I’ll admit that I’m a newbie in the world of advertising. I haven’t been around the block, hung my hat in one too many agencies or suffered through too many layoffs at this point. But in the three short years that I’ve been in the industry, I’ve learned:
- It’s all about networking and what people think you know.
- Figure out how to sell yourself and never quit doing it.
- Trust your gut.
It’s all about networking … and what people think you know.
In 2011, I was fresh out of college as an English Lit major with no idea what the hell I wanted to do with my life. Not only was I in this weird “out of college, but wished I were still in it” transition, but we (as in my husband and I) ended up moving to North Carolina, where I knew no one!
Luckily, he was in an MBA program and I had access to their career services. I met with an older advisor who immediately asked me, “Do you have a LinkedIn?” Um. “Have you gone to any networking events?” Um. “Let me see your résumé.”
Talk to everyone, everywhere, and ask for a business card. You never know who’s going to be a resource.
I realized real quick after talking with him that advertising was where I needed to be. I’m organized and efficient. I like the creativity aspect and telling a brand story. I knew I could manage projects, and I didn’t have many options in the small city of Winston-Salem. I started my LinkedIn profile. I edited my résumé immediately and started emailing people left and right. If I met you at the grocery store and we got talking, I connected to you. For every one person I talked to, I had five more names of people to reach out to. Not all these people were in advertising, but they knew someone who knew someone who was. I eventually scored an internship at a small agency — granted, it was unpaid. This got me in the door and talking to people at a bigger agency, where I then scored a paid position three months later because I heard about the open position through a source and landed one of the first interviews.
To this day, if I’m at the gym, waiting in security at an airport or ordering Starbucks and we get talking, I’ll ask your name or for your business card. Then I’ll connect later with you via a personal note about how much I enjoyed our conversation. You never know when the guy ordering a latte in front of you is going to be a resource.
Figure out how to sell yourself and never quit doing it.
Job interviews are some of the most nerve-wracking hours of your life. Hiring managers ask every possible question they can about your self-claimed area of expertise. In media, expect questions about ad networks, mark-up, retargeting, pixels, and tracking. In creative, come prepared with your portfolio and be ready to explain every piece of work in that baby. Want to be an account director? Get ready to explain every big strategy and campaign you have worked on. Oh, and which one was your favorite?
Be prepared. Be confident. Be honest. And be eager to learn.
Go through your list of questions and answers the night before. Be prepared, but not rehearsed. Be confident and honest. I may not know the most about SEO or retargeting, but I’ll tell you what I do know. And if I don’t know anything about the topic, I’ll tell you that, too, with ears open and eager to hear what you think about the topic and then to research it later.
You’re lucky if you’re able to even begin to convey details of your personal life. The best interview I’ve had to date is my one at GDD (and I’m not just saying that because I landed a job here). Not only was I interviewed for the position, but also I was interviewed for the culture. This was the first opportunity I had to sell not only my résumé, but also myself. Yes, I curse. Yes, I’m obsessed with running and my dogs. Yes, I’m passionate about feeling good about the project I’m working on. If this type of culture is important to you, seek out a company that embodies how you feel, which leads me to my third point.
Trust your gut.
I once interviewed with a team-based agency and left the interview feeling like I just wasn’t going to fit in. I took the job, because at the end of the day, I needed the money. Fast-forward six months later and I was miserable. I was too loud, too determined and too opinionated for the company and everyone knew it. These qualities aren’t bad, but within that culture, I felt like they were frowned upon. I started looking for jobs and just as I started interviewing, I was laid off.
Find an agency with a culture that shares your values.
You see, I knew from the get-go that my personality wasn’t the right fit. I think I was just a little bit “too different.”
Make sure you find an agency culture that shares values and beliefs similar to your own. Spend time interviewing them just as much as they are interviewing you. And at the end of the day, trust your gut if you walk in somewhere and it just doesn’t feel like a good fit. These two key points will make worlds of difference in your work happiness.
So you want to get a job in advertising … at GDD?
I landed my job at GDD shortly after (a week to be exact) I was laid off. I found the job listing on LinkedIn, and while I applied there, I also personally sent an email, résumé and kick-ass cover letter (if I do so say myself) to the CEO/founder. I wrote about how I understood the brand personality and loved how different the culture was. From the get-go, I knew I wanted to work at GDD.
Do not be afraid to stand out.
My personal touch and extra effort scored me an interview. I researched the company. I stalked (for lack of a better way to put it) the company across platforms and employees on LinkedIn (hey, I had no idea who I was interviewing with). I had a great two-hour conversation with my now boss and the CEO and landed the gig. I knew from day one that my personality would not be frowned upon and I was welcomed with open arms. And now I feel part of a family that really loves doing cool digital shit and pushing the next boundary.