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  • Sara Kway

MAIP - The Culture of Burnout

The last phase of MAIP consisted of a series of group projects where we had around 5 days to complete an full ad campaign. It seemed easy enough at first, however I hadn't taken into account that organizing meetings with 14 people who hadn't met before, all lived in different time zones, and all had different responsibilities was going to be as difficult as it was. At this point in my college career, I'm used to constant sleeplessness and living with Red Bull running through my veins to pull campaigns out of thin air the night before they're due. But this time, I asked myself, "is this really sustainable?"


As someone who copes by overworking to the point of deterioration, I felt for the first time as though the culture of constant overwork in advertising didn't sit well with me. My University's portfolio program faced much criticism in the past year because of this toxic culture, but those sentiments didn't really resonate with me until now. Why is this unhealthy lifestyle so often praised? Earlier this year I won awards for a campaign, but I had nearly fainted from exhaustion as it was being critiqued due to the hell I had gone through to get it done.


The logistical difficulties and unexpected obstacles during these projects made me think about everything from a management perspective and question how I would handle situations like this in the workplace. Most of the people in our group had jobs and other priorities, and I was busy doing on pro bono work on top of personal projects. And aside from my art director responsibilities I was struggling to get my apartment subleased since my college classes were suddenly moved online and I didn't need to return to campus in the fall. When working a real agency job, my other responsibilities wouldn't magically disappear either, so how would I approach this dilemma then?


The experience made me realize I would like to advocate for myself more, and set clearer boundaries for what I want to do and what time I would like to set aside for myself. I still consider work my first priority, but I would like to think it won't be my only one.

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© 2020 by Sara Kway

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