As promised a few days back, a ‘how to get work experience’ type of post, with the regular wit thrown in. Or not
So you’ve figured out now, maybe after a year of uni, or maybe after having finished your degree that your pre-university idea of dream job is just that, a dream. Or maybe you’ve realised that being part of the pinstriped brigade shuttling back and forth from Canary Wharf talking of mergers, acquisitions and dividends just isn’t your kind of hype.
On top of that, a cocky mate of yours has been talking about the advertising industry for a while now, and their constant referring to it as ‘the industry’ is a) pissing you off and b) sounding like they’re talking about California’s ‘adult entertainment’ industry.
Now what? What is the ad industry and how oh how do you get in? It’s too late now to get in for the grad schemes (and if you haven’t graduated yet they’re no use anyway) and the summer school applications seem so weird (where do they think up these questions is what you’re thinking) so where do you go? It’s those words you thought you’d heard the last of the summer after your GCSEs: work experience.
Work experience is one of the best ways to decide whether the ad industry is for you, and it’s a great way to put your name out there so people in adland take notice. So where to start? First stop is the library/bookshop and have a read of the books in Anton’s thorough recommended reading list. Read every word of the books you get your hands on, devour them. Seriously. It’ll help you loads later on. Step numero 2 is to go the crappy IPA website (www.ipa.co.uk) and register there. Once you’re registered then download the graduate factfile. This is your holy grail, as it has recruitment contacts for all the agencies that are hiring grads this year.
Because they’re hiring grads there’s a good chance they’ll need any help they can get. That’s where you conveniently step in. You’re an eager pair of hands, someone who wants to do anything to find out more about adland. Bingo.
But obviously it’s not that easy. You take an agency, have a good read of their website and ring up the recruitment contact, before you do that, check the time. Make sure you call them early in the morning, or late in the evening, they’ll be busy in between and often they’ll be busy anytime you call them. Be confident on the phone, don’t umm and ah, say who you are and what you want. Then shut up and let them answer, don’t jump in going “If you don’t need anyone that’s ok” No it’s not ok!! They might say yes, they might say no, they might say they’ll get back to you. Rule number 1 of adland is that HR people rarely get back to you, not out of malice, they just don’t. So you have to keep trying. At every agency. In a way you have to be shameless and confident in equal measures.
Now some agencies have structured work experience schemes (BBH, Saatchi&Saachi, M&C Saatchi, Leith London etc). They’ll be easier to approach but again perseverance is the key. And so is originality and that oft used but never really completely understood lateral thinking thing. Send the HR girl (they usually are) flowers/chocolate, it’s cheesy but it works, and worst-case scenario is they laugh about it and remember your name. In this industry that’s never a bad thing. And keep trying, ring up every agency and remember it only takes one person to say yes and you’re in. And once you’re in it’s a hell of a lot easier to get to other places.
Make the most of it by the way when you do get it. Don’t mope around in a sulk because you have to run down to HMV/make a mood reel/photocopy stuff, be a sponge and take everything in. Be proactive, email the whole agency saying you’re here for a week and will do anything (well almost). You will get noticed and people will give you work and their time (One of us did this at BBH and were immediately told off by our ‘supervisors’ that they would get in trouble, but then the CEO emailed us back and asked us in his office for a quick chat. Bingo). Pick their brains for advice about everything you really wanted to know about advertising but couldn’t find anyone to ask.
Oh and remember, you will get in, it’s just a matter of time. Questions? Fire away.