Putman: I went to Syracuse University for advertising design and when I came out I knew that I wanted to be an art director for an ad agency. So I got my first job at ABC Television in New York. From there I went to J. Walter Thompson as an art director and I worked on clients like Burger King and Miller Beer. It was really fun and it was exciting, but along the way I found that I wanted to work on the public service ads.
I got a job at CBS News and was in the advertising and marketing department as a creative director and worked on the network news promotion. I loved that and was there for 17 years.
During this time you started working on Million Mom March. How did that come about?
Putman: I met someone at work named Donna Dees-Thomases and she had an idea to do the Million Mom March and got me involved. She called me after she saw the Granada Hills, Calif. shooting and she said, "What do you think of a Million Mom March?" and I said great idea. She said, "I need a logo and a slogan." The next thing I knew we were in it, and I came up with “We’re looking for a few good moms,” which was the slogan. After that I realized how incredible [it is that] one person can make a difference. And I thought, "I want to always use my power for good; what can I do?"
After the Million Mom March you joined the Board of Directors of SKIP of New York. Why?
Putman: After the Million Mom March I realized that I wanted to use what I learned to help others and so I did. While still working at CBS full time, I started a fundraising effort for SKIP of New York. It helps New York’s most chronically ill and developmentally disabled children live at home instead of hospitals and institutions.My family is a SKIP family. My son was born with chronic lung disease. I knew exactly how wonderful they are and wanted to help. I joined the Board of Directors and launched the Ruby Slipper Awards at Christie’s Auction House. It was a huge success. We just had our 12th annual event this May with Pat and Bob Schieffer as our honorees.
Along with SKIP of New York, you started your own business with Susan Pinkwater, Pinkwater & Putman. What services do you provide?
Putman: Pinkwater & Putman is a strategic, pro-social marketing and branding consultancy. I met Susan Pinkwater. She was the founder and original CEO of Atmosphere, BBDO’s global digital branding and advertising agency. Atmosphere was one of the first of its kind. Susan is a visionary.
We wanted to do something together that uses what we know to help causes and issues and to engage clients through programs and partnerships resulting in campaigns that matter. Our tagline is “Harness the Power of Good” and I love it. I’m passionate about it; it’s fun and exciting. When you’re passionate about your work it doesn’t feel like work. If you can make a difference in the world, have a sense of purpose it’s a different use of your energy. You’ll feel it’s worthwhile - not just work.
Is there a trick to balancing your work life with everything else?
Putman: I couldn’t do what I do without the incredible support and understanding of my family. I think the trick is not to take yourself too seriously and to prioritize. Give yourself a break. My family has low expectations at dinnertime. Protect your time.
There seems to be this belief lately that millennials, my generation, are entitled and that we don't work as hard as those before us. What are your thoughts on this?
Putman: The perception may seem that this generation feels more entitled but I see hard working millennials all around me. Years ago, we might have felt fortunate to get a job especially in a tighter job market. We might even have worked for free to get in the door. Millennials are more confident and the job market is wide open with new jobs that weren't around before. Digital is just one area. And because they are in high demand, they may be more discerning about what they want and what they don't want.
So, many of us go to college, we major in one or two subjects and then we're expected to get jobs in those fields and those fields only for the rest of our lives. Do you feel that we all have to work in one industry forever?
Putman: No absolutely not. Everything leads to something and you don’t necessarily see how sometimes. But then it all comes together. In my case, what I did for the March was tied to what I learned in terms of coming up with the slogan and a logo and press. That tied back to my training but I never would have thought of using it that way. Don’t be afraid of change and everything you've learned — nothing’s a waste.
What message would you send to others about getting involved with a good cause as you have?
Putman: My suggestion is to volunteer. There are so many ways to do it and it can take as much or little time as you can give, and that means you’re not putting all your self-worth and happiness in the paid job basket. A lot of people ask, "How do I start? I don't know where to start."
If you don't have a particular cause or something in mind then start with your friends and their causes. And of course there's always local food pantries and shelters but just start anywhere. The payoff will be when you start helping others you’ll never feel under-appreciated, undervalued or underutilized. And you’ll have control over what you do and how much you do it. Whatever your skills are, they’re needed everywhere.
What advice can you offer to recent college graduates, or anyone seeking employment really, about finding a job?
Putman: Don’t give up... never give up. Network. Think positive and surround yourself with positive people and people who are happy for your success and want to support you. Work hard. Whatever you’re doing, run the mile you’re in, and at the same time if you’re in the creative industry, which is extremely competitive, stay on top of it.
Just keep pushing, keep learning, go to all the conferences and summits and listen to all the people who are doing the things you want to do and learn from them. Always think big and help other people. As someone once said, “all you can do is everything you can do."
Do you volunteer for a good cause? Tweet us @wewomenUSA!
This article was written by Emma Goddard. Follow her on Twitter @egoddardhokie.
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