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IHAVEANIDEA.ORG > articles >  Five Steps To A Job In Advertising


Five Steps To A Job In Advertising

Posted on July 31, 2004 and read 7,827 times

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Advertising is a tough industry to crack. It took me over 5 months to finally land my first gig. Five months of interviewing, revising my resume, writing cover letters and endlessly pounding the pavement to finally start at a joint that would pay me, in a year, what they would spend on a single full-page ad in one magazine. But it’s not for the compensation that you get into advertising; it’s for the experience. That and the liberal, sometimes salacious, environment of most agencies. So with that in mind, I’ve written some pointers on to how to gain access to this crazy, cult-like industry.

Number one: For Christ sakes, know the industry and the job you’re applying for!

You don’t know how many times I hear people tell me how much they want to get into advertising and then when I ask them a simple industry-related question, they completely bullshit their response. Know the details of the position you will be applying for. When I first started looking for a job in advertising, I managed to (eventually) get my hands on a detailed job description of an account executive position. By memorizing the terms and aspects of this job, I impressed the shit out of my potential employers. Most new applicants can’t tell you exactly what an account exec. does, so if you do, you will be way ahead of the masses.

Know the industry. Read industry publications and try to stay on top of current events. A great place to do this is ihaveanidea which will not only provide you with essential reading but also an opportunity to review the most recent creative from all the top ad shops. Also be sure to check out the Marketing section in the National Post every Monday. By reading these publications you will become familiar with whom the major advertising shops are and their clients. Everyone will ask you this question so get familiar with the big ones and the boutiques. Another great benefit from staying current with ad news is that you’ll know which accounts are being won by which agencies. How does this help you? You’ll know which agencies will be hiring and which ones will, unfortunately, be letting people go.

Another aspect of knowing the industry (the most important), is knowing the work. Be familiar with what campaigns are out in the market and be able to discuss them intelligently. Knowing this will score you huge points, if not land you the job as long as your critique is well thought out. Familiarizing yourself with current campaigns is just the prelude to a very fast paced and interesting industry so enjoy your research.

Number two: Forget what you learned about writing resumes.

A resume will only be scanned quickly to see if you have the related qualifications. Most people when hiring are too busy to actually read the details of your cover letter or resume. They are looking for something to pop out at them and capture their attention. Why not flank your competition with something different and creative? It is advertising after all; an industry in which marketers think all day about how to provoke some type of emotional reaction from consumers. But please note one caveat: advertising professionals are very astute and you may run the risk of coming across as cheesy if you go overboard. Don’t stress too much about it because ad people will probably be compelled to call you in anyway just to check you out. One last thing on resumes; there is no formula. Just make it easy to scan/read and of course have only pertinent content. Other than that, you can do anything you want: pictures, drawings, big type, small type, card stock or scroll – it doesn’t matter. Just keep in mind the aforementioned cheese factor and you’ll be fine.

Ok, now you know the industry, the job, you have your resume ready and some type of creative entry tactic. You’re ready to start meeting people.

Number three: Get in front of as many people as possible.

The more people you speak with, the better your chances of landing a job. This is the absolute best way to get a job and I have a few pointers that will help you land a one quickly.

The informational interview. If you have no problem cold-calling people (and if you do, get over it – fast), call up an account exec. and ask if you can meet with them to learn more about the industry. Almost 100% of the time they will say to come in and meet with them. This is good because not only will you get to check out their office, you also get to find out how they got their job. They will only have a few years on you, so no need to be nervous about this one. (They’re a bunch punks anyway, myself included). If you’re even braver, try calling a few Group Account Directors and see if they will talk to you. If you impress them, they will put you in front of more people, therefore increasing your chances of getting a job much more quickly.

At the end of any informational interview make sure you ask, “Do you know anyone else I could speak with that would want to talk about their experiences in the advertising industry?” Make sure to get at least one referral. This will keep your momentum up and reduce the number of cold calls you’ll need to make moving forward.

Always be yourself when you meet anyone. If you are putting on a show you will come across as contrived. Account people are quite visceral and have an uncanny ability to read situations and people. They are looking for someone that is real and someone they can spend a lot of time with. If you are too busy trying to be something else they will be too busy to help you.

Number four: Follow up.

You know to send a thank you note but after you gain momentum and you start to meet with a large number of people, you will run the risk of not following up or losing contact. Be super organized. That’s what the job of an account exec. requires anyway so why not practice now? Always follow through with “next steps” that you’ve agreed upon with your contact. If your contact tells you to send your resume to someone else, do it and follow up. If you don’t, you run the risk of being looked upon poorly in the future (I may just know that one from experience).

A good way to stay in contact… with your contact… is to send a relevant article that will be of interest to your contact/potential employer. This will help them in their job and show them that you are interested in their business.

Number five: Don’t slow down.

So many people slow down their job search as soon as they get to the second interview. Let me tell you – just because you get called in for a second, third or even fourth grilling interview, you may not get the job (I definitely know this one from experience). So keep moving and meeting more people. The upside to this strategy is that a better opportunity may present itself and you get to meet more and more interesting people.

Lastly, help others out. When you land your first job in the industry, remember your roots and share your experiences with others that are trying to find a job too. The ad industry is small and the adage “what comes around, goes around” definitely holds true. Bon chance and see you at an industry party soon (hopefully drunk) ; )


Tyler Clemens has worked as an account manager for Mercedes Benz, Stella Artois, David Miller’s Mayoral Campaign, Paul Martin’s Federal Election Campaign and is currently working on OLGC brands.






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