My response was that I saw it more in the applicants we received than the ones we had hired. The interns we’ve had the fortune of bringing on have been smart, hardworking kids—so I don’t know that it’s necessarily symptomatic of the entire generation, as my friend was implying.
I do, however, remember one applicant in particular. He was connected somehow to one of our upper level managers and we were supposed to be considering him for a writer position. He didn’t have a portfolio, but was still given a test assignment. It was sloppy. The ideas were fine—honestly, better than expected—but there were typos everywhere.
A few writers and I were asked to interview him. Unfortunately I was running late, but when I got to the meeting it was clear that the other writers were tiptoeing around the elephant in the room. So I got right to it: “Why do you think you’re a writer? There are typos everywhere in these documents.” He said that his connection had told him he was “clever” and should “be a writer”, which is often how a lot of advertising writers get started, actually. He didn’t have any formal training, but said he was a big idea guy. He wanted “to be the guy who comes up with the big ideas.”
Yeah, get in line, pal.
It reminds me of a clip I recently saw from The X Factor. Apparently, this girl had a look, had style and personality, but had picked a song that didn’t fit her voice. In a rare move, the judges were letting her come back and re-audition with a better song. Unfortunately, she was off-key in certain sections and just didn’t do well. When the judges told her the bad news, she broke down and said, “I have the look, I have personality, and I KNOW I have talent.”
For the aspiring writer in the interview, I offered to help him become a writer if he wanted to build a portfolio, work on his craft and show me work at any point down the line. He might have talent, but I’ve never heard from him since.