Advice: From Daniel Case

I've asked three junior creatives I respect to answer the question "If you could go back in time, what advice would you give your job-seeking student self?" Each one is at a great agency. Each one is very talented. And each one was putting their book together and looking for a job just a few months ago.

This first piece comes from Daniel Case, an art director at Y&R Chicago, and author of Monkeyama.

Making the transition from student to professional is tough. I’m still trying to figure it out. But there are a few things I’ve learned along the way.

Stay humble.
There are so many beautiful, gracious people out there to meet and learn from. When you’re humble and your approach is open, it’s easier to find these people. When you’re egocentric, people will probably avoid you at all costs.

Be curious.
Once you get that job, it’s easy to act like you know everything. The difficult thing is to ask questions and admit that you’re new to this. It will be extremely awkward at first, but I find that most people are more than happy to show you how things work and give you tips on how you can be the best at what you do.

When my first print was about to go out the door, a rep from the studio came by with a proof (think of it as a $500 printout with a clear plastic sheet protecting it.) The producer, the head of studio, and the rep were all there at the table when the rep handed me a black sharpie to mark anything that needed to be cleaned up. I quickly grabbed the marker, flipped over the plastic protector and went all Madden on the original proof. The rep kindly took the marker back and made a few “proper” marks of his own – on the clear protector sheet, not the original…like you’re suppose to.

If I’d only asked a few questions first, I might have avoided looking like a turd.

Don’t forget to feed your soul.
This is one I’ve always tried to live by, but once I started working I got so busy that I almost forgot about it. As a result, negativity and unhappiness started to creep in - and negativity is the kryptonite of creativity.

So figure out what kind of things make you tick as a human being and do those things as often as possible. Find out what makes your soul come alive.

For me, it means getting a dose of nature maybe through a hike or a weekend away with my wife. Maybe for you it’s cooking, or drawing, or writing. If all you do is work, you’ll never tap into those things that keep you in tune.

Be yourself.
It sounds like an easy one, but might actually be the most difficult. You want to find an agency that appreciates you for who you are. It will make your job much more enjoyable.