A friend of the family is looking to get into the advertising business, and he sent me an email asking for my advice. I sent him back a list of 10 things he should do, and I gave him a 90% guarantee that it would work. These days that’s not a bad number…so I figured I would share with everyone and spread the love:)
Note: I ran this by the Adboardingpass legal department, and they had me add 4 disclaimers:
- This applies to account management, and perhaps to planning. If you want to be a creative that’s a whole other ballgame.
- This applies to NYC or other big metropolitan areas with lots of agencies and overall creativity. If you aren’t living there – consider moving, or it’s going to be a little harder.
- The “guarantee” applies to entry-level positions. At an account director level and beyond the pyramid gets a little smaller, and your past accomplishments, timing and other variables come into play.
- If you do exactly as instructed and still don’t get a job, let me know and I’ll change the title to “10 step plan for getting a job in advertising, guaranteed, except if your name is X”
And now…the list!
- Aim for the right entry-level job. If you’re still in college, look into the internship programs. But be aware that at large agencies these are sometimes more competitive than getting a real job! If you’ve graduated, go for entry-level, don’t go for an internship – you’ve earned the right to get paid, even though it won’t be much! If you’ve got past experience (internships) an advertising degree, or some kind of advance degree, by all means don’t sell yourself short and go for an AE job, not some group assistant gig.
- Read everything you can find online on advertising, and do this every day for 30 minutes, minimum. Forget textbooks and academic write-ups on branding…stick to blogs, industry publications, and creativity showcase sites, anything that gets updated very often. Start with adage, adsoftheworld, Adboardingpass, theadbuzz, ihaveanidea. Then check out the links on the left column of Adboardingpass. And everything else that you can find! Build a list of bookmarks (this will be easy), and then start editing down – you’ll find a lot of sites repeat the same news/articles, so start dropping and stick to the ones you like. There are industry news aggregators both international and local, opinion blogs by ex industry pros of all types, blogs run by agencies, sites that show creativity from around the world – pick your favorite and keep looking for new ones.
- Once again: It’s very important that you do this every single day. It’s like going to the gym, if you don’t keep at it, it simply won’t work. After just 1 month you’ll start to develop a sense about the industry (what is going on, who’s hot, who’s not, what works, what’s bogus,) that you just won’t acquire from going to class and learning theory. Of course, this is the beginning. The longer you do this, the more nuanced your view will be, you’ll be able to notice subtler ripples that before would have gone right over your head.
- Talk to anyone you know who is in advertising. Friends, friends of friends, friends of your parents, alumni, anyone. Ask them what they like, what they don’t, how they got into the business, where they think the business is headed, what advice they have for you. You’re not looking to unearth any big answers…this is about subliminally building your knowledge of the business, and your inner sense of why you’re looking to get into it.
- Get a twitter account and start following people who tweet about advertising. If you have one already, get a new account, because you’re going to want this one to be more specific. Stick to advertising, marketing, and related topics such as design, photography, branding, etc. Definitely follow the agency feeds and those of interesting people who work at agency and tweet about advertising (it’s useless if you follow an advertising guru that only tweets about his dogs). An easy way to start is to go to my profile (@martinmurphy72), see who I follow, and follow anyone who seems interesting to you.
- Contribute to the conversation. Comment on blogs and tweet as often as possible. Frequency is important so that you build the discipline of being active…but even more important is to make your comments count. Don’t contribute empty praise or snark, contribute a point of view. Add something to the conversation. Share something related that might be of interest. Build upon, don’t just be a bystander. This is an important balance: it’s better to not say anything than to say generalities…but you really want to push yourself to learn, think deep, and contribute where you can. You’ll be surprised at how many people engage with you.
- Give thanks that you’re in NYC/London/Shanghai. Now get off the couch and go explore. You’re so lucky that you are in the epicenter of advertising, design and just about everything else. So all those things that you are doing online to soak up info like a sponge, you have the chance to do in person. Go to lectures, sneak into cocktails by the advertising agency association, go to exhibits that the cool creatives and designers go to, go see smart movies, go see live music, go to boutiques, audit a course, get a girlfriend that works in HR at a major agency! You don’t have to do this every day, but then again you don’t have to sit in your apartment playing Playstation3 either. You live in a special place, make it count.
- Consider starting a blog. If it’s linked to “the search” (documenting your thoughts on advertising, or even your job hunt), even better. This is not for everyone and it can be time-consuming, so read up on it first: there are lots of great tips on the web about starting and maintaining a blog, and they’ll give you a sense for whether it’s for you or not. Why go through the trouble at all? Because it’s a behind-the-curtains look at the basic inner workings of web communications: how traffic gets generated and sustained, the interlocking relationship between Facebook, twitter, blogs, similar web sites, etc. It will give you talking points on the all-important digital arena that you wouldn’t have had otherwise (just because you’re young doesn’t mean you get digital.)
- All of the above will help you develop a point of view. Why advertising, what about it interests you, where you think the industry is headed, where you think you can contribute with a unique angle that others can’t, etc. Once you have an interesting and nuanced point of view that you can discuss at length, with specificity and enthusiasm…trust me you are in very good shape. You now have the confidence to contact headhunters and HR people, directly or through Linkedin, and tell them that there’s a talent out there (you), looking for an opportunity.
- You are in control. Remember this, embrace it, and make it work for you (but with modesty, please – there’s nothing worse in life than an outwardly cocky 22-year-old). Trust me when I tell you that if you’ve been doing all of the above for a couple of months and have developed a unique point of view on advertising, you are a more interesting prospect than 70% of those looking (make that 90% if you happen to know multiple languages or have some other differentiating element in your background). And, having interviewed tons of people, I’ll let you in on a little secret: we want you to be awesome, we’re hoping you’ll be great. There are not that many good people out there, and when we get an inkling that you are one of those, we keep cool on the outside but inwardly we start drooling! It’s exactly like American Idol…they go up on stage and in the very first line, when you can tell that there is something there, you just breathe a sigh of sweet relief! Make this count for you – if you have prepared well, you can afford to feel good about it when you talk to people.
So to summarize: put in the time, develop a voice, and don’t give up. I guarantee you will find success. What you do once you get in is a different story, and perhaps for a different post!
Is this advice free? No, but it’s pretty inexpensive, all I ask is this: if you put it all into practice and it lands you a job – let me know.
Now go out and kick some ass!