Turn your disadvantage into an advantage

By Alexandra Rossi, Founder and President ARM Integrated Communications

I arrived on the first day of my internship at Ogilvy & Mather a little scared. I was going to be there only for one day, But that was okay. I was 21, inexperienced, still looking like a teenager, and with no idea what to do. There was no desk for me, of course, because the new copy writer, Margie, started that day also and she took the only desk available. So, someone got an old table from storage, dusted it off and got me a portable, foldable chair. No computer, no nothing. My arrogant boss called me and gave me an assignment so I could show him if I was “good enough at writing besides writing my own name.” He gave me the most boring assignment—a print ad for ham. I couldn’t include people in it because the client didn’t have a budget to hire models. I had no graphic designer to work with. No access to photos, no art supplies, just a note pad and a pen. I worked all day long, and at the end of the day I came back to him with five campaigns. I had created the ads and designed them with my pen as drafts. He looked at the first one, looked at me … looked at the second one, looked at me … and so on, until the fifth one. At the end, he looked at me seriously and said, “So, you keep challenging me, huh? You left the best idea for the end!” He called the art director and asked him to turn that campaign I had just created into a final art so he could present it to the client. I couldn’t believe one of my ideas was going to be presented to an actual client! I was beyond excited, and I thought it was, after all, a great day, but then my boss looked at me in the eye and said, “Can you come back tomorrow?”

I worked all that week on the ads no one wanted to create. The boring ones, the low-budget ones, the ads for the less-important clients. One of them was a TV spot for an expanding file that no one wanted to buy. The budget was around $5000. It couldn’t have models, special effects or locations. My idea was simple: I had the expending file “talking” about all the advantages it had with a very playful voice over a white background. Only hands were used getting papers in and out of the file. The media budget only included two days of TV. The commercial was filmed in one day and aired during that weekend. On Monday, I showed up to work and my still-arrogant boss called me to his office. He looked at me in the eye, as he used to do, very serious, and said, “Do you know that your little tiny TV commercial sold out the whole stock over the weekend?” I was surprised and smiled, but he looked upset. The he said in a low tone of voice, “And my boos wants to see you.”

I headed over the VP’s office. He welcomed me with a big smile, asked me to sit down and told me, “We want to hire you.”

I couldn’t believe my ears. I was being hired with no job opening because in two weeks I showed them that even when you are given the worse assignments, you can turn them into great results. I didn’t let my arrogant boss to diminish me. He had to swallow his pride and accept that I was actually good, very good!, at more than writing my own name!

Alexandra Rossi is the president of ARM Integrated Communications, a boutique marketing and advertising agency specialized in multicultural market.

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