Think Big

By Alexandra Rossi, Founder and President ARM Integrated Communications

When people ask me why I have several interns in my agency, I always reply, “Because I know how hard it is to start a career with no experience at all, plus, they help me and I help them.” However, deep inside of me, I’m just paying forward.

I got my Bachelor’s Degree in Advertising when I was barely 21 years old. Yes, I was so passionate about advertising, I studied so hard that I made sure I finished early. With an excellent and creative portfolio, I visited almost all the local advertising agencies –except for Ogilvy & Mather– knowing I was going to be hired at least in a junior position. I was so naïve and young, and I looked about  15 … but the floor was hard when I fell from my optimistic cloud and learned that without experience you are not even considered a professional in anything. You just have a piece of paper that said you completed some credits. Experience was all they wanted.

I started working at the Yellow Pages as a contract designer with poor results. Designing was not my strength. I was a creative writer. My boss back then was a nice guy, and one day when I showed up with merely five designs in a week and explained to him that writing was actually my strength, he convinced me to apply at Ogilvy & Mather because they had an opening for a copy writer.

I thought to myself that if all the smaller agencies didn’t hire me, reaching out to Ogilvy–the giant global and award-winning agency–was a waste of time. But, I gave it a try. To my surprise, the vice president agreed to talk with me. An old man, he listened to me, looked at my portfolio and read my resume. Then he handed me a resume of Margie, an experienced copywriter, and asked, “If you were me, who would you hire, you or Margie?” I looked at her resume and it was an amazing, creative and interesting one. But I knew I was good. I knew I could do the job, as good or maybe even better than her. But I answered, “I would hire her.” The old man smiled, complimented my honesty, said that regardless of my answer he was going to hire her anyway because she had experience, and asked me if I was interested in an unpaid internship. I agreed with that and he sent me to talk with the Creative Director. A younger, arrogant man who looked at me over his shoulder said, “Why do you think you’re good enough to have the privilege to work here?” I said I knew I was good at writing. To which he replied, “Are you good enough at writing besides writing your own name?” Containing myself not to reply to his insult, I said to him, “I’ll come tomorrow and show you right in front of your face how good I am!” He looked at me with rage and said, “How dare you challenging me!” He looked me in the eye. I looked in his eye. I was determined not to let him downgrade me. And he said, “Okay. Come tomorrow and show me.”

Well, I didn’t get the job, but at least I was going to have the famous experience everybody was talking about. For one day!

To know what happened next, click here. (Tip for Millennials: Turn Your Disadvantage Into Your Advantage.)