Friday, October 28, 2016
Kelsey Wheeler, Writer/Producer

When you’re new to the ad industry, you’re bound to stumble here and there. At least there’s no better way to develop your professional skillset than to make mistakes! We asked some current employees about the horror stories and embarrassing moments they still remember from their early days.

From completely flubbing a phone interview to coming face-to-face with the competitor while dressed as a baby, every story goes to show: In this job, you have to roll with the punches (literally, sometimes).

  • For a full 20-minute conversation, I continuously referred to one of the company partners as the wrong name. He tried, but eventually lost it and laughingly corrected me. This was about two weeks into my employment. Lesson? Pay better attention when being introduced to partners.
  • I had been interning with an organization for months and should’ve known everyone’s name. During one busy event, I desperately needed the attention of a co-worker...and completely blanked on her name. I gave it a shot in the dark—“Hey, Lindsey!” Not-Lindsey turned and gave me the darkest look…“It’s __her correct name__.” The best response I could muster was, “It is?!”
  • Dressed up in diapers and a baby bonnet, I delivered pastries to a hospital prospect (neonatal care specialty) the morning after our pitch. Special delivery, get it? The receptionist thought I was so cute she ushered me into the conference room where the decision makers were meeting...with one of our main agency competitors. The positive twist? It's the day I learned to become invisible.
  • I had just started and my boss had purchased a new SUV two weeks earlier. We had just returned from a business trip and were pulling into the parking area. There was construction blocking the entrance, so my boss had to back in and asked me to direct him in. Apparently, I have poor spatial recognition as he ran into a dumpster and left a long gash on the side of his new SUV. Oops. I apologized and he didn't fire me. The end.
  • When I did an informal interview in Kansas City in college, a creative director told me: "Looking at your portfolio, I don't know why I brought you in here. My son is in law school and has a better chance of being a copywriter here than you do. Actually, he has a better chance because he's my son."
  • I won an interview with a huge brand to join their internal intern program. One interviewer asked, “Why do you want to do this?” It was so straight forward, I froze. I went on some long stupid rant which he interrupted with “Yeah, okay” and he sighed. He actually audibly sighed. That’s when I learned 1) Not everyone is nice to you in the real world. 2) Elevator. Pitches. Matter.
  • Beware autocorrect. At my old job, I repeatedly received calls from someone having questions about their student loans to my work phone and I wasn’t in customer service. I emailed IT asking if they could “please help this man with his student loans.” Fifteen minutes later I get an email from a department head saying, "You work for a student loan company, you really should be more considerate." As I read over the email, confused, I realized autocorrect decided to intervene with my email—having me actually send, "Will someone please help this man with his stupid loans?"
  • When I was an intern, my company had an all-hands-on-deck outbound calling campaign to clients, where everyone was given a list of clients to call with a certain message to deliver. I was so nervous that my first call was a nightmare—so bad that the client was trying to help me along by the end of the call. After that, I neglected the rest of my list entirely. That's when I moved presentation skills (on the phone or in-person) to the top of my professional development list.
  • I was a young account manager and on my first TV shoot where I was the sole account person, a fight broke out. The production was not going well at all. My agency producer and art director were not getting along and it got to the point that they literally began fighting. This was all happening right in front of the client. This was new territory for me: Do I break it up, stand in front of the client or just act like it was no big deal and head to the craft services table? The crew broke it up and I had a side-bar with the agency team. "We don't have to like each other but we can't come to blows during the production." The good news was the client thought it was hilarious and he told the story many times. He appreciated their passion!

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