Is a Career in Advertising Right for You?

Do You Have What It Takes?

Advertising team standing around a table during a meeting while one worker writes on a chart.
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So, you're considering a career in advertising. Well, it's an industry that has plenty of perks, although you should not believe everything (or, to be honest, almost anything) you see in movies and on TV. Advertising, like any other commercial industry, requires hard work, dedication, and a thick skin. But if you think you can handle it, here's a run-down of the ad agency world.

Let's Start With the Creative Department

If you are creative and like to write or design, you've probably already added advertising to your top five list of career opportunities. Working in a major ad agency's creative department is a dream job for most, but you may find you would rather work in a small ad agency, in-house agency, or even on your own as a freelancer.

You'll be working as a team, and your creative personality will not only be valued, it will be relied upon every day. Even if your copy comes back with red marks all over it, you're the one the Creative Director is counting on to write that ad. If your design is marked up, you're still the one that needs to make the changes to get the ad completed on time.

However, Advertising Jobs Aren't Just for Creatives

When you think of advertising, you may automatically imagine a room full of creative people hammering out ideas into one solid ad campaign. Copywriters, graphic designers, creative directors, art directors, and other creative people do work together in these types of settings.

However, there are plenty of other types of people involved in a successful ad campaign that don't create the ads. Account executives, traffic managers, media coordinators, media directors, researchers, and other non-creatives work in the advertising industry.

These people are just as crucial to a client's successful ad campaign as the creatives who develop the campaign's concept. Many of the non-creative positions in advertising also work directly with the client. For example, an account executive (AE) is a liaison between the client and the creative department. An AE must work closely with both to make sure the client's needs are being met in every step of the ad campaign.

Are You Ready For a High-Pressure Environment?

How good are you with stress? Can you work under tight deadlines? Can you handle getting calls in the middle of the night, from irate creative directors or clients? It is the norm for anyone in advertising, but especially for those in big agencies servicing huge clients. 

People have lost their jobs over a failed ad campaign. When a client pulls their ad dollars because of poor results, the proverbial heads do roll.

You're partially responsible for an ad campaign's success or failure. It is great when the campaign is a huge hit. You share in the glory. When the campaign is a flop, you also share in the bad times with your colleagues.

This high-pressure environment isn't for everyone. Short deadlines, last-minute changes and sitting in the boss' office when it's time to take the heat for an unsuccessful ad campaign, have caused many ad professionals to change careers.

You Must Have Very Thick Skin

It is not an industry for people who cannot take criticism. Not every idea you have is going to be well-received. Your work will pass in front of many eyes before the ad campaign is released and will undergo many changes.

You may have written your best copy yet, but you're asked to start over and do it again. You have to handle criticism very well. Don't take offense if you are asked to make changes to your work. It's just part of the job.

You would be surprised by how many changes a simple print ad can go through before it reaches final approval. It holds true even for major ad agencies with big-name clients. But if you have thin skin then you will not do well in this business.

Long Hours and Weekends Are Standard

TV and movies make advertising look like a glamorous life. People stroll around, playing pool, going to parties, and traveling around the world. That is not typical. Working in the field is very rewarding, but it does take a lot of work and a lot of long hours.

If you enjoy being home by 6 p.m. to eat with your family every night and have season tickets to your college team's football games every Saturday, think twice about this career. You'll put in a lot of days and nights that seem to run together. You'll probably even have last-minute changes that come up, and your whole schedule has to be cleared on a moment's notice.

Expect Low Pay At First

Are you willing to start out at the bottom and work your way up to the corner office with a view? Advertising salaries won't make you rich overnight when you're just starting out.

Full-time agency copywriters can start off in the low teens before working their way into $60,000 or more positions. Full-time agency account executives can work their way into positions that pay close to $80,000. You'll also find many seasoned ad pros making six figures in their accomplished careers. Being determined and hard-working will help you land bigger positions with better pay.

If you're still unsure about a career in advertising, an internship will help you take a behind the scenes look at an ad agency and also give you valuable connections you can use if you decide to pursue your career in the industry.