Starting Your Career in the Trenches: 5 Highs & 5 Lows


I was just listening to an episode of my old college podcast, Path to Adland, where I interviewed Allen Adamson, managing directer of the branding agency Landor in New York City and Author of Brand Simple (which I just realized I never returned to MSU after reading). It's interesting listening back a year later, now that I have a bit more perspective on what he referred to as "starting in the trenches" when I asked about the first six months to one year on the job. Call it what you will, he's right to a certain extent—I have somewhat started in the trenches, and there have been highs and lows in my first five months on the job.

The Lows

1. Post grad internship. I never expected to start my career in a post grad internship, but decided it was the best way to get started at a large agency. I felt like I was taking a huge risk by moving to Chicago and signing a lease without the guarantee of a full time job. Even though I felt confident with my ability to prove myself in the position and lead it into a full time job, there was a certain level of stress and insecurity. 2. Settling in. It's a bit daunting walking into a new work environment and figuring out where the professional line falls with coworkers—most new graduates are taught to go in with a very straight-forward business professional attitude. Every company is going to be different here, but I was fortunate enough to take part in a few work outings that gave me the chance to get to know everyone in a more casual setting. It also takes some time to get used to a less flexible schedule and working every day. 3. Money. This is a competitive career field, one that isn't exactly known for fabulous entry-level pay. It was hard not to compare myself to friends who were starting out in other careers fields, some making 50% more than I am, but I'm learning that I can't compare apples to oranges. 4. I have a lot to learn. Sometimes I just have to figure things out, which can be challenging and frustrating. Sometimes I make mistakes. 5. I'm still proving myself. Like Allen Adamson said in his interview, you don't jump right in and start making important decisions. I'm not about to have an important meeting with a client by myself, and my ideas and decisions, however brilliant I may think they are, still have to go through others.


1. It's for real. The projects I do aren't for grades anymore—they're for real. It's satisfying to do work that goes on to become something. 2. Significantly less homework! In general, when I leave work, I leave my work behind. 3. Money. I'm not exactly rolling in the cash, and I'm still watching my spending, but I am making substantially more than I did as a college student—and I'm nowhere near eating ramen noodles for every meal. I'm even able to put some money into my 401K and explore hobbies around the city, like taking my first dance class in 11 years. 4. I'm learning. I'm learning every day, and every new experience makes me better prepared for the next. 5. The little things. Sometimes it's the little things that make work fun, like the e-mails letting us know that there's free food waiting for us in the kitchen, joining the office softball team, outings, friendships, travel, or taking part in community events.

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