5 Habits for New Ad Execs

23 10 2007

my desk at work

So you got yourself the new job, or you are hoping to have one soon. Now what? What can you expect in your first few weeks, and even better – what can you do to set yourself up for success?

Here are my 5 habits that keep me sane – and productive – no matter how crazy things in the office become.

1. Use the ol’ scrapsheet technique
This one is huge for me, I use it every day. Truth is, at first you are going to have to do a lot of little tasks, from copying to scanning and emails and schedule-making. And when it all gets dropped on you at once, it can be not only confusing, but easy to forget. And if you forget, you might make the team look bad – which would not be great for your career options.

Every night before I leave the office, I start a new sheet of scrap paper with the date and the things I need to get done the next day. I’ve got things like ‘OCP’s for Brian’, ‘revise Dec. Schedule’, and ‘Lettershop Insertion Sequences’ written on mine. Clearly doesn’t take much time, but just jogs the memory and keeps everything in order. When someone asks me to do something, I just add it on to the list, whether I’m going to take care of it right that second or not. By the end of the day, my list is full of things I got done. I get to look at it and feel accomplished. If I don’t see a check by the task, I know I’ve got to do it the next day. Easy enough, but keeps things so organized for me. I originally read about this type of habit at LifeHacker, who write great posts on developing great work habits.

2. Keep your desk clear
Some people love to have a filthy, crazy desk. My boss is like this: his room is totally full of papers. For the most part, he knows where things are and never seems to have a problem with losing papers.

But for a brand new ad exec, this just won’t work. My boss can come by my desk and say, “hey, can you print me another copy of the Mail Plan?” and that is no big deal. But if someone turns to me in a meeting and says, “didn’t you take a look at the proof for this?” and I lost it in the shuffle…oops I’m screwed.

I use folders, separators, and an inbox. But perhaps most important is to not be afraid to trash (recycle) papers if they aren’t urgent or I have an accessible digital document. Unless the paper version is unique or modified, you don’t need to hoard it unless its something you will be referring to on a daily basis. Stay on top of trashing out-of-date papers by putting constantly updated versions in easy-to-reach folders. Every time a new version comes in, make a conscious effort to ditch the old version. It keeps the latest version at your fingertips, and you will never have a mix up referring to an old version. Telling the client dates off an old schedule is a great way to totally mess up a project (believe me).

3. Go out for lunch with others
This one was a hard one to adopt for me. I love peanut butter and jelly sandwiches with potato chips, so eating at my desk was attractive for me. Not to mention that when I first started, I was pretty poor.

But I’m not really saying you have to go out and buy your food every day. I still eat at my desk pretty frequently, especially since I seem to get hungry earlier than anyone else. But when someone is taking a quick trip out to get food, or to pick up fruit from across the street, I’ll go with them. Just for a walk, a quick break, and a chance to connect with the people I spend all day with in the office. If they get a chance to talk with you, especially one-on-one, they might give you insight, advice, tips, all kinds of things that might help with your job. It can be intimidating and awkward to approach someone in a cubicle farm-type setting. But walking the streets of NY for me has given me a chance to talk freely with the people I work with, and I like them much better as a result! Keith Ferrazzi and Tahl Raz have written a book on the subject, entitled “Never Eat Alone”.

4. Get a quality list of blogs and links to read
Sometimes you get stuck doing busy work. It happens to everyone. This work can be time-consuming, a bit boring, and sometimes even mind numbing! My two favorite cures for this are a quick walk, or a blog check. I read all types of blogs – my list starts with Buster Olney and Peter Gammons at ESPN and ends with Boing Boing, with lots of random stuff in between. I have a few advertising-only blogs I keep tabs on, but I think mixing it up is important too.

5. E-Mail early, E-mail often
Last but not least, this habit will help increase the trust your team has for you. When they give you tasks, especially those that take more than five minutes, plan to give them updates on your progress. I’m not saying every hour on the hour, but maybe once in the morning and once before the ‘end of day’ period of 4-6. They are probably freaking out that ‘the new guy’ forgot to scan uber-important notes or file those ‘key’ product samples. They just want to know how you are going to get it done, and when. Send them a quick email – they will appreciate it!

Looking over this list, I guess you could call it self-explanatory or basic common knowledge. But really, most good habits are. I just wish a list like this was out there when I was getting started – when you are ready to get going with a new job, it’s always good to start out on the right foot!

So what are your good habits at work? Let’s get a good list going for all the new and wannabe ad execs out there!

-jv

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