It’s that time of year again. College seniors are triumphantly crossing the stage and grabbing their pricey diplomas to the proud applause of their relieved families. The smiles, pride and sense of accomplishment last until the student loans come and the U-haul carries the humbled graduate’s futon back home to start life in The Basement. That is unless they can land themselves a job in the mysterious new frontier we call ‘The Real World’. If you are anything like I was when I graduated you don’t have a clue how to land that first job. So here are my 10 keys to opening the door to the first job in advertising (and probably most other fields).
1. Request an informational interview.
This is the single best advice I can offer. It’s a free audition for you and the agency. And if the person you are calling won’t take the time to help out a young prospect you don’t want to work for that selfish bastard or bastardette anyway.
2. Research the company you want to talk to.
If you really want to talk to me you should know something about me and my company. So show up with as much knowledge as you can find on the business you’re interested in and its clients. A great tool I recommend using to do your research is the internet. Because it has all the information ever accumulated by mankind. #noexcuses
3. Make connections.
I’m not just talking about people networking. Make connections between the organization’s needs and your own areas of knowledge and expertise. I got my first job because I knew a lot about farming. And the agency had a new client that manufactured farm equipment. The agency seemed to know nothing about agriculture. So to them I was like Doogie Howser in flannel.
4. Show up a little early.
Don’t get carried away here. There is a proper amount of early. Too early and you look socially awkward. And late is the kiss of death.
5. Dress professionally.
Determine what that means in your world. For my first interviews out of school I borrowed a suit from my college buddy, Greg Gill. Greg is now a judge and wears a black dress to work. I have never worn a tie to work since. But I made a good first impression.
6. Lose the like.
If there is one thing that reminds me that you’re still a kid it’s using like the word like like way too like much.
7. Prove direction.
It’s great to be open to various possibilities. But I want to hire someone who knows what she or he wants. So know your skills. Know what interests you. Have a vision. And don’t get lost on the way to or from the bathroom.
8. Don’t drink at the interview.
Advertising interviews can be tricky. Especially if you show up late in the afternoon or on a Friday. The beer is often available and encouraged (this is starting to sound like an ad for advertising). Don’t play along. The dangers outweigh the risks in this case. Demonstrate your self restraint. Ad people are really good at drinking (see Mad Men). And there are always plenty of permanent markers around and artists who know how to use them on your face.
9. Talk about how you and your friends never use Facebook anymore.
Even if you are on Facebook all day every day say that you can’t stand it. Advertising people are always trying to spot the next trend they know nothing about. Kids, that is the ace up your sleeve. Tell them about the cool new things you are into and how you are rejecting all previously embraced media. Your stock will rise. Trust me.
10. Follow up.
After the interview send a note thanking the people you met for their time. This is important in several ways. It shows that you are considerate. It shows that you follow through. And it ensures that the people you talked to have your contact information. Send a note in the mail or by email. Both work. Email makes it easy for them to reply to you. A mailed note always feels special. And retro.