“You Will Never Get a Job in This Industry”

By The Chicago Egotist / /

By Franklin Tipton, co-founder, CCO, at Odysseus Arms.

The One Club’s Portfolio Night starts this week around the world – we’re hosting the San Francisco Portfolio Night on June 1 (575 Market Street, 6-9 PM – and many creative hopefuls will be walking into their first in-person one-to-one critiques with people who’ve “made it.”

How should they steel themselves? Start by being ready for anything. My own experience at Portfolio Night shocked me into some realities I’ve needed throughout my career.

I walked into the room and sat down with an executive creative director from the then famous Wells Rich Greene, a NYC-based advertising behemoth. He took no more than 30 seconds of his time to flip through my book.

“You will never get a job in this industry!” he proclaimed.

Just like that. Declared me utterly and completely unfit for the industry. Like, don’t even bother, kid, you’re that bad. And that was it. He slammed my portfolio shut, slid it back to me, motioned me to get up and said, “Next!”

The real value of a good critique comes from it being honest, frank, even harsh. Not all negativity is bad; a harsh review can be super constructive and help you navigate to something better. My situation was kind of beyond all that. He ended my career in its very first minute, in front of a dozen fellow students from rival schools, so not sure how this guy thought he was being constructive.

My ego took the big hit, after three years of all-nighters and a brutal ad school regimen, but I had won my first industry lesson; If you want to thrive in this industry, you have to get back up off the mat, brush yourself off and go at it again. The next person to look at my book was nice and the one after that offered me a job, so chins up and take the bad with the good.

Here’s more pre-game portfolio review guidance that may help:

If you can, research every portfolio judge ahead of time. Know their names. Make them know you know their names. Know their work. Know their agency This gives you common reference points to help your interaction blossom naturally. People love that.

Everyone who reviews your book, get their email. Yes, even the people who take the time to sink your battleship. Thank them, follow up and point out something specific they said during the critique and the adjustments you’re planning to make, if any. People love that. It shows effort and that you listened.

During the critique, if they’re too nice, that’s suspicious. They may come from too big an agency where your honest opinion can be a liability, so they’re conditioned to be nice. If a critique is just high-fives and atta-boys, you’re not getting anything substantial. You may need to press them a little harder to get some useful honesty. Ask them, “…could you see this running for real?” If not, why? And so on.

Unfinished is hot. Consider your portfolio never done. Your career is a work in progress, forever. Don’t wait until every piece is perfect to share it. Some people do that; don’t, rather share and harvest another impression. Set yourself on a course of learning and improvement and you’ll have a blast in this business.


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