‘The Kids Are Alright’... Or Are They?
In this most uncommon of years, we have adapted and pivoted. We’ve created offices in spare rooms, broom cupboards, nooks and crannies. We’ve done well and we’ve been flexible. We’ve connected on Zoom and Teams and WhatsApp and text and Slack, we’ve pulled everyone together and got on with it. Remarkable, if I’m honest.
But in our WFH new business world, what about the youngsters, what about their learning, what about their development?
In July 2021 I will have been working for 40 years. I have learnt so much over that time and continue to do so.
In the summer of 1981, I left a broken school in South East London aged 16 with no qualifications. Actually, I did gain an O Level in Biology and also in Metalwork, although this was down to the fact I really liked the teacher in both of these subjects, probably because they showed me tremendous support. So, I needed to get a job. My dad thought that I was quite creative and suggested I get into advertising. After writing 50 letters to different advertising agencies, finally, I got lucky, one agency said yes and I started a job as a messenger in an advertising agency on Euston Road.
The agency was called Collett, Dickenson, Pearce. I spent the first six months there loving life with my weekly £40 pay packet and a whole load of new mates within the despatch dept. By the turn of the next year I thought I’d better show an interest in what the company actually did. Quite quickly I discovered that I was working in one of, if not the, most creative agencies ever. They were creating fantastic ads for Benson & Hedges, Hamlet, Fiat, Birds Eye, Heineken and many more. I so wanted to be part of it. Within the next year I’d moved from despatch to accounts (not my ideal choice but I learned a lot and it has stood me well), then from accounts I moved to the studio. I adored working in the studio. Surrounded by creative types, the pitches, the late nights, the laughs.
After six years - albeit via a brief stint at Publicis - I joined Lowe Howard-Spink in Knightsbridge. I spent 14 years in that agency and honestly had the best days of my working life. From here I spent an interesting year in TBWA\New York and then a friend called Steve Parish convinced me to join Tag. I’ve been here for nearly 20 years spending 99.9% of my time working in the Tag Joint Venture with The&Partnership.
During my career I learned constantly, most of the time without even realising it. Simon Warden taught me how to care about every single bit of typography I ever worked on, Vince Squibb showed me that detail is everything, and of course the great Alan Waldie (along with my dad) taught me to see humour in everything.
Now, here’s the point. In all of the jobs above I was either mentored by someone or was mentoring someone else. In my time I’ve seen dozens of junior people come in and rise to the top. I’m extremely proud of the ones that I’ve had a hand in. With the current lockdown situation and even when we do get back to ‘normal’ there will be a lot more working from home. Whilst this is great, I worry about the younger people within the industry.
Being integrated into a fully functioning and working agency/studio/production team is integral to the learning process. As a studio junior, I was privy to a wealth of learning experiences and opportunities. Just standing in the studio or creative dept enabled a variety of happenchance conversations leading to the next opportunity to develop, leading to recognition, leading to promotion, leading to a pay-rise, leading to… you get the point.
This year so far, I’ve had four new starters that I’ve not met in person yet. How easy is it for them to get the guidance they will definitely need?
But how exactly can we enable, encourage, engage and inspire our youngest and brightest stars and carry on teaching them?
I can’t wait to get back in the office to help the future.
Mickey Brooks is joint venture operational lead at Tag Collective Arts
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