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10 easy ways to get promoted at your agency

J Barbush
10 easy ways to get promoted at your agency J Barbush

You made it through college. You made it through ad school. And you landed that agency job. What's next? Well, a promotion, of course. So what are some good ways to stand out among new hires, and also established ones? Here are 10 easy ways to get noticed at your agency.

Be curious

It may have killed the cat, but without it, it will kill your career. If you landed in advertising for the right reason, then curiosity should be inherent. But if you landed in it because you could not sell a script, or failed as a reality show producer, then mustering it up can be challenging. Curiosity can't be faked. It's intrinsic -- not just in work, but in life in general. You question things. You search for answers. You pursue something until you solve it or exhaust every possibility. Through this relentless curiosity, your work will get better, and you will get noticed. With this in mind, stay curious and never stop learning.


Collaboration is a biggie. And it's not just about working with your team, it's also about working with others outside your discipline. If you have an idea, start to circle the wagons around the people who can help you with it. Be amenable and flexible -- your idea will likely morph and change for the better as you talk to the tech guys, check in with the social department, and do your homework. Today there are so many spokes to an idea, you must make sure you cover them all. Communication is key to this as well. Keep your boss and colleagues updated. They won't always be aware of what is going on with you, so it's important to get out of your chair, and drop in to say "hi." That goes far.

Make your boss's job easier

On day one, I tell a new hire: "My job is to make my boss's job easier. Your job is to do the same for me." As glib as that may sound, it's a motto I've been following for the many jobs I've had in my life. What this means is the usual: being on time, being friendly, not causing drama or friction with others, and handling issues on your own as much as possible. Plus, of course, making the boss look good.

Do the crap work

I've built a career on this. As a creative assistant, I would establish relationships with the other creatives and have them throw me an assignment or two. I would ask, "What don't you want to do today?" Then, I would ask if I could do it. Over time, this allowed me to have my work seen, while offering a benefit to the creatives because they didn't have to work on stuff they didn't want to. Everybody loved me for this. Don't ever stop rolling up your sleeves to get the work done.


I am a perfectionist. I do not want to see rushed work. I do not want to see typos. I do not want to see work that appears like it has not been agonizingly scrutinized. When I question a word, I want to know the whole thought process and whether you sweated it enough. I wrestle with every word I write. I expect that from everyone. If you can do that, then you will impress me. Always bring your best work to your boss. Your most thoughtful, hard-earned product. Be proud of what you are delivering.

Manage your brand

When I was a youngster at an agency, I used to wear flip-flops. Being a punk kid, two blocks from the beach, and working in new digital media some were threatened by, dressing down didn't make me respectable to the old guard. In fact, a top account person (who had his own fashion faux pas with high-water pants), called me out for being so casual. Looking back, it made me realize that I needed to better manage my personal brand. I didn't want to be defined by my footwear, but that's what was happening. And even though he was not a direct supervisor or even in the same department, I know that could have hurt me. So make sure you manage your personal brand and how it is expressed, the same way you would for a client. Your boss will be asking, "Can I put this guy in front of a client?" and hopefully you show that the answer is "yes."

Leave the attitude and learn

On social media shoots, there are no decent craft services, video village, or other production luxuries I've seen in my former world of broadcast media. But because of that, it gets me closer to the process. Which means I will be a grip, do props, do food runs, and hold bounce boards. On set, there are no job titles, and sometimes I'm directing talent, and other times I'm throwing away boxes. It's important to make sure you leave the attitude and ego, and be up for anything. Nothing should be considered beneath you, and you should jump in and do things even before they are asked. With that, be willing to learn. School does not teach, it simply prepares. The real learning happens when you walk through those agency doors every day. So be open to learning, share your knowledge, and never think you know it all.


I began pitching ideas the minute I started at RPA, many of which were never on a brief. I've sold many ideas but have also been immediately shot down. But I still pitch to this day. And when someone from my team pitches me an idea, it lights me up. I get so excited that people are taking the initiative because I know how busy they are. But if you are going to pitch, really pitch. If you want it to be real, you need to make it real. Figure out the details, costs, and how it would all work. The more thinking you do, the tighter the presentation.


Mr. Obvious here to say that if you want a promotion, sometimes you've gotta ask. It will open up a conversation, timelines, and you will be on the radar with your boss. He or she will evaluate you based on that next level, rather than the one you are on now. It plants a seed of success. But at this point, it's not just about asking, it's about presenting a case. Pitch yourself, what you have done, and why you think it would be a good next step for you and the agency. If you can do that, closing the deal won't be as difficult.

Spread your wings

Agency roles are evolving. And traditional functions have been replaced by ones peppered with new and valuable skills. When I first started writing, there was downtime between assignments, waiting for client feedback, etc. So I decided to learn video editing -- not something normally associated with a copywriter's credentials. Since then, I have edited new-business videos, case studies, and some online spots for clients. And that has given me an edge not only in my output, but in my understanding. And when I work with a legitimate editor, I understand the process and can draw from personal experience for my recommendations. I've also learned photography, so I can shoot for my clients. These days, you can't just be a title. You need to be a smart mashup of it. You need to go beyond the assignment or expectation. Every day, I tell my team, "Think, stretch, impress."

I invite you all to do the same.

J Barbush is VP and creative social media director at RPA Advertising.

On Twitter? Follow iMedia Connection at @iMediaTweet.

"A business man is climbing up stairs that get larger and larger" image via Shutterstock.


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