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Around The Sun: My First Job

Steve Harrison "sneaks in by the side door'' to begin a career as an artist, designing adverts.

If you can keep your head, when all around you, are losing theirs and blaming it upon you. If you can trust yourself when all men doubt you, but make allowances for their doubting too. If you can wait and not get tired of waiting or being lied about, and don't deal in lies. Or being hated, and don't give way to hating, and yet not look too good, nor talk too wise.

If you can dream and not make dreams your master; if you can think and not make thoughts your aim. If you can meet with triumph and disaster, and treat those two imposters just the same. If you can bear to hear the truth you've spoken twisted by knaves to make a trap for fools.

Or watch the things you gave your life to broken and stoop to build them up again with worn out tools. If you can make one heap of all your winnings, and risk it on the turn of pitch and toss. And lose, and start again at your beginnings, and never breathe a word about your loss.If you can force your heart and nerve and sinew, to serve your turn long after they're gone. And so hold on, when there's nothing in you, except the will which says to them:“Hold On” If you can talk with crowds and keep your virtue, or walk with kings, nor lose the common touch. If neither foes nor loving friends can hurt you, if all men count with you, but non too much. If you can fill the unforgiving minute, with sixty seconds worth of distance run. Yours is the earth, and everything that's in it, and which is more, You'll be a man my son.

Rudyard Kipling - “If”.

My first job was in an architect's office. I could draw, and I had an uncle in Australia who was a draughtsman, so it was presumed I belonged in an architects office.

Wrong! I hated it, I spent day in day drawing drawing plans for toilet conversions, in between making cups of tea and running errand for the rest of the staff. I was climbing the walls, bored and hating every minute of my time there.

One way of passing the time was to draw elaborate pictures of houses, holiday resorts and other imaginative stuff, the doodlings of a caged mind. Luckily for me someone on the staff saw them. "You should work in an advertising agency,'' he suggested. He had done some architectural work for an agency and proceeded to give me its address, and the name of a person I could arrange to see.

No one I knew had ever heard of an advertising agency or knew what kind of work went on in one.

I telephoned Geoff Bailey, the man who had been mentioned by my office colleague. I found out that he lived in Gomersal, about three miles away from my home. My Uncle Leon was a hairdresser in Gomersal, and my granddad and grandmother lived there. Yes, my Uncle cut Geoff's hair.

Geoff suggested that I should go to his house. I did so and showed him some of my work. "This is crap,'' he told me bluntly. "No one would look at it twice, but you obviously have some talent. If you were to do something along these lines it could be helpful.''

He showed me some of the adverts his agency produced and demonstrated how they were designed.

He told me to ring him again when I had tried something along those lines.

Off I went and got straight on to redesigning some of the adverts he had shown me. I got hold of a copy of the local paper, the Telegraph and Argus, and deisgned adverts for its pages.

After a couple of days I rang Geoff again. I was told to go to his office in Bradford, and to bring my stuff with me.

He spent all of 10 seconds looking at the work I had done. He talked to me for about two minutes. Then he said "You're hired. A general artist, and also tea and errand boy. We'll pay you £5 a week, and you can start as soon as you've served your notice at the architect's office.''

Two weeks later I turned up at Powney Furness Compton Advertising. On the first morning I asked for Geoff. "I'm sorry,'' said the receptionist "Geoff is no longer with us.''

Badly shaken, I explained my situation. She rang several people. None of them knew anything about a new artist and tea boy.

What I did next was the smartest career move I ever made. While the receptionist was working out who to ring next I asked "Where is your kitchen? I’ll make you a cup of tea.”

She gave me instructions. I stuck my head into the various offices, taking orders for tea or coffee from every member of staff. I also asked if anyone wanted anything fetching from the shop. At lunchtime I brought in sandwiches and other things, distributing them round the offices.

There I was though, stuck in reception. In the afternoon, the receptionist suggested that I should cut out of that day's edition of the local paper adverts produced by the agency. She indicated which these were, and I did as she suggested.

I turned up at the agency every day for a week, and more. I got along with people. I hung out in the art department, making sure that brushes were washed and pencils sharpened. Fascinated, I watched the artists at work. I wasn't getting paid, but I loved being there. This was work I wanted to do.

Eventually someone in a suit said "You’ve made yourself very useful and popular around here. Do you want a job?''

So I was hired for a second time. I would continue doing what I was doing, and they would pay me £3.50 a week (the guy who set me on was an accountant). I was delighted. I wasn't concerned about the pay.

On most evenings I stayed behind in the studio, cleaning up, but also designing adverts, copying the techniques I had seen others use. Very soon I was given a drawing board, and adverts to desing. I still ran errands and made tea, but now I was a real artist.

My pay was raised to £10 a week. I was given my own projects. I went out to discuss them with clients.

My career had begun.


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