Kissing Ass and Exchanging Business Cards: Tips for recent grads entering the ad world

Come this time of year, every soon-to-be grad starts to clean up all the drunk party pictures that have flooded their Facebook walls for the past four years, begin to thoughtfully write a new LinkedIn profile, and attend events where they shamelessly kiss ass to any industry professional that they can happen to cross paths with.

Been there, done that.

The world of networking is strange, uncomfortable, and unnatural most of the time. Recently, I spoke on a panel at Student Ad Summit with four other young professionals about our paths into the ad world.

It was exciting to be asked to share my own experience of how I got to be where I am today, but truly, it wasn’t that long ago that I was sending LinkedIn connection invites to people I hardly knew and handing out business cards that I ordered online. In my two years of beginning my career, here is the advice I have for you;

How did you differentiate yourself among other candidates?

For my current position, one of the requirements on the job posting was “must be able to quote Jurassic Park”. I had never seen Jurassic Park in my life (still haven’t), so decided to make my entire cover letter a blog titled “My Experience As Told Through Jurassic Park GIFs”. I got a call right away. Pay attention to the job posting, and do something creative to get noticed.

(Check it out here: http://mirandasseachforemployment.tumblr.com/)

What’s the best advice you’ve been given, and would like to pass along?

Fake it till you make it. Confidence speaks volumes when searching for your next career move, but also know that asking questions is just as important when making yourself come off as knowledgeable and intelligent in your area.

What’s the most difficult interview question that you’ve had?

For my current position, we were nearing the end of the interview and I could see the words “team player” in the last question on her sheet, that I knew I could knock out of the park. Then she said, “Okay, last question, tell me a joke”. I literally froze. I had nothing. We sat in silence as she would not continue the interview until I told one. I made one up on the spot and shamelessly said, “knock knock, who’s there, your next junior art director.”

Shout out to Linz Kieffer for the most uncomfortable and awkward 3 minutes of my life. Thanks for hiring me anyway.

How early did you start working on your portfolio?

It has always been a continuous refresh. I started building it my sophomore year but was constantly creating better work and tearing down the old. Even today, I don’t have a portfolio posted because I am always trying to push myself to think of bigger ideas and produce better work.

How important was networking in getting your first job?

Networking is what led me to knowing that I wanted the career that I was going after, but I actually didn’t know anyone at FRWD. I did a ton of networking prior to getting this job, but I worked really hard to have a stand out through my resume, cover letter, and portfolio, and I prepared immensely before the interview, which ultimately is why I got the job, not through networking.

How can someone who is awkward at networking or bad at it do better?

Let me say this to anyone who thinks they’re awkward or bad at networking; everyone is. Understand that everyone feels a little bit awkward talking to strangers and finding a small little similarity to keep a conversation going, but there should be comfort in knowing that any professional you reach out to or have a conversation with at a networking event has gone through the same thing, so there is a great amount of empathy towards students who are stepping out of their comfort zone to start a conversation.

Best advice while job searching?

FOLLOW UP! Don’t be shy about following up more than once if you don’t get a response. We are all incredibly busy as humans in general, I can barely respond to a text from my mom. Take that and multiply it in client land, when people are trying to meet deadlines and juggle projects. It’s easy for your follow up to slip through the cracks, but you can always send it again.

What type of resources did you use to get the job?

I actually was familiar with FRWD from SAS. I kept my own personal spreadsheet of agencies in Minneapolis that I would like to start my career at, and I linked their career page in that spreadsheet. I found this a lot easier to find job openings because a lot of times those jobs won’t register on job boards because it’s either a small shop or the position was filled right away. Also, LinkedIn. Stay on top of that profile. AND all of your social channels. That’s how I like to look at potential new creatives for FRWD. Yeah they can do the job, but would you like hanging out with them every day for 8 hours?

What’s your best piece of advice for people looking for a job? Or just graduating?

Finding your first job is a very strange balance between not settling and also knowing that your first job will not be your dream job. When I was applying, people kept telling me that your first job didn’t have to be your dream job, but to me, that felt like I was giving up just to get a paycheck. I took a step back and realized I shouldn’t be applying for every entry level job in marketing just because I was qualified for it. I worked hard to apply for positions that I truly wanted to experience, and that perseverance paid off.

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