Fear of Not Being Good Enough

From a student's response card.

From a student's response card.

I spent part of last week at the University of Oregon, guest lecturing and meeting with students. It was incredibly energizing—from the crisp colors of a true and proper fall, to the enthusiasm in every handshake and hello. 

As part of the visit, I collected responses from students for a little ongoing research around how to better support the next generation of advertising—the same mission that fuels this weekly email. While data is still coming in from more schools, a pattern jumped out from this initial batch (comprised of more than one school). 

Of sampled students studying advertising, 62% fear that they aren't good enough. 

That their ideas aren't creative enough. That they don't have the skills needed. That they won't have enough experience, or stand out among their talented peers. 

Maybe students studying to go into any profession feel this. Being good enough is directly tied to anxiety over not finding a job, not finding a company that will take you. But something about advertising seems particularly stressful—students described it as "cutthroat," "competitive," and "full of talented people." It doesn't help that it's highly subjective, as any agency who's just lost a pitch will tell you. 

I'm not here to dismiss the fear—it's real, tangible and at times, crippling. But I will say this, as someone who's interviewed lots of intern and entry-level candidates: raw talent (the brain and behavior you were born with) and hard skills are only one part of what gets you hired. At the entry level, agencies are looking for people to invest in. They're not looking for someone with all the know-how right now. They're asking themselves:

When looking for your first job, your resume isn't always the most important thing. Agencies will feel out your personality and whether it's the right fit for the team and culture. Your attitude—are you excited to learn, proactive, a good collaborator? Even if you don't know the answer, do you have the curiosity, thoughtfulness, and drive to help the team get to it? 

Everyone starts somewhere. If advertising is what you want to do, you'll find your place in the industry. It may not be easy. It may take time, extra school, more internships. You might end up somewhere you've never heard of before, or somewhere that doesn't necessarily look like an agency (both fantastic things).

Here's the other thing few talk about, but we all know deep down: the feeling of not being good enough never completely goes away. But with time and experience, it becomes less of a fear, and more of what keeps pushing us to be better and reach further. 

So don't let fear faze you—let it fuel you. Take comfort that those around you probably feel the same way, not just today, but also ten years from now. Go forward knowing that with the want and the will, and a future career full of learning, you are good enough.

Welcome to We Are Next,