Don’t Let The Door Hit You…

Buckle Up, Graduates!

Read This at Your Own Risk!

The “Getting the Best…Giving the Best…” beta test cohorts have been wonderfully fantastic through winter and spring; a cache of remarkably diverse groups including undergrads, grad students, producers and execs at all levels, theme parks, major league sports, retail and all levels of immersion. Great people, great conversations, universal growth and enlightenment. 

Watch this Space for upcoming classes and workshops.

Meanwhile, a number of things came to light with respect to entering, moving through and working in the real world that had never been actually discussed with most of these individuals: not in school, in any case. Life Navigation Skills, approaches to Corporate and Cultural skills that it seems no one may be teaching.

Things One Should Know About Looking for Work and Doing Business,

but May Not Have Known Whom to Ask.” 

Herewith, in random order, are some reminders, some cautions, a few Hard Truths, some questions and my answers:

You’ve Only Just Begun. Key to the rest of your life is that fact that Graduation is the first step of the rest of your life. Your degree is the Key and your education is the tool box you will use to become the best in the business. 

But you are not the Best in the Business, yet!  Not even close.

Some clarifying facts:

  • 4,000 people in the US will graduate from College and University as #1 in their Class this year.
  • 23,632 people in the world will graduate from their Colleges and Universities as #1.

Even segmenting by course of study, that’s a LOT of competition…and these are just the #1’s

So my cautionary advice to you, out of love and support, is: I urge and caution you to not be in any hurry to “become” Creative Director, VP, President or head of anything. Don’t print business cards that label yourself “Creative Director” or any other Office. Trust me, the veterans chuckle behind the presumptuous backs of those who do this stuff.

As much as you’ve done to obtain your ranking in school, as much as you’ve done to prepare yourself to break into the industry, as much work as you’ve put in…you are still at the very beginning of your career and not at a point where you should spend any energy worrying about labels.

If anything, embrace Apprenticeship. These first jobs, the ones you land in the coming 5 or 8 years, are the ones where you will really learn what you do. Set aside any rush to the top and take the time to get to know the ones before you. Meet, befriend, assist and learn from those doing it…make your mistakes and do your practical in a safe space under supportive guidance so that when you hit the high wire you have your balance. Collaborate, Support, Acknowledge, join and become the best member of the Team…push and strive for Team Results and Recognition: the rest will come. It will.

Avoid seeking stardom; be on the Team. Make others the Stars. Your time WILL come…and probably sooner, the more you support your colleagues. Just sayin’.

TAKE YOUR TIME. You are leaving school with the best tools and methodologies, the latest and freshest basket of knowledge; now go out and make them yours, make them second nature, truly own them. 

Next: Beware the company that calls itself a “Family.” 

That should be a BIG warning sign to you; and to believe in, embrace and conduct oneself as though this fantasy is true will likely be a set-up for shock, surprise and disappointment when reality asserts itself. 

NOT to say that there are not wonderful, warm, nurturing business and familial-feeling companies and agencies in abundance, out there. But you are an asset; essential when needed, dismissible when a business decision calls for it. The difference will be in how one is treated when the fallout takes place; the warning one gets, the ushering out and sometimes the welcome back when things get better. But make no mistake, we are rarely as vital as we like to think we are. 

Fact o’life.

As comfort; I can assure you that there are thousands of amazing, wonderful, giving individuals out there in the trenches just waiting to befriend and support you through all the travails and tribulations that will be encountered on your personal rollercoaster. There really are No People Like Show People (Like No People I Know). 

You will meet and work with scores if not hundreds of wonderful people. Look forward to that. And yes, you’ll met the occasional arsewhole or jerk. Strive to avoid taking it personally. It is rarely, rarely, rarely personal, irrespective of how it might feel at the time. Take notes, though; you may need to Write or Create a <redacted> sometime; and now you have a role model! 

You’ll be fine. Just keep your eyes open and maybe try to see every little victory as a gift (and every not-so-great experience as an opportunity for context and learning).

Watch out for becoming Jaded.

There are some who wear the mantle of Jadedness, of “been there, done that” and embrace a “ho-hum” attitude toward components of our work. Distant destinations and otherwise exotic locales among them. I say watch out for that. 

Since my very first flight to London in College, I enjoy a deep sense of thrill every time I board a flight to pretty much anywhere (especially when a client or employer is paying!). I can tell you that, everytime I see London from the air at night, I hear the score from “Peter Pan” and see in my mind’s eye the Peter Pan ride at Disneyland (in 1962 or thereabouts). I want never to lose this quality. We are vested with creating memories for people from all over the world, all the time. I say hold our inner children close as muse and motivation. 

Let’s spend our long flights thinking like that. Who knows what ideas may come before we arrive. I cannot be bored on a flight. Exhausted, yes; but the Muse is vibrant.

Okay: some practical stuff:

Getting Paid: Invoicing. What should it look like, what information should be on it?

An invoice should be one page, one side, with everything on that page that will help people and companies pay you without having to seek backup or ancillary documents or information. Therefore:

  • A logo or brandmark, if you have one.
  • Contact information: name, mailing address, telephone number, email, website (if you have one).
  • An Invoice Number. Make up your own trackable system. I use a system of year/month/day/client so that in lists, they self-arrange, chronologically and alphabetically:
    • The invoice I send to Smith Company on October 7, 2021 for the Secret Project is numbered: 211907SmithSecret.
  • Name of the Project.
  • Space for a P.O. (that’s Purchase Order) number – some companies need to issue you a P.O. number that needs to be on your invoice in order for it to be paid. That number indicates that the fee agreed-upon was actually approved. 
  • Your applicable rates (hour/day/week/month) and the total amount owed you.
  • Due Date / terms of your agreement.
  • Bank / Wire Transfer information; including Swift Code, Routing Number, Account Number, Name on the Account, Name of the Bank, Address and Phone number of the bank. 
  • Be sure to ask the client what they want/need to see included in the invoice, one never knows…be thorough.

Seriously, leave nothing to chance or misunderstanding. Never worry that you are giving them too much information; rather, worry that you might leave out some small detail that can delay the processing of your invoice.

Getting Paid: How Much Am I Worth? Okay, you’re worth millions. I agree. However, do your research online ( or any one of a number of other sites), ask trusted friends and colleagues in the same line of work what they would pay someone with your level of education or experience. Even ask business owners or executives the salary ranges for positions you might seek. Asking from an informational point of view, outside of a climate of negotiation, will elicit more candid response and can give a more clear and objective picture. 

Decide on your rate and be comfortable quoting it. Do be wary of over-valuing a degree. While education is generally a requirement and a constant; experience is what raises value

Getting Paid: Negotiating. When asked, quote your rate; period. Don’t offer to negotiate. If asked if you’ll negotiate or “will you accept less than that?” Ask what they are offering. Do not offer any other figures until the Other Person/Company has offered a figure. Personally, I would go so far as to respond, when asked about salary, by asking if this is a negotiation. In other words, “So, are you interested in offering me the position and is this the opening of salary talks to see if we can agree?”

If they want you, then they’ll be candid. Otherwise, time is just being wasted, IMHO. If your value to a company is primarily in how low you can be gotten; is this a culture in which you’ll be happy? You be the judge of that. 

You know how low you can go for a job you love, and how much you need to maintain your life. None of that is anyone’s business; as one should be paid for what one brings to the table, not what one “needs.” Never operate or negotiate from what you “need.” 

What you need is, frankly, irrelevant in salary negotiations. Same goes for when you are seeking a raise in pay; it’s because the raise is deserved and you represent value at that level of pay; not because the kids need new shoes.


And that’s it for today. I may do more later. Meanwhile, call your mother…and ask to speak to Dad. Thank ‘em.


“IMEX: In My Experience | secrets of making ‘em cheer, weep…and sometimes write checks” is now available in the beautiful and durable Field Edition as well as download from Apple Books. Contact me at for purchase and shipping information.

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