How I got the jobs I got and why I chose to leave them

As many of you may be looking for your first job, I thought it might be helpful to see how I landed the jobs I had, and what made me leave. Forgive me if this is too biographical. It’s just my experience.

If you want the Cliffs Notes, here are a couple things that stand out to me:

  1. Every job I’ve ever taken came as a result of some connection I had. Even my first job came because my school notified me. Yes, a great book is the price of admission, and you can't charm your way into a job without solid work. But I owe a lot to my network of friends.
  2. I always stayed when the agency was dedicated to creative work, and I felt challenged.
  3. Every time I chose to leave a job, I tried to do it while I was on top, doing my best work. It’s a move patterned after Seinfeld ending his show before he got bad. I got frustrated at a few places, but I never wanted to leave a job out of spite.

Job #1

What took me there: I received an email from my school job board that this agency was looking for junior creatives. I sent my work and got an interview. It fit my 5 criteria.

What kept me there: It was an agency dedicated to creative work, with really talented people. In my first six months I got into the One Show and produced a TV campaign.

What made me leave: Layoffs from the post-dot com bubble.

Job #2

What took me there: After being laid off, my art director started freelancing at an agency where her old CD had taken a job as ECD. She needed a partner, so I rode her coattails there.

What kept me there: It was just a stop-gap freelance gig. I was offered a job, but it wasn’t really a creative powerhouse, so I kept interviewing. I made a ton of money freelancing, but was pretty unhappy with the opportunities.

What made me leave: Interviewing elsewhere paid off, and I took a job at a much more creative shop.

Job #3

What took me there: My old bosses who were laid off from my original job started up a new agency. So I just went back to work for the same people I was working for to begin with.

What kept me there: Great creative opportunities, great people dedicated to creative work, and a culture focused on making our friends jealous of how great our jobs really were.

What made me leave: After three years, it was just time to move on. It’s not like I was going to get a huge raise or be promoted to CD at such a small shop, and I needed some new challenges.

Job #4

What took me there: Once again, my art director took the job first, and I followed her a couple weeks later.

What kept me there: The first two years were hard, creatively, and I continued to interview around the country. Just as I was getting ready to bail, some clients began to demand more creative work. I was partnered with a more senior art director, given a raise, and used in more pitches and client presentations. I went from a junior creative to ACD within about 5 years.

What made me leave: Again, I kind of hit a glass ceiling. I became a go-to-guy my CDs could count on, which was an important step. But after a few years, it occurred to me that as long as I was the Go-To Guy, I wouldn’t be The Guy. So I began to look for more challenging opportunities.

Job #5

What took me here: Through my agency network, I found an opening at one of our offices overseas. I was eager for experience on international accounts and an opportunity to prove myself abroad.

What’s keeping me here: Still feeling pretty new. Haven’t reached the top of my game yet.

What's going to make me leave: TBD