The Utility Player
It’s no secret: the competition for aspiring college graduates increases exponentially every year, forcing them to be innovative when looking for jobs. We’ve all heard of the prospective entry-level account-service intern who cleverly designed her resume in Lego’s packaging, right? Or how about the guy who packaged his resume on a Hershey bar? They’d get my stamp of approval for sure.
This is not to say that new grads will only be offered an entry-level position if they create an elaborate resume, video or app. What makes candidates stand out is their work ethic, humility, sense of reality and desire to learn (and for aspiring creatives, an outstanding book). Probably the best way to find a job is to work your connections, perfect your resume and have some relatable experience under your belt. Because no matter how many advertising courses you’ve aced or how many career fairs you’ve been to, your day-to-day at an agency can’t be taught. And in my case, some of the skills you’ll gain will be entirely unexpected.
At my agency, I am what you would call a Utility Player. Our three founders believed that everyone at Tom, Dick & Harry must be a versatile utility player, someone who is flexible and can do many things. I’ve got a lot to show for my hybrid position: some awkward headshots from a recent agency photo shoot (it was NOTHING like picture day at school), expert technique in assembling office furniture, and some of the strangest pop-up ads on my browser from hours of competitive research.
Summed up, my job description is to do whatever I can to help the entire agency. This means sitting at the front desk and being the welcoming face to Tom, Dick & Harry Creative Co. It means that I am fortunate enough to get a little fresh air and exercise while I run errands around River North (when the weather is nice—or to call a messenger if not). I assume the role of Office Manager – my main responsibility being to keep the second floor of 350 W. Erie Street up and running for business. I keep the office stocked with Utz pretzels, Dunkin coffee and plenty of Sharpies. However, these responsibilities only account for about a quarter of my day.
The rest of the time is what I enjoy most, acting as an Assistant Account Executive – pulling competitive research for new business pitches, proofing and routing countless ads and direct mail pieces and being the go-to girl for the senior account people. I help our CFO with billing, creating monthly hours reports and keeping the agency up-to-date on the new billing software that I helped implement. All of these responsibilities serve as integral training for future account management.
Most college grads think that the Utility Player position is grunt work that is beneath them. Don’t knock it ‘til you try it. It’ll be the most valuable insight to an industry that you will ever get.