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VCU Brandcenter’s Recruiter Sessions 2010

Posted on June 1, 2010 and read 7,777 times

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brettcreditpic VCU Brandcenters Recruiter Sessions 2010Brett McKenzie
Chief Writer, SBN2

ihavenidea’s eighth edition of Portfolio Night has wrapped up, and I think our nerves are just starting to settle down from it all. If you attended Portfolio Night before, especially in a big city, you’ll know exactly what I’m talking about; it’s a fast-paced evening, an organized bedlam of creative directors and young hopefuls, dishing out advice and business cards in a manner not unlike speed-dating, stock exchange floors and roller derby death matches.

At one time, I’d say that I never experienced a creative hustle and bustle quite like Portfolio Night. But then, up until recently, I had never experienced…. The Recruiter Session,

A number of weeks ago, our good friends at the VCU Brandcenter in Richmond, VA invited us down to their annual Recruiter Session — a few days when the school’s graduating class gets to show off their skills to different CDs and recruiters. It seemed like an interesting enough event, especially since I can remember a time when “junior” and “recruiter” weren’t often used in the same sentence. Independent headhunters didn’t bother with fresh outta school creatives and the miniscule commissions their salaries would earn them, and ad agency recruiters, well, with dozen of physical books and hundreds of emails being delivered each week, they never really had to go out looking for junior talent.

And yet here I was, down in Richmond, with about 150 recruiters, creative directors and other agency decision makers. All the big names were there: Crispin, Goodby, TBWA\Chiat\Day (both coasts), lots of smaller shops and digital agencies, the latter with great interest for the Brandcenter’s new Creative Technology program — more on that later. Luke “Hey Whipple!” Sullivan himself was there, scoping out new talent for GSD&M Idea City. Heck, I wasn’t even the only person crossing the border to attend, as Montreal’s Sid Lee was even present. All of these great agencies and shops, all in one place, meeting and greeting new talent, all in a sort of “reverse Portfolio Night” — reverse because although both events have enthusiastic young talent and superstar agencies, at Recruiter Sessions, the agency people outnumber the students, and it’s the CDs who are scrambling to meet the kids in overtime.


It’s Tuesday morning at the VCU Brandcenter. The sun is barely up, but the building is already buzzing with activity. No first year students around today, just the grads, running around like maniacs in a last minute scramble that has been going on all night. Each student responsible for creating their own area in the Brandcenter, a place where their portfolios are to be displayed, along with any and every other possible thing to help show off their personalities. You see, for the first part of the first day of the Recruiting Sessions, the students must leave their books behind and exit the building, as the recruiters privately browse through all of the work. That’s right: the culmination of two years of sweat and tears (blood too, if you slipped with the X-acto) and you can’t even watch the CDs rip your work to shreds.

One by one the weary grads shuffled out of the main display areas, waiting for the moment of truth. Luckily we had the camera there to catch their pre-session thoughts and feelings.

Get the Flash Player to see the wordTube Media Player.

Shortly after the grads got the boot, the recruiters and creative directors started filing in. Here was their big chance to get sneak peeks at the dozens of portfolios and other material. This recruiter-only session allows for the work to be screened quickly, and gives them a chance to take notes about which ones caught their attention more than others. These notes will come in handy later on, when the students are allowed to re-enter and CDs can then put a face to the work.

Before the students could come back, we managed to get a few remarks from the recruiters, to see how they were approaching the day. After all, most of them had to travel to get here, and you wouldn’t make the trip without a few goals and expectations.

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This year’s Recruiter Sessions also served as a “debutantes ball” for the Brandcenter’s Creative Technology program. Started in the fall of 2008, the program’s original students were about to graduate, and just about every recruiter and ad person in attendance wanted to know more about what the program was about. In fact some agencies came to Richmond today specifically to see the first fruit from the CT tree.

Get the Flash Player to see the wordTube Media Player.

The graduate students came back to the campus later that afternoon, and before you know it, “reverse Portfolio Night” gas begun. The students return to their carefully crafted areas, frantically checking to see if the recruiters sampled any of the refreshments provided — everything from lemonade to homemade chocolate was used to bribe satisfy the cravings of the recruiters — and wait for the recruiters to come to them. Business cards and resumes were exchanged, deep conversations were held, and for the lucky ones, jobs were even offered. Even those not fortunate enough to get the “when can you start?” treatment still received very promising leads. Only a cocktail reception on the Brandcenter’s patio could pull everyone away from the sit-down meetings, and even then the career-related conversations continued into the evening.


Wednesday consisted of all-day meetings, with the grads once again manning their stations, selling themselves to the agencies as much as the agencies are selling themselves to the grads. Even after a full day of wheeling, dealing and appealing, there was still an aura of excitement when the Recruiter Sessions drew to a close at 5pm. And when the last recruiter shook her final hand and left, all of the kids breathed a communal sigh of relief. Some of the kids went straight to bed for some much needed sleep, others hit the local Chili’s for happy hour $1.00 pints, and others had to go make long distance calls to let friends and relatives know that they just landed their first ad job. Still, we were able to catch a few more people during the final catch a few more people in the final hours of the Recruiter Sessions and have them tell us what the whole experience was like.

Get the Flash Player to see the wordTube Media Player.

All in all, visiting the VCU Brandcenter’s Recruiter Sessions was an eye=opening experience. Not only have I never seen so much young creative talent in one place before, but to see agencies great and small clamouring for the chance to meet and possibly hire these upstarts, well, I think the next generation of advertising creatives is in very good shape indeed.

I’d like thank VCU Brandcenter for extending the invitation; it’s always a pleasure to see what you have going on at the school. And an extra special thanks to Marc Stephens, a first year Creative Technology student who played the role of cameraman during my trip. Look out at next year’s Recruting Sessions — this is one guy you’re gonna wanna hire.

For a PDF listing of the websites of every VCU 2010 grad who took part in the Recruiter Sessions, click here.




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