the first agency job is the toughest

I like reader emails a lot and when I got one today from a woman who is finishing up her final year at a top-25 university and is frustrated at how hard it is to find a job in advertising I had to address it.

She wrote: Everywhere I look, people are only interested in SENIOR account executives or SENIOR brand strategists. Is there another way I’m supposed to work my way up?? How do I get a job at, say, Fallon, or Carmichael Lynch, if they’re not hiring entry-level workers?

The first job is always the toughest…especially if, like the e-mailer, you have not been able to snag an internship in an agency.

Advertising itself throws up some barriers:
1. Only a few agencies are very large which means that they don’t have the same outreach programs or need for entry-level workers as the corporate blue chips

2. Smaller agencies are hard to find if you don’t know about the business and they are unlikely to come to a job fair or post on

3. Advertising is an insular business in which networking is critical…which means that if you are coming without background it’s hard to even get people to look at you no matter what school you went to

4. Lots of people want to work in advertising and the more competitive it is, the more difficult it is

5. Minneapolis is not exactly living the high-life advertising-wise. With layoffs at Fallon and Martin Williams inflating the pool of experienced ad rats willing to work, shops like Colle + McVoy, Periscope and Olson that are hiring have their pick of people who know more than a college grad

So what do you do?

Be relentless. Plaster the town with your resume and other information, follow-up with actual phone calls as much as possible (while being polite about it), go to networking events when you are home on breaks, and maybe try something I haven’t mentioned…(like looking in Chicago or New York?)


2 responses to “the first agency job is the toughest

  1. I’m now an AAE at one of those big agencies in LA. What surprised me the most is how many people come in from internships or from working the front desk. It’s funny when you hear of people starting in the mail room, but that’s really how it is at our agency. Start in a really low position and work your way up. Something is bound to open up, and our agency prefers to hire from within.

    Good luck!

  2. i was a summer intern cutting up foam core boards for presos. one day i sliced off a chunck of my thumb with the exacto. they don’t teach you blade skills in school. the next day they offered me a job. buenos suerte!

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