how to get a job in advertising

It’s that time of year when college students realize, with unusual clarity of thought, that they are totally screwed unless they get their ass in gear and nail down either a summer internship or a job after graduation. Which means that they reach out to family members, friends of friends and others with tenuous personal connections to ask just how those people got their foot in the door of the industry that they are in. Sometimes they even reach out to the Daily Biz (though wonders why).

Here are my tips for getting a job in advertising:

1. Know someone already in the industry

Advertising isn’t really different in this respect from other industries, where it always pays to have someone on the inside whether they are a relation, friend or someone you’ve had the foresight to network with. The reason for this is simple: it’s a lot more effective to have someone drop your resume/book off with HR and put in a good word (and maybe even follow-up or shop your resume/book around) than to just send it in.

2. Sell yourself

If you can’t sell yourself, you’re going to have a really though time selling something like, say, flavored sugar water or clothes-cleaning chemicals.What is the right way to approach the agency (do you write a non-formulaic cover letter, do you go to a job fair, do you sit outside the agency until someone will speak with you like that guy did outside W+K London)? Find it and do it. There is no excuse for cookie-cutter cover letters or emails or gambits. Don’t be trite or weird for weird’s sake. Learn about the agency, what makes them tick, and tell them why you are just the person they need.

3. Be really, really, ridiculously persistent

The industry is full of stories of people whose persistence got them a job. I am one of those stories, having called a certain someone at an agency I really wanted to work at two to three times a week (and supplementing those calls with occasional emails) during my last semester of college until I finally got an interview which, fantastically, I turned into a job…where I had to be just as persistent in everything I did because that’s what advertising demands.

Do what you have to do to make it happen.

4. Don’t piss off the most famous critic in advertisingBob Garfield is upset with me, and in some ways that is fair (it absolutely was sophomoric of me to call him an idiot when, though his opinion was wrong in my estimation, name calling is juvenile and anyway he’s not an idiot,we just disagree…emphatically.), but I wouldn’t suggest doing that if you want to work in the industry. In fact, I would do my level best not to piss anyone off in any way. Everyone is a potential referrer, and it’s important that they talk about you in the most glowing terms as possible.

There you have it, four tips to get a job in advertising – completely foolproof or your money back!


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