First Five Rungs – Tips for newcomers

Top Ten Tips

  • 1. Consistency beats intensity.

    If you can consistently do things well you'll be better off than doing short bursts of hard work or long hours.
  • 2. Ask questions.

    No one expects you to know everything. Often what may feel like a dumb question is super valid. Without asking for clarification, people will just assume you know what you are doing and that you understand. No one is expecting you to know all the answers and in fact, your colleagues will be impressed by your willingness to learn and be better. So ask away!
  • 3. Learn your acronyms.

    When you’re in a meeting, write down every acronym or term you don’t know in the back of your notebook and ask someone what it means once you’re out of that meeting! Then build out your own glossary to refer to whenever you need it.
  • 4. Introduce yourself.

    Introduce yourself to anyone and everyone. When you start in a new work place, that's the time to make yourself know.
  • 5. Be prepared.

    Arrive a litte early and use this time to prepare for the day ahead. The last thing you want is to be blindsided.
  • 6. Get into the life changing magic of lists.

    When you're handling multiple clients, with long and short term projects, it can seem unmanageable to get your head round it. Our top tip is to break down your lists into daily tasks, divided by clients. Then have separate sections for quick ticks – things that can be done in 5 mins, and a reminder section. There’s nothing more satisfying than ticking off a task!
  • 7. Familiarise yourself with the industry.

    Register for industry newsletters and set aside 5 minutes a day to find out current industry happenings. Useful websites include stoppress.co.nz, campaignbrief.co.nz, maddaily.com. LinkedIn is also super handy for seeing up-to-date news from senior leaders.
  • 8. Put your hand up.

    Whether it's for a quick chat, an induction or simply to help out - show that you are here and ready to roll.
  • 9. Your email calendar is your friend.

    There's a lot happening, which means there's a lot to remember. Familiarise yourself with your calendar, set yourself reminders and write the to-do list daily to ensure nothing falls off your radar.
  • 10. Fail forward.

    Don't sweat your mistakes. You have to make mistakes in order to learn. It's part of the process.

Managing pressure.

We know the pressure that exists in agency life. It's not life or death, but we get that sometimes it feels like it! We're really into practicing a bit of 'self'care' – here are some of our top tips to help minimise stress.

    1. Know what’s ahead for the year. The advertising/comms year has different busy times for different agencies, but look at what your clients have lined up for the year ahead so you can forecast when crunch time will be. It’s worth noting that the run up to Christmas is the busiest time of year as everyone tries to get things done before the summer break, not to mention the extra festivities. You can’t control the busy period, but you can control how prepared you are!
  • 2. When you’re feeling stressed, look to balance the stress with things that refuel you – exercise, spending time with friends or even just going out to enjoy a nice coffee.
  • 3. If you’re bang in the middle of the day and you can feel the stress levels rising up, try listening to music, or taking a short break by going for a walk outside. Just taking your mind off a task for 30 mins can also help reset where your head is at.
  • 4. Speaking of breaks, our team is a huge fan of taking mini breaks! When your brain is overloaded with ‘stuff’, there is nothing more beneficial than stepping away from your laptop and doing something different for at least 5 minutes. This might feel like the last thing you want to do given that you’re feeling overwhelmed and stressed, but having a break allows you to reframe your mindset and come back to a task feeling refreshed. It will make it easier to think clearer, and prioritise.
  • 5. If you don’t laugh, you’ll cry. Sometimes what goes wrong at work just sounds so ridiculous when your stressed – make sure you take the chance to laugh with your workmates.
  • 6. Mindfulness matters. Some of our former FFR leaders swear that mediating has changed their brain. Meditating in evening allows your brain to relax and reset, as well as really checking in with how you’re doing.
  • 7. Remember we aren’t saving lives! While our work is important for our clients, our health and wellbeing is more important.
  • 8. Bake a cake or do a spin class. Sometimes you need to physically force your brain to take a break with other things that bring you joy.

How do you approach management for advice?

    1. Remember management are people too, but try to pick the right time (e.g.: not when someone is walking into a meeting or have their headphones in and look ‘in the zone’). It really helps to find the right moment to ensure you can get the attention and support you need. It’s easy to forget how many things management are juggling so identify what requests are urgent and what can wait. Timing it right, means you will always get the answers or help you need.
  • 2. The FFR are big fans of coffee catch ups. Arranging a weekly or monthly coffee catch up with your manager allows you to have a moment to chat about how you feel you’re going, and look at the bigger picture. Some workplaces have mentorships which allow for additional support, but if your workplace doesn’t have this kind of programme in place you can always reach out to the FFR to check in & grab a coffee.
  • 3. Management are there to support you, and our industry is about the people. Make sure you flag stress before you’re too deep in it.

What we wish management knew about the pressures on junior staff

  • 1. Every year the industry changes considerably, and in many ways, it’s a very different industry than what it used to be. The current economy is quietly putting pressure on everybody and especially those just starting out in their careers. Student debt, unaffordable housing and a post covid ‘hangxiety’ make for a cocktail of stress, on top of work. Working from home has made our careers far more flexible, but it’s now harder than ever to switch off.

  • 2. How little you know about the industry beyond your agency. As a new starter, it’s near impossible to understand the different roles that don’t exist in your building. This can be especially tricky when you are dealing with creative, media, PR etc. It’s so beneficial to understand the different sectors and agencies within the industry, as we so often intersect with one another.
  • 3. It’s obvious, but senior leaders lead by example. If a junior sees their team working late then going forward they understand that as the expectation/standard… regardless of what they’re told!
  • 4. Junior staff are often worried about saying no, so can easily become overloaded and under pressure. Check that juniors really have the capacity before adding another job to their list. Clear prioritising allows juniors to focus on one thing at a time. 


The First Five Rungs is a Comms Council initiative made up of young people across the communications industry, whose mission is to help industry newcomers receive the best possible start.