Lainie Smith '16

I consider myself pretty lucky because I absolutely love my job. As an advertising strategist, I get to creatively position our video distribution capabilities to win advertising campaigns. I work with our sales team to pitch to new clients, and with our operations team to execute the campaign on the back end. I use my writing skills from Hamilton every day. While my first role out of college certainly wasn’t this way, I have followed a few key ideas to get to this spot and maximize my day-to-day working routine: 

1. Determine what size company you want to work for and your personal productivity cycles. 

One of the biggest questions to ask yourself when you are looking for a job is what size company you want to work for. For advertising, there are major brands that do advertising in house, massive advertising agencies that do all creative production and distribution for the brand, and tiny advertising agencies and tech partners that carry out everything from creative development to distribution to data/insight collection and analysis. I figured out pretty early on that I like working in smaller companies on tight-knit teams where my day-to-day is unpredictable and I’m constantly learning. Yes, my hours are longer and I often pick up tasks outside my job description, but the satisfaction of seeing my work be the final push that closes the sale is all worth it. In addition, it’s important to figure out how you work best. I have recognized that I am more productive early in the morning and mentally tired by the afternoon. I have tailored my working schedule to tackle the more draining items first thing in the morning and easier tasks later in the day. It’s important to maximize your productivity by understanding your own personal cycles.

2. Pick up a hobby project and area of expertise within your role. 

My company is an advertising tech partner, meaning we collaborate with big advertising agencies to distribute their ads in online environments. That said, there is no single industry vertical I work on; I help create advertising distribution strategies across many — Auto, CPG, Finance, Travel — the list goes on. However, I particularly enjoy CPG campaigns and work on them frequently in Chicago markets. On my team, my coworkers know that this is my area of expertise and if they need a strategy idea or statistic for CPG, they can come to me. It is powerful and valuable to “own” an area of the business — you make yourself an indispensable employee by housing the most knowledge on a subject and truly obsessing over it. 
Similarly, its valuable to pick up a “hobby project”. In my day-to-day, I particularly enjoy the creative illustration part of my job (making collateral to visually show our product and video ad distribution capabilities). In my free time, I like to explore different presentation templates and pitch deck designs for inspiration. Recognizing a favorite part of your day-to-day job, digging into it deeper, and vocalizing it to a manager can give you a distinct focus and give you more time to explore your passion deeper. Who knows what this sub-specialty could turn into later in your career.  

3. Find a mentor who will give you more opportunity and fuel your passions.

It is crucial to have a manager or mentor that recognizes your passions and wants to help you continually develop. My manager is an incredible listener — she uniquely knows my strengths, weaknesses and areas for development. Having the ability and confidence to comfortably say to a manager — “These are the things I enjoy — I would like to do more of them”, or “I’m bad at this, can you show me how to do this more effectively?” — is crucial for your growth. I have found that opportunity keeps coming when it is expressed and when you show gratitude for having the opportunity in the first place. Having a manager or mentor that knows how you operate — what motivates you, what irritates you, what incentivizes you — makes you the strongest employee you can be. 

4. Read about the industry in your free time.

Make a list of websites that stay up to date on news in your industry. Keep tabs on your competitors and the biggest spending brands in your space. Make note of what is making a buzz and why. Just generally reading the latest news in your industry keeps you up to date on trends (which come and go in advertising very quickly with the changes around data privacy and near-constant introduction of new tech!) and can get your creative wheels spinning on ways you can influence the ecosystem. These types of trends come up more than you think in casual conversation in the workplace and it is good to have a stance and opinion on it. I have also found reviewing definitions in the industry to be helpful. The advertising tech space is really technical and doing frequent refreshers back to the basics enforces your foundation. A good resource is Digiday. Find a time in your day when you can catch up on news and make it a routine. For me, it is when I am riding the subway!

5. Always be willing to jump in wherever it is needed, even if it's not in your job description. 

My position as a Brand Strategist sits at the intersection of pre-sale and post-sale, so I am able to see everything from the pitch to the campaign wrap up report. While attending pitch meetings or back-end coding product forums might not be in my job description, going to them gives me a more holistic view of where my work sits in the whole web of the business. When a coworker is in a pinch and you are one of the few that can do the task because you’ve explored it on your own, you are that much more valuable and irreplaceable. Take every chance to learn about the business on all fronts. The more skills you pick up along the way, the more valuable you make yourself and who knows? Something you randomly picked up could apply to a role you find yourself in later in life. 

I am a firm believer that your career path finds you. Don’t be afraid to take risks and veer off the path that you had for yourself. Don’t settle in a role that makes you miserable — it is okay to not know the next step! Keep learning and exploring, your Hamilton connections and foundation is always there for you. 

Lainie Smith graduated from Hamilton in 2016 with a degree in Creative Writing. She currently works as Brand Strategist at ViralGains in Boston.

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