hand insight than anything you’ll find in a search engine.

Yes, from the moment you enter school as a child you are taught to ask questions, receive answers, and (hopefully) learning will follow. But for some inexplicable reason, when I entered the working world I thought I was expected to know it all.

There are such things as dumb questions, but asking them is key, because not knowing the dumb answers is worse than not asking the dumb question. Duh.

Tip #3: If you want to learn as quickly as possible, speak up, because no one will speak up for you.


It even says it on the wall

Everybody has their days

“I’m the man.”

“That was dumb.”

“I have such a good idea!”


The highs and lows I’ve experienced are the second most exhilarating part of working in advertising (the first is dominating on the ping pong table, day in and day out). There are days when everything goes perfectly; all work receives high praise and positive feedback. There are also days I can’t even remember to attach documents to an email.

It’s all about balance. Don’t beat yourself up all week about one mistake, and don’t bask in the glory of a small victory for too long.

Tip #4: Briefly enjoy the highs, learn from your lows, and move on because there’s work to be done.

Agency life is “the life”

“I love my job” was a statement that always troubled me. I mean can anyone really love his or her job? Is that a real feeling? Or is this just something people say to cope with the idea that they have to spend 40+ hours a week doing something for money? The idea had always been blurry to me.

I refuse to write a mushy bit that declares I have the greatest job in the world and all other jobs aren’t as fun or cool as mine. But with that being said, agency life rocks! The daily routine does not involve sipping whiskey, smoking Lucky Strikes, or throwing lavish office parties, but it is way more lively than I ever imagined an “adult” job could be.

Cooking competitions, existential debates, acoustic guitar serenades (by me), flying drones, wearing pajamas, playing darts, and shooting hoops are all part of the mix. No stuffy small talk, power/ego trips, or menial work intended to haze the new guy. Needless to say, I really like my job.

Tip #5: With the right company, right people, hard work, and a little time, you’ll find yourself saying those four silly words, too.

Coleman2I got this
Coleman1If you can’t chug a gallon of apple cider or wear a choker for a week, don’t lose the bet

Get out of bed

While my roles and responsibilities are challenging and constantly changing, I’m just happy to be swimming in the deep end here at FVM. I’m learning, I’m enjoying, and I’m growing…a beard. What more could I want?

One last tip: Get out of bed, eat a proper meal, and start working on your ping-pong game.