Taking your first steps into marketing and advertising can be daunting. Where do I apply? Who’ll hire me? How can I get some experience? These are all dilemmas that many of us have had when first starting out, so how do you get around those obstacles to take your first step onto the career ladder? Half the battle comes in being noticed by industry decision-makers, so we asked our Head of Creative Simon Storey to tell us what’s sparked his interest from placement applicants and prospective employees. Here are five of his top tips.
1. Do something different. I’ve been sent a red light bulb, an old shoe and even a milk churn. All three senders went on to do amazing things.
As with all industries at the moment, jobs in marketing and advertising agencies are at a premium, so it’s more important than ever that you stand out among the candidates. Naturally, if a job advert asks for a certain response, it’s worth ensuring you hit the specified criteria, but don’t be afraid to do something different.
We’re not saying that if you send us a milk churn we’ll give you a job – that depends on many factors (including first and foremost whether we have a vacancy!), but find your unique stamp, put it on your application and you’ll have a leg up on your rivals for the role you seek. For the record, Harry, who sent us the milk churn, got himself a placement and is now at director level in the virtual reality sector.
2. Do your homework. Make sure you’re speaking to the right person and think about the best time to approach them. Mondays are probably not the best.
If you’re reaching out to an agency that doesn’t have a specific vacancy, make sure you identify the person whose attention you are trying to grab. It might sound obvious, but sending your creative efforts to someone in accounts, rather than a creative or content lead, could result in you being overlooked.
Consider that, pre- and post-weekend, your potential boss might have a mountain of urgent business to handle, so consider either choosing mid-week to bomb their inbox or making your approach so attention-grabbing that it’ll divert their eyes from that to-do list with all the force of an intergalactic tractor beam. Check out the relevant head of department on LinkedIn – sometimes they’ll even have a note on their profile about how they like to be contacted!
3. Don’t bury your brilliance in an over-complicated CV. Keep it simple but make it look good. Check it and check it again. Bad grammar is a no-no.
Overselling yourself can sometimes be just as damaging as underselling yourself. Make sure your CV is succinct and gets your skills across and be mindful that the person dealing with your application could be sifting through 30, 50 or even 100 others. If you’ve got the creative skills to elevate your CV design, this is the time to show them off. What makes your CV different, or better than any other applicant’s?
Oh, and be sure to proofread your application – regardless of the role you’re applying for, spelling mistakes or bad grammar could result in you losing out to someone else with the same skillset but just that little extra attention to detail..
4. If you’re a creative graduate, show up for your final show. For the entire show, not just for opening night. You never know who might visit, and when.
Final shows are an opportunity to showcase not only your creative portfolio but also your keenness, commitment and personality. With industry experts rocking up at random throughout the final show period, be present. That way you’re around to explain exactly how your work answered the brief and really sell your potential to prospective employers.
Bear in mind also that agency decision-makers have busy schedules – a lunchtime or evening may be the only time they can spare to visit the show, so aim to put the hours in if you possibly can. You’ll be thankful you took the time when that phone call comes a few weeks or months down the line with a job or work experience offer.
5. Be persistent. Don’t be afraid to ask twice. (Maybe not 10 times though. That might be making a nuisance of yourself.)
You know what they say: if at first you don’t succeed, try, try again. If your first attempt to reach out to an agency doesn’t result in a response, don’t be afraid to get back in touch. The busy nature of agency life could mean that your letter, portfolio link or email contact was simply swallowed up in the pile. Drop a follow-up through asking if your message made it to the right person. More often than not, your second hit will spark a response.
Be mindful though that too much chasing or following up could have the opposite effect. If you don’t hear back after a couple of attempts, leave it a couple of months, and if an opportunity or other ‘in’ offers you a reason to get in touch, then give it another go..
In an industry that exists to get clients noticed in a crowded marketplace, it’s often the stand-out approaches that lead to a way in. Do your research, consider who you’re trying to engage with and make sure to put your best foot forward. Good luck!