Archive for April, 2007

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.


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This has been a long requested post, and we are sorry it took so long. But good things come to those who drink Irish beverages..or to those who wait..or something

There are nothing but rejection letters on your desk, your mates are asking in lectures how the interviews went, you have a dissertation to do and feel deflated or all you can see is another year ahead without a grad training job as you’ve held out for the previous round with no joy.

Well, it doesn’t have to be so shit. Firstly if you’re still at uni you will need to drag yourself up to focus on your finals, without a 2:1 it’ll be hard to find a grad training scheme anyway. If you’ve finished uni there is still a boat to catch.
There is an emerging trend where agencies don’t actually practice the usual grad recruitment which is the usual 2 stage interview process. Both Saatchi & Saatchi and Publicis now use their Summer Schools as grounds to recruit for their grad training schemes, so keep a close eye on their websites.

Also there is the other way which isn’t the traditional grad route. It’s to join an agency as a junior account exec. This is where you pretty much feel like you’re on work experience, don’t receive the training the grads get and usually paid a little less. But it is actually one of the best ways to enter the industry.

While the grads get pampered with training, you, as an account assistant, are thrown into the thick of it where you’re expected to be a strong support line to your account team. You’ll learn quicker than the grads and you’ll be under more pressure than the grads. If you’re worried that you’ll do twice as much work as the grads and not get promoted like they are think again. Agencies are very prude when making promotions and it usually is made on merit especially at the more junior levels so this is still a great chance to enter and climb the ladder of the ad industry.

So how do you go about becoming an account assistant if you’ve missed the grad recruitment boat? Well, firstly you need to have some kind of experience within agencies. Account assistants are usually hired because they were a close choice to being on the grad rounds and usually its experience that speaks volumes. So if you don’t have any get on the blower to some agencies and organise the odd 1 or 2 week stint or apply to the summer schools as you could still make a grad scheme. Once you have the experience and a paper reference from it, you can start approaching agencies. A ‘how to get work experience’ post is done and will be put up in a day or three.

Start by finding out which agencies have just won large accounts and jump on them straight away (large wins are usually screamed about in Campaign and at BrandRepublic). What usually happens with a large account win is that the agency will start to organise moving key people off other accounts to front the new one, it’s pretty much all hands on deck – a perfect opportunity for a budding account assistant who rings the agency, tells them they are ready to go to work and help out where needed. Don’t be disappointed if the first few say ‘no thank you’, like all things it’s a trail and error process. If you really want it you’ll come across an agency that is looking.

Sign up with some recruitment agencies (eg. Pathfinders), Google for the ones who specialise in advertising/marketing and be prepared to go with an agency in digital, marketing services, DM as well as the large networks.
The point being is that just because you didn’t get into a grad recruitment scheme it doesn’t have to mean that advertising isn’t for you. It could have been a number of things that just were not in your favour on the day and how can a lifelong career be judged simply off an interview that lasted maybe 30 mins?
Well….it can’t so if you really want it go about making it yours through whatever means necessary!

And good luck.

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