Sarah Weeden@srweeden • I write an advice column for 20-Somethings from a 20-Something. I don't know what I'll do when I turn 30.
In four days, I will receive my master’s degree in advertising.
In two weeks, I’ll be moving to New York City.
In three weeks, I’ll be sitting at a desk in an agency on 24th Street.
And I am not alone. I am one of hundreds about to enter into this industry. During this transition, I, along with my peers, am trying to prepare myself for what to expect — how to take everything I’ve learned and apply it — how to succeed.
The current advice that everyone in the industry seems to be giving us is: “don’t be a jerk.”
You can replace the word jerk with a more provocative term if you prefer.
It’s the whole idea that, if you’re a jerk, no one will want to work with you. It doesn’t matter how talented you are; you won’t make it long in the industry.
This advice is good. It’s true. It should be followed. The end.
But I think there’s more to it than that. What if I replaced the word “jerk” with the word “cynic?”
Some of the best, most successful, leaders in this industry are poster children for cynicism. These are the leaders that young people in the industry look up to, people who we all strive to be. And it’s not just the leaders — advertising as a whole falls into this cloud of cynicism.
Being cynical is part of the charm of advertising.
Being optimistic suddenly means you’re a pushover, too trusting.
If you lose that cynicism, then the brand manager/creative team/account people/whomever will walk all over you. You will never be respected again. You will die a lonely death at the bottom of the totem pole and end up crying every time you see a Super Bowl ad, mourning the success that never was.
It’s gotten to the point that young people entering the industry feel like they have to be cynical in order to make it.
But, this doesn’t have to be the case.
I’m not saying that we all have to be rainbows and sunshine. There is truth to being realistic — to not letting people walk all over you — to standing your ground.
But, there’s also truth to having a little hope — a little faith in the fact that we aren’t all out just to get our own.
It’s that we really are a team working for the win.
So, my advice for young people like me is this: don’t become jaded too quickly.
Leave the cynicism to the pros and allow yourself time to experience the industry in your own way. Don’t be afraid to hope and don’t be afraid to be let down.
When all is said and done, you should be in this industry because you love it.
Don’t let cynicism trump your passion.
And, of course, don’t be a jerk.