To anyone that has done a placement year in an agency, I salute you. I’m sure some of you were the same as me when it came to your first day of placement; you imagined walking into a spacious, penthouse office with floor to ceiling windows looking out over some trendy part of the city. Complete with a Don Draper-esque character sitting moodily in a glass office in the distance, surrounded by expensive furniture and industry awards; but minus the cigarette and brandy obviously (I wasn’t completely delusional).
The reality was somewhat different… I arrived at an old redbrick industrial building in my UFO (uncomfortably formal outfit) in Belfast City Centre. I climbed the stairs to the top floor (penthouse: check) into Mammoth Brand Agency; a contemporary, clean office with the sound of music quietly playing in the background.
It was a creative hub and compared to what I knew, this was like another planet. I was surrounded by row after row of brightly lit Macs being operated by brightly dressed people. The ‘suits’ typed furiously, talking with confident knowledge on the phone, to one another and in one or two cases, to themselves. Then there was me – the impostor!
During the first few weeks in my role as Account Executive it felt like every morsel of information I had been given in first and second year had packed up and gone on a gap year. The simplest of tasks seemed daunting and everyone spoke in the same language – one I didn’t understand. I had crash landed in Mammoth and I just wanted to go home.
Once I was given a fully-fledged Mammoth email signature everyone I emailed seemed to assume I knew what they were talking about – but truthfully, I barely understood what I was saying. I had come to Mammoth hoping to find intelligent life, and as a result ended up feeling a little stupid myself.
Then one day, the penny dropped. I began to understand the jargon and industry lingo that whirled about in the atmosphere around me, I even used it myself from time to time, although it sounded ridiculous coming out of my mouth. I was tentatively given more and more client projects, allowing me to build (or potentially shatter) relationships, and get valuable feedback for future tasks, not just ‘get me a cuppa and go easy on the sugar this time’.
I listened to every conversation I could, wrote down everything that was remotely relevant and asked as many questions as I could without annoying everyone within 10 feet of me. Going into the office every day brought a new challenge (aside from climbing the three flights of stairs to get there), I was becoming a bona fide member of Client Services.
A year and a half later and I am still working in the agency, although I’m not too proud to admit that the feelings I had during the first weeks can rear their head from time to time. But for those doing their placement years or hoping to in the future, it is worth it! Try to ignore all the teething problems and soak up every bit of insight and expertise that is given to you during this invaluable year.
I’m happy to say that with every day that passes in Mammoth I feel less like an Extra Terrestrial and more like an Account Executive.
Jenny Craig is a 4th Year BSc in Communications, Advertising and Marketing student at Ulster University. She can be contacted via LinkedIn – https://www.linkedin.com/in/jenny-craig-7a85b1113