Climbing the career ladder:
FIRST FIVE RUNGS O FFERS A B OOST U P
In Association With Comms Council
Recognising that the future of advertising relies on industr y newcomers, the COMMERCIAL COMMUNICATIONS COUNCIL established First Five Rungs, a group of young leaders tasked with helping these ‘newbies’ navigate the world of advertising. Leaders Zoë Macdonald-mair and Xavier Glass explain the purpose of the group and why supporting newcomers is so important in the world of advertising. As a youth leadership group facilitated by the Comms Council, First Five Rungs “exists to support newcomers in their first five years in the advertising and communications industry,” explains the group’s leaders Zoë MacdonaldMair and Xavier Glass. “We support newcomers in a multitude of ways, from supplying them with our ‘Industry Insider’ booklet, written by us to specifically offer advice on being new to the industry, to conducting research which seeks to understand how to support young talent, and by facilitating industry events designed especially for these newcomers,” they say. Xavier, who is a Senior Account Manager at VMLY&R, is also the Chair of First Five Rungs in Wellington. He got the role at First Five Rungs after actively attending events and ultimately, becoming “captivated” by the groups purpose and “wanting to help make a difference to those first starting out”. On the other hand, Zoë, a Senior Account Manager at Quantum Jump and the Deputy Chair of First Five Rungs in Auckland, became involved with the group after being introduced while part of the Comms Council Graduate Scheme. “I became more involved with the First Five Rungs in early 2020. At that stage, I had moved to Auckland for my new job, and I didn’t know many people here. When lockdown began, I was a month into my graduate job, and two weeks into living in a new flat. First Five Rungs hosted Zoom catch ups which was a way for me to connect to other young advertisers and actually understand what the industry was like,” she says. “I then went on to join First Five Rungs as secretary in August 2020, and stepped into the role of Deputy Chair in October 2021.” She says connecting with others and understanding the advertising industry through First Five Rungs was “a saving grace for the beginning of my career”. The group consists of people who have been working in the industry for five years to those wanting to get their foot in the door. Zoë and Xavier says the group is giving newcomers representation. “Our industry is unique because there are so many moving parts. Having young leaders who can relate to the pressures of entering the industry in this day and age, provides an authentic support network,” Xavier says. “Newcomers need representation in the industry to aid in providing key opportunities that allow juniors to build and strengthen their careers,” Zoë adds. One of the advantages of being part of First Five Rungs is that as the group is young, it’s easier for newcomers to voice their challenges to people who are quick to understand. The group offers support “separate from managers and individual agencies”, allowing newcomers the opportunity to see the “bigger picture of what the comms industry has to offer”. Zoë and Xavier say it is important to support young advertisers because they “are the future of the industry” and agencies work best when they can blend experience and fresh ideas. They both say that providing support to newcomers allows opportunity for advertising companies to bring unique and fresh perspectives “to the issues our industry is looking to solve”. “Advertising has the opportunity to influence culture, so it’s important that the perspectives of those involved in the process represent the people that we are looking to influence,” says Xavier. “Giving young, diverse advertisers a seat at the table means hearing a different opinion which only enriches the work being produced. Creativity is stalled in an echo chamber. Our industry can only benefit from fresh, diverse new talent,” adds Zoë. Xavier says many newcomers experience the pressure of high expectations often placed on themselves. He adds that the industry is fast-paced which can be overwhelming alongside the mass of knowledge and agency mechanics. Zoë says that people have expressed having difficulty in forming connections and networking, especially during the pandemic. Building relationships is vital in the industry, so the First Five Rungs group has taken the initiative to champion relationship building for newcomers by doing monthly coffee catch ups with managers. “It’s so key for managers and juniors to have these catch ups so managers can ensure newcomers are getting the support they need to flourish at an agency.” For newcomers who are entering the industry for the first time, Xavier says it’s key to note that “things don’t always work out the way you want them to, so it helps to be reactive and stay solutions-focused in all situations”. “It’s also worth having confidence that in hard times, things will always get better.” Zoë says for newcomers “no two days are the same”, however they should be prepared to be “making coffees, running errands, organising the office, replying to emails” and jumping from one task to another. “The difference with juniors is that they often need to ask their manager for advice on protocol – it’s much harder to have autonomy over decisions when you’re still learning how the industry works,” she adds. Despite the challenges, Xavier says that the best thing about working in advertising “is less about ads and more about people”. “I love being so close to the creative work. Watching experts nail creative solutions is such a joy to witness, and is an artform in itself,” says Zoë. She adds that within First Five Rungs, she sees so much potential in the future of advertising in New Zealand as she sees people grow into careers and execute high level campaigns that make her proud. Xavier and Zoë encourage newcomers in the advertising industry to join this “community of like-minded young people” who support each other within the industry. “Getting involved with First Five Rungs means that not only do you have a holistic view of the industry, but you meet the other juniors who are in the same stage of their career as you,” they say. “It’s incredibly comforting and inspiring to meet people at the same stage of their career – and chances are, you’ll connect with people you’ll likely be working with for the rest of your career.” Follow First Five Rungs on Facebook or Linkedin to keep up to date with networking events.