As a student athlete, I often feel as if I don’t have the time for anything but eating, sleeping, playing and going to school. I savor the small moments in between—a ten-minute nap here, a snack there. It seems like everyone else has so much more time than I do to commit to “white space,” as Deb Morrison says—the time in between classes that should be spent creating portfolio pieces and developing work skills. People always tell me that being a student athlete will pay off when searching for jobs, but it’s so stressful to see the seemingly endless list of extracurriculars and internships that other students have to put on their resumes. I’ll have one big one—“Student Athlete, 4 years.” But I’ve come to realize that that one item on my resume speaks volumes about my natural skills.
What made me feel better was a conversation we had in class regarding the skills needed to be “nimble.” Some of the skills mentioned were leadership and communication. Hold on a minute…I know those. I work with 28 other girls, 5 of which are PMSing at any one time, striving to make our team the best it can be and to produce a desired outcome. First of all, you try communicating logically with a bunch of girls on their periods—harder than it sounds. Secondly, communication is pretty damn important when there are girls chasing after you with sticks. Skills such as communication and leadership apply to most workplace environments, but advertising itself requires certain traits that I’ve honed in my athletic career.
One of the hardest things as a creative is to take criticism. I take criticism every day—tiny details that must be hammered out to make my game better. Sometimes this criticism is screamed at me across the field, sometimes right in my face. What’s really the difference between a coach and a boss, besides the amount they yell at you? Athletes are used to this criticism—it’s how we get better. We have to have tough skin or we won’t make it. When my design work is critiqued in class, it doesn’t affect me personally at all; it’s just another step towards making my game better.
The advertising world also requires a level of competitiveness—that drive to be the best and to make the best work. However, this competitiveness does not translate to within one agency, because that’s the team. This balance between competition and selflessness makes the best creative team—one in which each teammate holds each other to the highest standard possible.
Knowing that there are former student athletes making it big in the creative industry inspires my competitive spirit. Talented people such as Chris Witherspoon at DNA Seattle brought the lessons learned on the field to their workplaces. If they can do it, so can I.