Tools of the trade

04 Nov
Tools of the Trade

Things Changed

Working in marketing for the past five years has blessed you with opportunities to learn from experienced marketers who, one way or another, overcame every challenge they faced. You learned how to approach demanding projects, build relationships, meet deadlines, and break down barriers blocking your path to success. Lately, you’ve read articles which piqued your curiosity and made you wonder how you could help the marketing community. Suddenly, an idea popped into your head, clearing the confusion, and revealing what your mind’s eye was trying to point out. You may have felt alone at first, but once you started networking with people in the profession, things changed. You realized you had people to guide you along the way and show you the tools of the trade.

We Rise

Help Others

When I was studying creative advertising at Seneca College, I conducted an informational interview with an award-winning copywriter named Tony Miller. When I met Tony in 2010, he was the VP Executive Creative Director at Anderson DDB in Toronto. He reviewed my portfolio and told me which ideas could work if they were developed further and which ones had to go. I would email Tony what I was working on, and he would tell me what I needed to do to improve my work. He even helped me rewrite some of my portfolio pieces, one of which was a spec ad for Imodium. Tony taught me to help others as he helped me – because when he was starting, someone did the same for him.

Key Insights


Another mentor I had back in ad school, was Professor and Student Advisor Lisa Atkins. I had never failed more than when I was a student in her classes. While failing isn’t something to be proud of, she believed I could do better. The work ethic was there, but I didn’t quite grasp what I needed to know to write good copy. I used these teachable moments as inspiration by taping these assignments on my wall to remind me to work harder. Lisa taught me to believe in myself, develop a deeper understanding of the target audience and base my copy on key insights only the target audience could provide.

Don’t Forget

While you may not be actively looking for them, mentors are everywhere. There are life mentors, peer mentors and career mentors. While I only mentioned two, I was lucky enough to get advice from many professors and copywriters while studying advertising at Seneca College. Tony and Lisa gave me the confidence to work harder and change the way I think. One issue with post-secondary education is you don’t get the real-world experience hiring managers are looking for. They look at your degree, diploma, or certificate as simply a piece of paper – which it is.


But it’s more than that. It represents all the time, work, and dedication you invested to learn a discipline. Unfortunately, sometimes people forget how hard it is to get job experience if no one gives you a chance. The next time you’re approached by someone pursuing a career in your field, consider the positive impact you could have if you choose to help. More importantly, don’t forget how hard it was for you to get your foot in the door.

In the End

If you can mentor someone – do it. You could discuss their career goals over coffee, provide an informational interview virtually or in person, or review their portfolio. If you’re wondering if you could be a mentor or if you have useful knowledge to pass on to the next generation – the answer is yes, you could and yes you do. If I was approached by an aspiring copywriter/writer, I would help them any way I could – because when I was struggling, Tony and Lisa helped me.


Mentors share the knowledge and wisdom they gathered over the years to enrich the lives of others following in their footsteps. In my opinion, anyone could be a mentor. All you need besides knowledge and experience in the field is the desire to help others accomplish their dreams. In the end, either you help someone learn the tools of the trade or you don’t. I know what I would do. Do you?