On Portfolio Night… OR… Because a Great Night Can Always Be Better

Portfolio Night 7

The first time I showed my book to a CD was last week, June 11, 2009. I think that means something. It’s the first milestone upon completing my book and the beginning of a truly collaborative effort towards breaking into the business. I will still be striving to make a great book, but it will no longer be a great book according to me. Henceforth it shall reflect what a great book is according to those who know what they look like.

I realized that CDs actually respect juniors and their work, and that that kindly worded email from Ogilvy and Mather Montreal last summer explaining that they didn’t have any internships open but that I should keep trying wasn’t all platitudes. I genuinely felt the people I’d met last night wanted me to do well. Maybe they’d have crossed the street if they knew I’m actually a design assistant for infomercial product packaging by day, but being a glass-half-full kind of guy, I’m just elated to know they can’t smell it.

As for what I wish I’d done better, here are 5 things the present Rich is telling the past Rich so he’ll be closer to being great (and hired) the next time:

1. Tell a shorter, better story about yourself: Everybody will ask what it is you do, they will ask you to tell them your story, or describe yourself, or want to know how you got there. Variations on the same question should not prompt vastly different blabberings. Stay on message, and try to entertain. If you want to be in advertising, you have to be a great ad.

2. Meet everybody and show them your book: Try to work the room, don’t stand paralyzed or hover near people you admire. I’m sure it made me creepy, and when I finally let loose a torrent of ‘excuse me’s to get my book looked at after the event, the ‘yes’s were almost immediate. Unfortunately by then it was already almost over and one of the writers I’d have really loved to meet had walked right past me and gone home. You always have to seize that one chance to meet someone face to face. Creative Directors are there to get to know you, take the first step.

3. Thank the help. I am sometimes, for inexplicable reasons, subject to the sudden onset of uncontrollably mortifying shyness. This keeps me from doing the things I should, like talking to the wonderful volunteers and thanking them for their work. If any of you are reading this now, much gratitude. One other reason to do so is because some of them are fascinating people who have awesome stories to tell you.

4. Do your research and do it effectively. Weeks before PN7 went down, I made a point of writing down the names of every CD who was going to be there, summarizing what info about them I could glean from the internet, and watching as many ad reels as I could from them and their agencies. Unfortunately it was too much info for my head to handle while pulling all-nighters on nothing but caffeine and I couldn’t sort out who did what or match names to faces when it came time to demonstrate my creepy omniscience of the Toronto ad industry. Still, it came in useful when a friend of mine pointed a CD out and told me he was a real hotshot from either BBDO or DDB (neither agencies were in attendance at Portfolio Night Toronto). Next year I think I’ll focus on memorizing a few ice-breakers.

5. Take Control. Basically, that’s what all these ‘woulda-coulda’s I’m posting here amount to; if you want something done you gotta do it yourself. It doesn’t mean be an asshole and grow silver hairs on your back or wear a lion skin round your shoulders and gird your loins with furry speedos, it just means you ought to tell people what you want. I didn’t let on that I’m pretty much willing to do whatever grunt work is necessary so long as my foot’s in the door and I can see what agency life is like. I didn’t tell CDs I didn’t care which agency they were with or how my ego would feel if they stopped being nice to my work, that I welcomed brutal criticism because I truly wanted to improve, and that I desperately need a mentor to truly grow. In short I wasn’t my usually-affable, sometimes-masochistic self and as a result I didn’t sell anybody on the idea that they needed me in their creative departments, writing a hundred headlines for every one that would see print or sleeping at the office two nights a week with an idea-filled art pad for a pillow. My loss, and theirs.

So what can I say other than next time I will be confident, next time I will rock harder, and next time I will rise higher and shine brighter? I can say that I had a fantastic time overall, that I really love the communal atmosphere of Toronto’s ad industry and that I’m going to seize the initiative and start a conversation with every single ad/PR/marketing enthusiast alive in hogtown and really flog my book for all its worth once I get the new one up and running. Thanks again to everyone who saw my book…

It was sick, sad, and yet you had no choice but to look...

It was sick, sad, and yet you had no choice but to look...

Thanks for helping me clean it up, hopefully next time I can show you something better-constructed.


2 responses to “On Portfolio Night… OR… Because a Great Night Can Always Be Better

  1. Great post. Thanks so much for coming out.

  2. Thank you, it was a real pleasure!

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