The Journey to Craftsmanship

By 2020, Millennials will make up the majority of the workplace. In fact, a lot of us are already here. Which means in a few short years, many offices will be made up of a ton of young professionals.

Although there are articles upon articles that tell workplaces how do deal with Millennials…what about the opposite? How are Millennials going to deal with the workplace?

How are you, as a new employee, going to be successful?

Unfortunately, early in your career, it’s difficult to understand the expectations. All organizations have different cultures, and there’s no roadmap to show you how to go from good to great. Being an excellent college student doesn’t necessarily mean you’ll be great in the professional world right off the bat. Being a master in your field in school doesn’t make you a master outside of the classroom.

You have to go from young professional to craftsman.

You can become the Jiro of your respective area. But, to do that, you have to work at it.

Hell, I’m still working at it. In fact, I’ll always work at it. I don’t pretend to be the greatest copywriter to walk this earth. I don’t even admit to being a copy craftsman yet. But as someone who is on that journey, I have learned a few things to help new young professionals, and specifically new copywriters, start theirs.

Push Yourself

It’s easy to be formulaic, especially when you’re a copywriter. The client needs a new ad? Great, here’s the headline and CTA. Done.

This is the road to mundane failure. It will happen slowly, so slowly you might not even notice. But it will happen. Five years later, you’ll be sitting at the same desk, writing the same boring headlines for the same boring ads that no one bothers to read.

Save yourself. The client needs a headline? Write 100 headlines variations. The first 20 may be great. The next 30 will be a struggle. And the last 50 will be downright painful. You’ll feel lost, exhausted, and furious that five words can give you this much frustration. Don’t worry — it’s good for you. It will teach you to push past your boundaries, and it will help you become your own editor.

Being your own editor is more than spell checking yourself. It’s being honest with yourself. It’s throwing out bad writing (or designs, or strategies), even if it took you hours to do it. It’s looking at your work and saying, this is shit, and then moving on and creating something that’s epically amazing.

Look, Michael Jordan was the greatest player in basketball, right? How do you think he got there? Practice. Hard work. Pushing himself.

There is no such thing as a B+ in the professional world, especially in marketing. The landscape is changing too much, too fast, and people are too busy to be bothered by content that doesn’t rock their world.

Fight for Excellence

Too often, clients are going to ask you to do something that doesn’t make sense. Actually, your boss may even want you to do something that doesn’t make sense. Say no. Don’t go and get yourself fired, but do fight for something better.

If you’ve practiced and pushed yourself past your boundaries, then you’re the master. You know what works and what doesn’t. You know that good is the enemy of great. So don’t settle for convention. Don’t settle for just getting the job done. Don’t settle for the mundane.

The novice can’t defy convention, but the master can. The master knows how and when to break the rules. So if the rules need to be broken — if the world is about to get another piece of boring content no one will read — then you better put your foot down.

Get out there, push your team past their boundaries, and put some great ideas out in the world. We need it.

Make the World a Better Place

Marketers — whether they’re copywriters, paid media experts, designers, whatever — get a bad rap. And some deserve it. Our industry is broken. People see clients as nothing but conversions and dollars in the bank, and it’s wrong.

But, there are people who use their skills to be a force for good. To solve problems for customers. To surprise and delight and even inspire those interacting with our ads, articles, and digital experiences.

As copywriters, we are storytellers. It’s not just writing a blog post, or an ad, or a video script. You’re telling a story to a brand’s customers. You are communicating with another human being.

It’s our job to communicate on behalf of brands. Whether or not the experience is great or horrible for customers starts with us, because we’re the ones crafting the stories. We’re the ones turning ideas into experiences. Every ad, every blog post, every landing page communicates a story — your story.

That’s a lot of power. But it also means that you have the chance to do some good in this world. You have a chance to give customers wonderful experiences, to speak to their wants, needs, fears, and aspirations. You have a chance to make dreams come true. Will you take it?

In Closing

The road to craftsmanship is no easy journey. There are going to be times when it is easier to throw in the towel, write an article that just gets the job done, or settle for being good rather than great.

There will be times you’re tired and frustrated and not sure you’ll ever attain the level of craftsmanship you’d like to achieve. And you might not…that’s all part of the journey.

A craftsman’s work is never done. She continually works on her skills, and she always has room to improve.

That is what makes her a craftsman. And that is what will set you apart in whatever industry you enter.

Written by Jack Scullin on February 2, 2016


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Jack Scullin