The Absurd and Amazing Adventures of Cafe Girl: Is This My Job?

March 30, 2008

Is This My Job?

As expected, U.S. News & World Report's Best Careers 2008 lists Engineers, Registered nurses and Systems analysts as some of the 31 careers with the brightest futures.

Browsing through the list, I quickly see that there are a number of careers for which I will never be qualified. The time has passed for me to be an Audiologist, a Dentist or a Physician Assistant. The odds of me being a Firefighter, Optometrist or Genetic counselor are low.

In fact, what I do for a living is not on the list of 31 Careers with Bright Futures. Instead, I find that my occupation – Advertising executive – in the list of 13 Most Overrated Careers.

U.S. News is very quick to point out that this list of overrated careers is subjective and that many people are very happy in these careers. They are also equally quick to highlight the vast number of resources they have used to come up with this evaluation including, “confidential counseling sessions with 2,600 people over a period of two decades.”

I guess I’m not completely surprised that Advertising is listed as one of the most overrated careers. Advertising is one of the few occupations (along with Acting) that epitomizes overrated. Advertising gives the every day, to steal a phrase from U.S. News, “a mystique that exceeds reality.” In what world would a pimply teenager who wears a particular brand of cologne get four hot chicks to come over for a pizza? But put it on an ad and sales of cologne go up.

U.S. News writes that the reason for having a list of overrated careers is that, “People pick careers for many reasons, including some bad ones.” I suppose that many people may pick the other careers on the list (e.g. teacher or physician) but in talking to advertising folk I meet in and out of the office, I find that most of us in advertising these days have simply stumbled on to this path.

We are artists, novelists, screenwriters, musicians, poets and film makers. We dreamed about making an impact on this world with our art. We wanted to say something that would make a difference in this life. We wanted to tell stories.

Instead, we find ourselves selling toilet paper and soda pop. Some of us sell cars. Some of us simply sell ideas. Can you imagine how ridiculous that sounds to any one else outside of this world? I sell ideas. Wait… you mean how something can be done? Nope, not HOW it can be done, but just the THOUGHT that it can.

And yet, we stay in this world. I dare say that we even enjoy it. Maybe it's because we are artsy and creative that we are also eternal idealists. And it’s this idealism that keeps us going.

We still believe our art has impact -- it's just that instead of hanging in a gallery it's now hanging off an office building downtown.

We still believe that we tell stories – no matter that these stories are a mere thirty-seconds, are often played while people go get a snack, or to the bathroom and now, thanks to modern technology, can simply be zapped through with a push of a button.

There’s even a small part of us that really believes we make a difference -- after all, isn't the soccer mom’s life is so much better now that she has bought the softer, fluffier brand of toilet paper?

And so, we soldier on in this strange world called Advertising. We find ways to make an impact. Perhaps we can never change world opinion about war or poverty, but we can create new technologies to highlight those causes. We do our best to make a difference. For every ad that glamorizes the Decadent Life, we try to put one out there that embraces the Every Man. But most of all, we find ways to tell stories. Stories about you, me and the world around us. In these ways the artists, novelists, screenwriters, musicians, poets and film makers in us feed and yes, even flourish.

Like almost everyone I know, I stumbled into this career. As a Film and Women’s Studies Major fresh out of college, Advertising was the occupation that would pay the bills. Seven years later, I find that it’s the only occupation I’m trained for. And it still pays the bills – very well, I might add.

Now, if it were just about the bills, there would be no quandary. This would be just a job, plain and simple. But this is also an occupation that deals with subjectivity, creativity and human nature, three things I am passionately intrigued by. And so, I find myself in a love-hate relationship with Advertising.

There are days when Advertising sucks me dry and spits me out, leaving me blurry eyed and confused as I meander home from the office. These are the days I wonder if I’m a sell-out and whether I really need to have a full refrigerator.

And then there are days I think about how Advertising responds to and informs who we are. And I remember that I am part of a bigger movement of creativity – one that, in spite of every negative thing associated with it, still leaves the world with a little bit more magic.

But most of all, I think about stories – the ones I get to create, the ones I get to tell and the ones I have become a part of.

Want to see what I do for a living? Click here for a glamorized version:
This Is So Not What My Job Is Like

1 comment:

DiDa said...

hey's the job market there? i just bought a one way to san fran. have no idea wht i'm gonna do!!!!