Advertising Alumnus Stresses Importance of Finding a Balance Inside and Outside of the Classroom

If there’s one thing ComArtSci alumnus Mark Bellissimo knows, it’s that life is full of twists and turns. If you want to be successful, you simply need to learn how to enjoy the ride.

Bellissimo graduated from MSU in ’86 with a degree in Advertising. He’s now the CEO of The JRT Agency in Farmington Hills, Michigan, an agency that has worked with clients such as Jeep, Consumer’s Energy and Two Men and a Truck. No day is the same in advertising, something Bellissimo thinks makes his profession that much more interesting.

“There really isn’t a typical day,” said Bellissimo. “Any given day of mine is really a mix of internal meetings, communication, discussions with people, doing work and talking to clients.”

The best part about his job? Leading a talented team of passionate people. Bellissimo loves getting a challenge from a client to solve, then putting the right team on the field and coaching them to achieve a great outcome.

Starting Out

After graduating, Bellissimo’s life quickly changed directions. As he was about to move to Chicago to start looking for entry level advertising jobs, he was invited to interview at a small advertising firm in Detroit.

“A week before graduation, I accepted a $17,500 job as a business copywriter on their Ford account,” said Bellissimo. “The next week, I was in suit and tie in the Renaissance Center in Detroit, an exciting place to begin working.”

For Bellissimo, it was more than just working hard and networking. It was about using the skills he learned in ComArtSci to problem solve and figure out the most effective way to get things done.

“I took smart approaches to task accomplishment,” said Bellissimo. “First asking what the challenge is, then applying pragmatic problem solving skills to determine the best way to do it.”

Bellissimo stresses the importance of finishing your work, and not simply leaving it behind when the 5:00 bell rings. If you want to be successful in advertising, you need to be flexible and know that sometimes your work might continue past the typical work day. 

Inside ComArtSci

During his time as an undergrad, Bellissimo found that his 400-level classes were the ones that stood out most. He was able to work on projects that were similar to what he would soon be doing at his future job.

“For me in ComArtSci, the last year was really the best because you get more engaged in the type of work that you’re going to end up doing,” said Bellissimo. “As I approached graduation, the advertising curriculum became more real, more interesting. In your 400-level classes, things start to come together.”

For those wondering if the work you do now will actually apply in your future career, the answer is yes. Bellissimo notes that the classes with a focus on teamwork were especially helpful, because that’s how it works in the industry.

The Big Picture

You may be trying to build your personal brand, but Bellissimo would advise students to focus more on the real-world challenges that come along with building a brand for a business. It’s about what you can do to help an organization, rather than what an organization can do for you. You’ll leave ComArtSci with a vast amount of skills, so make sure to use them to actually make an impact in your industry.

“Standing out is important, but being authentic and real in going after what you’d like to accomplish in life is a bigger factor,” said Bellissimo. “You can only fake passion in something for a little while. Sooner or later, if you don’t love it, you won’t put the time or effort into your endeavors. It will show to both yourself and those around you.”

Looking for some extra help? Bellissimo knows that there are plenty of people out there to answer your questions. All you have to do is ask.

“Don’t be afraid to ask for mentorship or ask questions from those more advanced in their careers,” said Bellissimo. “We love being asked, and will willingly impart wisdom and council if you show the initiative.”

Finding What You Enjoy Most

Trying to balance class, work, extracurriculars and a social life can be incredibly difficult, something Bellissimo knows a lot of students struggle with. But doing too much won’t get you anywhere; it’ll simply leave you overworked and stressed out.

“To me, the fact is if you have an over-focus on grades and that drives you to the point of too much pressure, then that’s a problem,” said Bellissimo. “You should work hard, but still go out and experience things. Find out what you love to do, get involved and be engaged, but don’t overly stress out. Life should be a little more enjoyable.”

When you leave MSU, you want to feel both excited and prepared for what lies ahead. By finding a balance between class, work and your social life, you’re sure to find a job that suits your interests. Your college years will go by quickly, so be sure to enjoy yourself both inside and outside of the classroom.

By Katie Kochanny