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Covid-19: Time to Be a Superhero


Emma Yole entered the industry this year, but with her grad scheme on hold she, like thousands of others, is facing an uncertain future. Despite the stress and struggle, might there be an upside for this new generation of ad folk?

Covid-19: Time to Be a Superhero

There’s an action-packed scene in X-men: Days of Future Past where Quicksilver slows down time so he can calmly move around bullets and objects to mould the situation to his advantage.

The other X-Men look on helplessly as Quicksilver floats around savouring every moment. After some time, he redirects the bullets away from the X-Men – all whilst listening to a soundtrack of Jim Croce’s Time in a Bottle.

As the action reverts to normal time, the X-Men exit. Wolverine taps Quicksilver on the shoulder and quietly says ‘thanks kid’.

The chaos depicted in this scene reminds me of what is happening right now in advertising.

It’s scary, and a lot of people are struggling to cope. Especially people like me who have just entered the business.

There is a way to cope though. Become a superhero. Take advantage of time slowing down. Be like Quicksilver.

No matter how much you prepare for it, starting your first job in a new industry can be pretty overwhelming. Especially when, like me, you’re on an intensive, elite grad program, designed to help you learn as much as possible in one year.

You have so much information to absorb, a hundred odd faces to remember, a new environment to adjust to. You’re trying to keep up with the lingo, the processes, and work out what direction you want your career to head.

Your adrenaline is pumping. You’re excited, nervous, drained, eager.

Everything is moving so fast and you wonder if you’re keeping up.

Then suddenly, the brakes are slammed on. Everything goes into slow motion. 

A global pandemic hits.

Your program has no choice but to be postponed until the following year. Which means that for at least the rest of the year you have no job and no income.

It’s easy to feel at a loss. Finally, you were starting your career after so much hard work and then it all came to a grinding halt.

In my case, as disappointed as I was to hear my program had been postponed, I decided to take a positive approach and turn the situation around.

It was like I had been given a very rare gift. 

The gift of time. Time to build up skills I feel passionate about or need to work on. 

Where normally it would be full steam ahead, all action and go-go-go, I now have the chance to take a step back, assess the situation and mould things to my advantage.

When time resets back to its usual fast pace I’ll be better equipped to direct my career how I want it to go.

So, here is what I’m doing.

First of all, I’m upskilling.

Anyone can do this by taking advantage of all the free courses and webinars available. I’m not only studying areas I am passionate about (such as planning), but areas I struggle with or don’t know much about. Some examples:

IPA Commercial Certificate (Depending on your location and circumstances you may be able to access some free IPA courses.)
General Assembly’s free webinars each Friday – starting with Programming for Non-Programmers
Mark Pollard’s Mental Workouts and Sweathead podcast series
Ben Shephard’s Media Product Fundamentals course

It doesn’t have to be just advertising courses you study, either. I’m also brushing up on my Italian, completing a free online course on edX.

I’m also enriching my mind through reading. Not just advertising books, but fiction and non-fiction. I always have a few books on the go, and I find this is one of the best ways to learn. Current books on my table include:

Man’s Search for Meaning by Viktor E. Frankl
Alchemy: The Power of Ideas That Don’t Make Sense by Rory Sutherland
The Clifton Chronicles by Jeffrey Archer

This is also a good time to follow some of the great advertising thinkers on social media. A lot of them are on Twitter and are generous with sharing their ideas. You can start with Rory Sutherland, Dave Trott, Mark Pollard and Nils Leonard. And for great writing, try Damon Stapleton’s blog.

It will be a long haul and a lot of hard work, but just like Quicksilver in X-Men, I can dodge a bullet and win the day. 

And just as smart brands step up their spend during tough times, by investing in my personal brand I can come back stronger next year.

Who knows – the next generation of ad folk could be a group of superheroes with more skills than any generation before.

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