A Smooth Assignment Never Made a Skilled Copywriter

August 18, 2015 - 8 minutes read

Invaluable. Intense. Incredible. Intimidating. Absolutely Terrifying. All of these are associated with working directly alongside your employer. Growing up, I always associated the idea of a boss as this untouchable, upper-level god who would pass by me with a sort of shimmering mist surrounding him/her. I pictured the desks parting, people bowing – you know, what a normal person would associate with the idea of a boss. I imagined that a deep, booming voice would call me from above by the wrong name on the rare occasion my lowly services were needed.

WELL. You might not believe this, but I was entirely wrong. When I was hired at Karmory as their new copywriter, it was explained to me that the company was a small ad agency and everyone worked as a team. (Naturally I began immediately picturing us starting a mildly successful softball team and winter bowling league.) What my boss meant was that I was going to be directly working with him, the account manager and the graphic designers on a regular basis. This is a frightening concept and slowly my hopeful, shy heart’s idea of blissful isolation began to dissipate.

When your boss is one of the minds behind some of GEICO and Planet Fitness’ most memorable ads, its awe-inspiring. At first glance, he doesn’t strike you as a marketing guru, he’s just another charismatic and gregarious businessman. However, the moment he opens his mouth, you realize how wrong you were. He pantomimes with his hands animatedly as he talks a mile a minute, old stories and new ideas just spewing out of mouth. It fascinates and scares the shit out of you all at once.

The first thing Eric told me was that he was always going to give me a step beyond what he knew I could handle.  After several successful social media posts, I was feeling cool, calm and collected. This is a breeze. I can do this no problem. I am a copywriting, social media coordinating genius and all will bow before me.

I rode this high for a while, up until I received one of my first assignments on the fly: a press release. Now, I am a recent graduate and I have never written a press release. Naturally, I have no intention of mentioning this to anyone. I began sweating immediately. Cue the secretive Google search – “HOW TO WRITE GOOD PRESS RELEASE.” Meanwhile I am fanning myself with my notebook, loudly asking “Gosh is anyone else hot in here? Whew, I am on FIRE!”

Five minutes later, I give myself a mental bitch slap – “Get it together Jaime, you are a strong, independent writer who don’t need no Google.” I start writing furiously, placing every date, location and special feature into a crisp, straightforward little package and I am starting to feel good. Incredible even. My delusions of grandeur return full force as I confidently hand Eric my breathtaking press release.

Fast forward. The aforementioned press release has been submitted for approval and I am still glowing as the workday comes to a close. Suddenly I hear the very quiet but dreaded words, “Hey Jaime can you come here for a second?” Even my freshly hired self knows this cannot be good news. It turns out the press release was wrong. Catastrophically so.

Eric is a perfectionist. He will spend 4 whole seconds smoothing down a single post-it note. One time he even performed a short “present wrapping showcase” for my coworker who was on her way to a birthday party. When news of the press release issue comes, he doesn’t freak out. There wasn’t time. Instead, he invites me to sit next to him so we can rewrite the release together.

There is nothing more intimidating than your boss hovering over your shoulder. Cue the uncomfortable sweating once more. As I type with shaky fingers he quietly but firmly points out what I did wrong and directs me to the proper course, always asking “Do you see what I am saying?” or “Are you getting how the language should sound and why?” 15 minutes later we finish and I breathe a sigh of relief that comes deep from my soul.

He knew I was still feeling guilty so he pulls me aside and starts talking.

“Thank you for helping with the press release and getting it done so quickly.”

(What? He’s thanking me?)

“I want you to know I am really excited to have you here. The fact that your first draft of that press release was that well written is incredible for me. I won’t always tell you but I appreciate all the effort you’re putting in. I won’t always be calm, I won’t always say things as nicely as I should but I always appreciate it. Great work today.”

As I gently removed my dropped jaw from the floor I realized just how different working here was going to be than what I had imagined. I also realized how unbelievably lucky I was to be there. Sure, my boss can be a terrifying force of nature when he wants to be, a regular spiky haired Tasmanian devil in boat shoes, but at his core he is someone who more than anything wants to teach me something and make me better by challenging me. Not everyone has the luxury of spinning around in a chair to ask your BOSS a question or for help. So, I advise everyone who has the opportunity to work closely with their superiors to take advantage of it; ask questions, listen. Don’t let your fear of screwing up in front of them stop you from trying to learn. They remember what it was like to be in your shoes and they are more willing to help than you think.

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