When it comes to your advertising career, do you ever regret the choices you’ve made? Though I’m happy where I am now, I spent a lot of time in my early career wondering if I made the wrong choice out of college. —Shannon Stull Carrus
When I was in ad school, it was clear that we were all being “groomed” to graduate and move to New York, Chicago or Los Angeles. It seemed that was the only way we were to make it in a big-time agency and achieve our dreams of being fancy creative directors. However, when I graduated I did the stupid thing and followed a boy. I went to a decidedly less glamorous city, where the agency choices were limited and my experience was even more so.
Though I’ve now been in the industry for 10 years, and I have accomplished a lot that I’m proud of, I always wondered if I somehow missed out by not taking that path to New York. So almost a decade after graduation, I decided to get a taste of what might’ve been by deciding to live and work in New York City during the month of August last year.
An agency invited my husband and I to freelance for them, as well as manage our personal clients out of their office in New York. The opportunity of working remotely from an agency in New York was one we couldn’t pass up.
From the moment we set foot there, I loved the energy of the city and the vibe in our host agency’s office. The agency was chock full of talented, young and hungry people who I found truly inspiring. After a couple weeks of schlepping my laptop and bag up and down stairs in the steamy, crowded subway with sweat dripping down my legs, I couldn’t help but wonder if I’d wasted time worrying about why I never chose to work and live here.
Don’t get me wrong, there were a lot of things I loved and envied about agency life in New York. Butt-sweat aside, there were some professional things that really stood out to me. I watched some of the best artists at our host agency work for free and others squeak by on salaries I would consider low even in Orlando. Their talent was huge, but their lifestyles were tough.
Aside from getting to live in one of the GREATEST cities in the entire world (a good thing), they worked super long hours, lived in super small apartments, and made just enough to pay their bills and enjoy $4 beers in Brooklyn—not very good things! I actually saw a junior designer skip dinner because she only had enough money for either food or drinks. After witnessing her dilemma in choosing drinks over food, I realized that all those years of kicking myself for not starting my professional life in New York City was totally unnecessary.
Maybe I did miss out on struggling a little and gaining my “starving artist” street cred in a big city. I do know that choosing the path I did made me a creative director by the age of 27. So what? I don’t get to live in New York. I choose to live in Orlando; a place that remains 80 degrees and sunny in the dead of winter, a fact some New Yorkers might appreciate right about now. Thankfully, I can afford both dinner and drinks.
I’m so glad I had the opportunity to hang out in New York. I learned a ton from the experience. At the end of day, I realized that although Orlando may not have been the place I expected early in my career I’d end up, today, it’s exactly where I need to be.
Do you think you missed out by not starting your in-house or outside agency career in big cities like New York, Chicago or Los Angeles? Are you satisfied with where you eventually landed?
About In-HOWse Guest Shannon Stull Carrus
Shannon Stull Carrus is a principal and creative Ddrector at WHOISCARRUS, a full-service Orlando advertising agency. She has experience on both agency and in-house teams in various roles including: copywriting, art direction, and creative direction. In her spare time, she is working on a new time-tracking software for the staffing industry called ClikClok.