An eye-opening day as a junior AE

Want to turn your world as a senior executive upside down? Try living the life of a junior account executive for a day.

Want to turn your world as a senior executive upside down? Try living the life of a junior account executive for a day.

Just one day is all it will take to rock your world and change every preconceived notion you may have about life at the entry level.

After all, when we were junior staff, there was no Web 2.0 - or even a Web 1.0, for that matter. We cut and pasted clippings, manually assembled status reports that were sent to clients via snail mail, and obtained our news and information from traditional sources. We operated in an orderly world that, while challenging, was manageable.

Now, fast forward to the totally chaotic, information-overloaded, and technology-laden world of today's 22-year-old junior account executive. Try living in it for a day, and see if you can keep your head above water. I dare you.

What started as a lark became a struggle for survival as I swapped jobs with Rob Longert, one of our junior account executives. Instead of focusing on business development, marketing, product innovation, client crises and human resource issues, I was asked to conduct two extensive daily news searches, scan articles, forward links to various teams, attend and take notes at brainstorm sessions, and, oh yes, meet the deadlines set by my account managers.

To say I failed miserably would be an understatement. Despite having been tutored by Rob the day before, I was floored by the demands, technological and otherwise, placed on junior staff. Specifically, the news search process is incredibly complex, painstakingly detailed, and about as exciting as watching grass grow.

As I labored through the initial search process, my account supervisors and other senior staff dropped off new assignments. "Make two copies of this article for me," said one. "The team needs today's Stuart Elliott column on interactive advertising scanned and forwarded ASAP," commanded another. A third cruised up to my cube and asked if I was coming to the Whirlpool brainstorm. I was in full meltdown and it was only 10:30.

The rest of the day didn't go much better. I missed one deadline after another, and, finally, when a late afternoon assignment was parked on my desk, sent up the white flag, asking Rob to take over.

The swap was an eye-opener in every sense. I not only experienced what our junior staff endured, but also saw ways in which I, as an owner, can help ease their pain. We've already begun discussing ways to outsource the news search process and improve the challenging acoustics of "cube land."

The other major byproduct of the swap was the positive buzz created within the agency. It never hurts to roll up the sleeves and wade into the front lines right alongside the troops. And that's just what a job swap will do.

I'm hoping the swap will become institutionalized in our firm. I know it's already made me a better manager. And I guarantee it will do the same for you.

Steven Cody is cofounder and managing partner of Peppercom.

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