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New Year. New Focus.

Authored by: Katie Kennedy, Senior Account Executive

It is that time again, when everyone is determined to find a sense of renewal with the new year. But how often do we keep our resolutions? Each year I tell myself, “you’ve got this” or “of course you can do this all year,” which always ends up becoming, “well, there is always next year.”

Knowing this, I told myself to avoid specific tangible goals (i.e. lose ten pounds, read twenty books, take four long weekends, etc.), but rather concentrate my energy to one area of focus, professional self-care.

Let’s be honest about our beloved but demanding industry for a minute. Advertising is a fast-paced, customer-service oriented business where working 50-60 hours a week seems normal. There might be a few times in the year when the agency hits a slow spurt, where you can finally step away from your email to catch up with friends or work on professional development, but this time can be short-lived, and before you know it, you are back to late nights and stress eating as you finalize a new pitch deck that will win the next big client for your agency. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve spent those nights in the edit bay, stayed awake until the wee hours, and traveled until I couldn’t remember what day of the week it was, and I still love each day I get to work in this crazy creative world we live in.

With that said, this year, I was challenged by a mentor to be more proactive and aware of signs leading to the dreaded work burnout. This conscious effort will not only help prevent exhaustion, but also alert me when I’m bored, which can push me to take on more projects when I can. By being mindful, my mentor says this can help me stay engaged and excited about work all year long. I can’t think of a better way to start out the new year than setting myself up for success!

To do so, I’ve laid out my major areas of focus in 2018 to stay engaged, energized and avoid professional burnout:

1. Engage a mentor (or reverse mentor): Early on in my career, I remember thinking, what was the point of a mentor when you have close family, friends and a good sense for yourself? Could I have been more naive? I’ve met many inspiring women throughout my years, and it came as a huge honor and surprise to me when one of those female executives asked me to be her reverse mentor. A reverse mentor provides advice, support, and guidance from a younger and possibly fresher perspective. Our mentoring relationship is not just how she can support me but how I can also support her.

2. Seek out feedback: As an accounts/strategy individual, it can be hard to pause and give feedback when there is always a new fire to put out. But I’ve learned from great managers that even the shortest pause for feedback can keep you engaged and interested day after day. This year, I am committed to seeking out feedback, even when it’s not always provided, to keep tabs on where I am and how I’m doing.

3. Create a professional roadmap: I’ve been lucky to find an organization that, from day one, wanted to know what I aspire to do. My aspirations come from what I’ve excelled in, opportunities I’m hungry for, and areas I can improve. From taking a graduate course to attending a conference that stirs my professional passions, I believe creating a roadmap each year is so essential to growth. In 2018, I will push myself to find more opportunities outside of my day job to build on my professional skills.

4. Focus on side projects: In my spare time, I volunteer as a board of directors’ member for a young professionals in advertising group (Ad 2 Dallas), and I plan to make a larger impact this year. It has always been key for me to stay challenged inside and outside the office. With one year down in Ad 2 Dallas, I want to continue taking on more projects to support the organization as well as develop myself as a leader, team member, and engaged member of the Dallas advertising community.

5. Take advantage of a flexible environment: Even while working at agencies with amazing culture, I find myself struggling to balance work, personal health, friends, and volunteer commitments. I come home exhausted, stressed and with a million errands on my mind which I’m sure everyone knows all too well. Knowing that we work in a digital world where our productivity is not defined by being glued to our desk chairs for 8+ hours a day, I have challenged myself to schedule more time for me, whether it be a much-needed workout or lunch with a mentor (of course while completing all my work in a timely manner).

So far, by putting a larger emphasis on professional self-care, I can already see a difference in how I feel at and outside of work. I’ve reached a new perspective on how to approach different tasks in my day, and when I need to take a break, I take a real break—no email, no phone calls, no social media. I am putting more effort in developing myself and I am seeing that reflected in my job and volunteer roles. For anyone looking for a better, more fulfilled work-life, I suggest practicing one of my five areas of focus and see for yourself how a small change can make a big impact.


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