During an interview, hiring managers often ask cringe-inducing questions. Of course, these questions are designed to get an insight as to how well you’d fit within their organization. If you’ve done your due diligence, you know exactly what they want to hear, but wouldn’t it be liberating if you could be completely honest?
The question I’m referring to in this case is the dreaded question about what kind of work environment you prefer. It’s a pretty straightforward question, but I honestly don’t know why they always seem to ask it. If you’re applying for a corporate job or an agency position, this is obviously the type of environment you want to work in, right?
Creative environments are typically broken down into three archetypes:
Diehard creatives are usually found here, though the types of agencies vary, based on specialty, size and location. Agencies tend to be looser in their corporate structure than other companies (note: there are exceptions to this), and their dress code tends to be more casual. The work environment is usually designed to foster creativity, so holding a meeting across a foosball table isn’t an unusual occurrence. The work tends to be done on a larger scale and the personalities are often equally large.
Working hours, however, are flexible—rather than working bankers’ hours, expect to stay until the work is finished, which can sometimes be late (this isn’t good news if you share a car with a spouse and have to pick up a child from daycare by a certain time or else.). Yes, this includes weekends if your agency is the middle of preparing a pitch.
Also, in agency world, the client is king, so expect several rounds of revisions before the client finally approves the project, which, toward the end, looks nothing like what was originally pitched.
Corporate environments are usually the exact opposite of an agency setting. Cube farms and the ubiquitous business casual dress code abound, plus the hours are long, but predictable.
Office politics can play a major role as to how the office environment evolves. Departments tend to silo themselves, as do executives from the rank-and-file. In this setting, you have to remember two things: the bosses are not your equals, so don’t expect to go out with them for drinks after work, and always copy everyone involved on a project on every email you send.
Meetings run rampant on the corporate side of things, as do acronyms. PSMs (Project Status Meetings), GSMs (General Status Meetings) and PUs (Pipeline Updates) are often a part of one’s daily vocabulary. Also, the “suits” tend to live and die by spreadsheets, so get used to reading and referring to them constantly.
The other place to find diehard creatives is in a freelance setting. They’re usually either forced into freelancing by the economy or they really enjoy the freedom of working for themselves. These folks are usually found in their home offices are coffee shops, but many have also settled into the communal environments found in coworking spaces.
Freelancing can take one of two forms: either working entirely for yourself or temping in one of the aforementioned settings. Temping can be an easy quick-fix when you’re strapped for cash, but understand that you’re expected to do the workload of a full time employee while receiving none of the perks, plus this arrangement typically has a definite shelf life.
Working for yourself can be tough. You’re often starved for human interaction, plus you will spend at least as much time marketing yourself as you do actually doing the work. While your time is flexible enough to accommodate doctor’s visits and school events, a full client load also means that you may find yourself working well into the wee hours. Plus, working for yourself can be a feast or famine situation when it comes to your cash flow. That’s not to say that it can’t be done, but it does require an incredible amount of discipline and strategy.
However, aside from the flexible schedule, the most prominent perk of freelancing is being free to cherry-pick the projects you want to work on and for whom.
So, what kind of creative am I? Truthfully, I’m the type of creative who likes to eat, so I will find a way to make myself happy in whichever arrangement I find myself in. Now, if only I could be that honest in an interview!
What would you love to tell an interviewer, provided you could?