By Andrew Poulsen, Content Engineer, Sonnhalter
“Millennial Mindset,” hosted by Walsh University faculty members Ron Scott and Amanda Gradisek, is a podcast that pairs Baby Boomers or Generation Xers with Millennials who work in a particular field and tries to find common ground and understanding between the two generations. As Millennials continue to increase the size of their footprint in the modern workplace, there has been a decent amount of pushback and skepticism from older generations who maybe struggle to see the value in what Millennials bring to a company. Millennial Mindset helps show the parallels between the professional journeys of both generations and how they can help each other succeed.
Earlier this year, I sat down with Ron and Amanda to discuss my journey and how it led me to working in public relations for a creative agency. For this episode, Ron and Amanda also spoke with Brian Brinkman, a graphic designer of more than 25 years who runs his own agency in Canton, Ohio, OnTheBrinkCreative. While the two of us work in different disciplines and come from different generations, there was certainly a lot of overlap in our career paths and what we value in our respective professions. I encourage you to listen to the entire episode yourself, but here are three major takeaways I had after listening back to our conversations with Ron and Amanda.
- Having an open mind can allow you to be an artist without being a “starving artist.”
After graduating from Ohio University with a degree in journalism, I initially had my heart set on moving to a big city and taking a job at a newspaper or magazine where I would write about exciting things like rock and roll, art, movies and politics. However, I learned quickly that those jobs are extremely difficult to come by, and the jobs that are available often come with long hours, little pay and a ton of uncertainty. After a long and fruitless job search, I broadened my scope of career options to marketing and public relations, which led me to Sonnhalter. Despite having little experience in public relations, Sonnhalter sought my talent as a writer above all other things and thought that could bring more value to the position than other “nuts and bolts” skills that are much easier to teach.
Listening to Brian’s story, I realized my story ran parallel to his. Brian grew up wanting to be an artist, but knew it would be a steep climb in order to make a living as a traditional artist. Instead, he chose to apply his background in fine arts and pursue a degree in commercial art and graphic design. While it’s maybe not the kind of art that gets hung up at the MoMa, Brian still comes into work with the ability to flex his artistic muscles in a much more stable job market.
This part of his story really resonated with me. While my work at Sonnhalter isn’t the kind of writing you’d print in Rolling Stone, my writing and editing abilities are used at my job every day in ways I never thought of, but are still extremely valuable to Sonnhalter and our clients. This leads me to my next point…
- Fundamentals never become obsolete.
Brian graduated from Kent State in 1990, a time in which technology began to evolve at a rapid pace. In order to adapt to the needs of the agency he worked for after college, he had to quickly learn how to use all different types of software and other digital-based tools to meet client demands. But no matter what new technology emerged, it was Brian’s knowledge of aesthetics, composition and other fundamental artistic principles that always seemed to give him an advantage. Brian made an interesting observation that Millennial designers are so focused on learning to use digital tools, that they often have to learn basic and more instinctual design principles in reverse. He believes the fundamental ability to create pieces that communicate a message in the traditional sense will always be a valuable asset.
I find this to be very true in my own work. Even with the deterioration of traditional media and the move toward bite-sized, more digestible news and information, being able to write clean copy that grabs an audience’s attention and tells a good story will always be my most valued strength, regardless of how we consume media or advertisements.
- Balance is the key to surviving agency life.
One of the things Brian said he learned from his years working for a marketing agency is that it requires one to wear a lot of hats and it teaches you how to properly manage and finish tasks. Whether it’s doing design work or copywriting, I can say with confidence that this couldn’t be truer. Unlike working for an in-house marketing team, I’ve learned that working for an agency pulls you in many directions because each company has not only their own line of products, but also their own corporate voice, ethos and mission.
Understanding that and executing projects for multiple clients at once can be overwhelming, but it is also very rewarding and keeps things from getting stale. But with so many clients and the advent of the smartphone and the Internet, it sometimes can feel like your work is never done, which makes it hard to disconnect. Brian works out of his home, so in his words, “there’s no true unplugging” and “there’s a battle learning how to disconnect and be present.” While this remains a challenge for Brian, he says camping with his family and similar outdoor activities have helped create more balance and boundaries between life and work.
Want to learn more about working for creative agencies and how my experience challenges the myths of what Millennials expect from their careers? Listen to the episode here.
Want to read more on the topic of Millennials and Boomers? Check out this post: