Dear Gabby: A Letter to Myself

6 12 2012

Dear Gabby,

I’ve recently been hired as an editorial assistant and graphic designer. I love to write and I really want to generate more opportunities to grow within the company so I can one day have a column like yours!  Do you have any advice for an aspiring media professional?

 -Eager 2 Please

Dear Too Eager,

First things must always come first:

Media is inherently about making shit not stink. Whether we’re talking public relations, broadcasting, print advertising, marketing, media is about delivering a message through a medium and crafting the public perception of an idea, product or service. Effective media makes people agree to like it, want to have it, buy it, and tell a friend about it. For young media professionals, all these same rules apply to career advancement.

For those seeking employment in media, I would recommend that you stop now and do something entirely different. Media is by far one of the most competitive, ridiculous to points of maddening hysteria professional spheres on planet earth.  Everything appears to glitter like gold from the ubiquitous bandwidth mass media so effortlessly controls.

As I writer myself, I know all too well the strain afflicted by this intensely creative space. Media personalities are astringent and unforgiving.  Sometimes I wish I could cry myself to sleep were it not for all of it being too ridiculous to cry over. So, if you’re like me, incapable of tears, then you’ll likely need some guidance through these trenches. It’s a difficult industry to navigate alone as academics have yet to quantify or articulate the kinds of bullshit that make-up the professions of mass media. Students of this discipline are in my humble opinion: SOL. Most won’t ever make it to the proverbial promised land of fame, wealth or influence media entices; but if your passion to succeed overrides your fear of failure, than I welcome you to the struggle.

First, you must believe with every fiber of your being that your message, creative vision, words, art, music, design -whatever it is that you love to do- you must whole-heartedly believe that you’ve got the right stuff and that the rest of the word needs your creative vision to survive the rapture. Egoism and media go hand-in-hand. If you want to make it, you have to believe your production is worth the attention of an audience. In few words, believe in yourself. Even if you’re new to the space, maintaining a silent but steady confidence in the work you produce is critical. If you don’t love what you do, aren’t obsessed with producing it because it’s your God-forsaken gift to share it with the world, than you need to reassess your priorities. Media is no place to ride the fence on creative vision. This is a place for people who have egos healthier than a five-year-old child. If you don’t think your work is awesome, nobody else will either. If you don’t love your shit, trust me, everyone will think it stinks.

The next important rule: Always volunteer. When your boss starts loading a bunch of shit onto your plate, never ever under any circumstances say no to an opportunity to do more shit. You will learn faster, you will save money because you won’t have a social life and you will learn that your threshold for pain is much higher than you first realized.

Media spans such a large spectrum that most people who first decide to give it a go likely don’t know where their strengths are until they get their hands in it. By making yourself available for several different jobs you’re also setting yourself up to discover your niche. Being a generalist in media is great for some people, but those roles are few and far-between. Being a specialist and being great at it means better-paid positions and lucrative referrals.

The other advantage to volunteering and being the go-to person for extra work is trust and reliability. In media, everyone is full of shit. They say they are going to do something and they don’t do it. Setting yourself a part as someone who get’s shit done and does it well, is a huge advantage in an industry full of shit. If you can build a reputation as someone who can be trusted to get the job done, you’re one step ahead of all the assholes who have only fulfilled the easy step: being a conceded asshole. You’ve got to have the shit to back-up the shit. So deliver, over-deliver, every time, no exception. And that might mean staying late, working on the weekends and not getting paid. It doesn’t matter. Whatever it takes. Just get it done.

Another very important rule: be good to everyone you meet. Your shit doesn’t stink. Remember? But never let that get in the way of being a good person and treating everyone you meet with respect and kindness.

For one huge reason, networking. If you arrive on set at a photo shoot or PR event covered in shit, everyone will remember you as someone they don’t want to be around. However, if you walk into team projects, events and the like with a positive attitude and warm personality, people will remember you for all the right reasons and not because you reek of bodily excretion.

In media, it’s all about who you know. You will likely get your dream job through a referral, someone who knows you well enough to know that they like you and that you work in media. You might not even be as well qualified as someone they interview for the same job, but knowing someone and being able to put a name to a friendly face is a huge advantage. So, always, always be on the lookout for opportunities to be nice to new people, make yourself seen at a party, for the right reasons, and try to make a positive, lasting impression on people. It will serve you well in the future.

Another important reason to be kind: immunity from shit talkers. Nothing is more fun than talking shit about the person who sucks at their job. Everyone does it. But rising above this and taking the high road will save you tons of bullshit later on. Being a bitch and imagining that it will somehow protect you from seemingly lesser co-workers, a rude boss or the competition, is stupid. The only people who like bitches are men that have weird abandonment issues. Being a good person and staying out of all the drama will stop haters from trash-talking you when you’re not around. Niceness is totally underrated. Television shows glorify powerful men and woman as hard-to-work-with-bitches, this destructive illusion then brings doe-eyed little boys and girls to the gold media doors with a big sack of assumptive shit that really does stink. Always be good to people, because you never know who will, or wont, Photoshop your zits away when you appear in the social scene pages of a magazine.

Last but not least, always do the best you can. Mediocrity is horrible regardless of the industry. However, while mediocre hamburgers are just a bad meal, mediocrity in media is unforgivable. Because the landscape of media is constantly changing, it’s important to understand that professional work can appear sloppy by simply being average. Average is and will never be good enough in media. If you want to make it big in media, as a writer, photographer, web designer, editor, news anchor, whatever: mediocrity will get you a one-way ticket to nowhere.

Like media, a professional in the industry must constantly grow, learn, change and evolve to effectively compete on the cusp of what’s happening right now. Media professionals live in the present tense of verbs, the suggestive motion of good photography, breaking news, and every social media channel available to man. It’s your job to be ahead of the competition at whatever the cost. And that’s really what it’s all about: competition.

You will make it in media so long as you ascribe to this final bit of advice: Never give up. You will fail inevitably, make crappy mistakes and talk shit about the guy in the office no one likes; and you will forget the deadline and make spelling mistakes on a million-dollar ad campaign. Shit happens. The only difference between you and the person who does all of that same shit is that you won’t ever give up. You will keep trying until you get where you want to go and your shit does in-fact, not stink.

I’m sorry to sound so bleak, Eager 2 Please, but the reality is that you’re likely full of shit too. So, do yourself a huge favor and prove me wrong.

-Gabby

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