Waking up from a long weekend of football this Monday morning at approximately 7:21 am, I routinely checked the mercury reading on my telephone thermometer and read a crisp number in the fifties. As my entrenched weekend of football activities should have indicated, my Monday morning wakeup call came with the realization that fall has arrived. But the unique part about this particular fall is that I do not have to spend it in a large wood paneled lecture hall in a remodeling college listening to a man robed in pleated khakis jabbering on about attendance and late work policies.
On this day ten years ago, I would have been donning my brand new “back to school” wardrobe and a cracked mid pubescent voice. On this day 10 minutes ago, I was at my apartment reading blogs and figuring out what the “brand” that is Daniel Clark™ brings to the working world. As I have talked to quite a few employers over the past couple of months here in New York, I have been faced with a question that I had trouble coming up with an answer to: “What is your desired salary?” Being someone who has only been paid by the hour in all of my previous work, and someone who has not been paid much in any of these cases, it hard to dictate how much I deserve to be rewarded to do what I have not yet done.
Putting a price on my finest line of elbow grease is a rather complicated task, but I have received some good advice from my schooling days. As an esteemed member of the University of Tennessee Ad Club, we were offered a lecture from the president of the largest advertising agency in Knoxville. We will call him “Pete” and he was to discuss his personal experience and to give us advice for getting the most out of our careers.
I had previously met the man a few years ago when I was interviewing for an internship position at his agency. After nailing the first interview, I walked into his office with an air of confidence and a smile in my heart that I was going to get my first internship. “Pete” then immediately grilled me on my life’s goals and who I think I am for the next thirty minutes until my air of confidence became the grizzly, musty aftermath of a Floridian Hurricane. My palms sweated, my voice began to crack like it did ten years ago and I could not find answers amongst the fear that washed over me. I did not win the internship.
Fast-forward about three years later “Pete” is scheduled to speak to the Advertising students about his career advice. He tore through his spiel of being a child of the Spicolli influenced youth of the 70s. He cut his long hair and began putting product in it so that it would not get in the way of his total onslaught of the American dream through the advertising industry. He was aggressive, antagonistic and spoke without any sort of prejudice to our emotions and language that would be inappropriate for a PG-13 movie. He also made an analogy of the difference between jobs and careers with shark poop.
As I loathed the truth to his words and quickly pondered a possible “gotcha question” for him in the Q&A, I caught one point that he made that changed the way in which I would consider my role in an organization. “Pete” told a story about a particular job interview in which prior to, he was sharing an elevator with two members of the finance department of the agency he was applying. While they spoke company financials under the safety of complicated jargon, he overheard the formula in which the agency uses to determine the salary of its employees. “Pete” used this information to determine before the interview took place how much he would make with the job that he is applying for. He was able to use that number to pitch his skills in terms of not what he could do, but what he could do bring to the company. Not only did he qualify for the job, but also he could prove to them that his unique skill set could bring more business in. Knowing how much an agency values the qualifications in the job advertisement, “Pete” was able to assure them that they would more than make the money back that they compensated him.
With the young eyes that I see the advertising industry through, it is not easy to accept that there is a monetary value to creativity. Realizing the harsh truth in the difference between art and advertising is something I learned in school when large amounts of points were docked from my magazine ads because of word count and how far the logo is from the edge of the page. Trying to blur that line between the two is the golden pursuit for many creatives in the industry, and people like “Pete” will remind them that the line is always there.
As much as I didn’t want to believe it, his hard work and his realistic method of dealing with people have proved to be successful in his career. He was the undeniable face of the business side and the face that I could don if I want to be successful just like him. After the presentation, I figured out that he happened to be a cyclist in the same group as my dad. When I asked if he knows my old man, “Pete” described him as “someone who downplays his intelligence.”
What a weird thing to hear about your father.