Wednesday, June 14, 2023

Getting a New Job.

I get a lot of calls from people who have lost their agency jobs.

Mostly, I don't know these people directly. I know friends of theirs or an ex-boss or someone suggested they call me. You know, for an encouraging word or for advice on how to get back on the agency horse.

If there used to be a stigma around getting fired or being out of work--especially if you're over 40, that stigma has over the last decade or so, wholly disappeared. Give me about twenty minutes and I could put together a 75-person agency that would have a greater assemblage of talent than probably any agency in the country, with the possible exception of Wieden. To be quippy about it, I like to say that these days 'the best people in the agency business no longer work for agencies.'

Even so, when out-of-work people call me, I usually take four minutes and check out their portfolio sites. I hold to something Ogilvy Vice Chair Rory Sutherland said a couple years ago around the time of a WPP-personnel-hemorrhage. Rory said, "if someone's lasted til 50 in this business, they're probably pretty good."

I think that's fair. If they've survived 25 years, they can probably handle a shoot, a tough client, a terrible brief and, even worst of all, holding company politics. Over two decades or a quarter of a century or longer, you've attained so skills that are hard to come by.

When I get "how do I find a job calls" from these people, I'm inclined to believe they don't have a problem with their portfolios.

I thought about that myself when I got fired from R\GA at 56 and Ogilvy at 62. 

If my portfolio isn't a problem, I thought, maybe my problem is that I'm relying on my portfolio. I'm showing work I did months ago, or even years ago to show what I can do. Work that's gone through 37 rounds of client revisions and 370 rounds of internal revisions. Work that shows what I did. Not work that shows what I can do. Now.

Usually, when I get an assignment, I don't get to get used to the water in the swimming pool. I've got to show work often before I know where the men's room is--even if I'm working from home.

Clients or agencies aren't buying work I've done in the past, they're looking to buy work I can do today. As the old joke goes, don't tell me what you've done, tell me what you've done lately. 

This conceit might be ratiocination on my part. I think people who are looking to hire people want to see evidence every day that you're hireable. That you're fertile, fast, funny, and fucking good.

That's what I tell people, anyway. 

I don't think it's about leading with your portfolio anymore. I think it's about leading with today. 

If you get a call to start working at 9AM, what can you have done by 10AM?

That's why, every day, I show what I can do.

I write a blog post--my week's worth of posts gets about 80K views.

I often write a funny ad for myself. They get between 5K and 50K views an "insertion."

And I write dopey little jokes on Twitter. 

Maybe these aren’t directly transferrable to writing a :30 or a manifesto. But I've got a site full of those things.

The "extras" I do are what I can do now. 

They're little things to tell a world where it's all-too-easy to forget that I'm alive and well.

You can sneer at this and say, "that's easy for you, George. You were born prolific." 

Except I wasn't. I've practiced. I've found a way to exploit and advertise the few strengths I have. I've found a way to show the world my USPs. I've found a way to differentiate myself.

Sorry if I'm being a fuckhead about all this.

Showing your strengths and USPs and differentiating yourself is what advertising has been about since the earliest days of advertising. 

During the Song Dynasty around 1200 years ago, the Liu Family advertised its needle shop with that strategy. 3000 years ago, the ancient Greeks ran ads trying to capture their runaway slaves. And in Pompeii, 2000 years ago, every respectable brothel had an ad explaining its services.

They all said this is what we offer now.

Not this is what we did in the past.

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