How not to be a dickhead when moving young creatives across the world
Gigi Rice, creative at Citizen Relations, moved to the Big Apple to progress her career. It wasn’t as easy as the movies made it look. Here are her lessons.
It’s the muggy evening of September 5, 2023, and I find myself alone, dragging three overweight suitcases off the bag belt at JFK. I’m tired. I’m hungry. And the nice Virgin Atlantic crew gave me a bottle of Prosecco and a good luck card, so obviously - I’ve cried. But by God, hard work and some sheer dumb luck, I’ve made it permanently to New York City.
A big fat fucking yay indeed. But moving exceptionally far away across the world comes with its own set of challenges. Particularly as a young creative without the benefits, status and finances of a CD/ECD/founder. A little fish in a very big (and expensive) pond.
When you move as essentially a nobody, sacrifices are different, and agencies can help accommodate this. It’s less about the hassle and turmoil of moving your life across the world and more about having to build from absolutely nothing entirely on your own. No savings, no network, no familiar dogs/kids/lovers coming with you.
On day two of my arrival, I changed my lock screen to the quote from Tom in Succession: “You will be OK because you are a tough fucking bitch who will always survive because you do what you need. You will do whatever you need”.
Starting again someplace new as a young creative is not about thrival; it’s pure survival [editor note: I’ll allow ‘thrival’ because it rhymes].
I got lucky with my agency and the kindness and support that it showed me. But if you’ve got your eye on some jazzy snazzy bold young creatives in yours and want to exploit their juicy potential by moving them while also recognizing the importance of caring for them in a new and vulnerable situation, here are some things you need to know to avoid being an asshole.
1. Material needs on arrival
I’ve found that coming as an immigrant to New York and starting to build a life from scratch is a game of chicken and egg. You can’t rent a place without a US bank account; you can’t get a bank account until you have a social security number; you can’t get a social security number until you get here and have been to the office and then waited three weeks for it to come. You also need a US credit record, which you obviously don’t have because you’ve been there for five days and don’t have a bank account.
Rough. Rough. Rough.
So, providing a place to stay for those first few weeks while structural essentials are figured out is a must. Even though I found a US guarantor (and I believe some agencies can offer this), my furniture didn’t turn up in time. Having an agency (like Citizen) offer a buffer of a place to sleep when things go wrong (because they will) is a lifeline. And for those of you who say, ‘Just rent an Airbnb for a few months!’- you’re looking at a monthly rental cost of about five thousand dollars minimum in NYC. So no. You can’t conjure up that sort of money as a young creative.
2. Comfort in the work
You’re new to the concrete jungle and have zero idea how to use the laundromat or subway while getting used to the scuttling of cockroaches around your apartment, which looks like a crack den - minus the crack. The work becomes a place of comfort. Of solace.
The work is one thing you know how to do, and do it fucking well. Even if you struggle to adapt to a new place and its complexities, the work is a constant mistress demanding the best of you as usual. And because you wouldn’t move these creatives if they weren’t good or passionate enough, the work is what they love. Let them do it.
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Speak beforehand about the first couple weeks and make adjustments in time for doctor’s appointments, bank meetings etc, but give them work.
Ask them to save the world/rainforests/elephants/children/any niche boring problems random clients are having.
3. Emotional awareness
What’s love got to do with it? Everything.
Everything, when you’re a gazillion miles away from home and most likely have no spouse or family that came with you or savings, to fly back home often. Emotions are high regardless of your professional status when you move, and if you’ve ever done so without having a cry at some point, I don’t believe you.
There will be some anxious parents down the phone and inevitable periods of loneliness. And in a city like New York, you can’t afford to meet up with everyone and anyone people are trying to connect you to because you can’t afford it. You’re eating frozen Trader Joe’s rice and two eggs on a Friday night.
It’s not your place as an agency to fix this by any means, but being aware that this whole process is an emotional rollercoaster is paramount. I received regular texts/messages from the leadership team, which made all the difference.
4. Remember why you moved them
Be real about it - you moved them because they will make you a shit ton of money. And to do that, give them opportunities. Isn’t this the land of such?
When I got my O1b, I felt like the biggest fraud the industry has ever seen. After all, all I do is sit and come up with ideas; sometimes they’re good, sometimes great, but most of the time they’re pretty mediocre.
But, you see something in them (as did the lawyers, border control and visa department). Tell them.
It’s showtime, baby.
We recently had Benjamin Arnold, president of Adludio, make an impassioned argument for creatives to return to the office. Do you agree?