Advertising Job Search Tips


With another crop of students graduating from college, I’m often approached this time of year for advice on how to find a job in advertising. While I doubt I have the silver bullet answer, I would love to share a few suggestions that seem to make sense over the years. These are in no particular order and is not even the complete list, but hopefully there are a couple of tidbits in here that you will find useful:

1 ) You’re Already Late – it seems that many students suddenly wake up in April and figure out they need to start looking for a job. You should have started in the Fall of your senior year if not earlier. It takes time to make connections, secure “informational” interviews, and to do homework on the various opportunities that might be available. If this is you, start now but don’t expect job openings to match your perfect timing. Get out there, stay persistent and good things will happen.

2 ) Connect, Connect and Connect Some More – this takes work, but it’s well worth it. Making whatever connections you can through family, friends, professors and so on will help you meet potential employers. Even if these connections don’t pay off immediately, you may be surprised when these positive connections find you later in life (another blog post on “don’t burn any bridges). Ask for informational interviews as a way to get your foot in the door. Beg for 15 minutes of someone’s time if that’s all you can get. If you are super engaging, the session will most likely last for more than 15 minutes. And don’t forget, an informational interview is really an interview!

3 ) Ask Smart Questions – OK, now I’m getting on a roll. This is a huge tip and one many people seem to miss in a big way. I know it sounds obvious – come prepared with questions – but I usually get pretty lame questions. I basically threw a guy out one time when after I asked, “So, do you have any questions for me?”, he replied with, “No, not really. I mean I’ve been to your website and everything so I pretty well know everything about your company.” Think bigger. Go beyond the basic stuff. Try things like, “What do you see as the company’s biggest opportunity for growth over the next five years?”, or, “What are the best and worst campaigns you’ve ever worked on and why?” Listen and learn and keep asking good questions.

4 ) Get the Little Things Right – these are actually all big things in my mind, and each one could warrant a paragraph on their own but pay attention to the basic rules of interviewing. I’m looking to get to know you and want to see your awesome authentic self, but here a few things that matter to me and will never be old-school: Early is on time – scout where you’re going a day in advance if you are Google Maps challenged. Sit in your car for twenty minutes if you have to, but never ever be late. It happens and I’m shocked when it does. I’d say show up in the lobby 5-10 minutes ahead of your scheduled interview. Look sharp – I think it’s good to be appropriate for the company and the position, but always err on the side of being more formal. Just be sharp. The shoes tend to say a lot! Sit up and use engaging body language – avoid being so stiff you come across as super nervous and/or a complete nerd, but do sit up straight, lean forward a bit and make great eye contact. I like when we get into a mutually-engaging conversation and things are real, but it’s at that point when I see people slouch down in the chair and get a bit too comfortable. Stay professional and engaged.

5 ) Should I Send a Thank You Note? – yes. Yes. And, yes. Guess you know how I feel about that. Follow-up immediately with a handwritten (legible please) thank you note. Spend a few extra bucks and get the nice paper. We’re in an industry where that sort of thing matters. Include a comment about something interesting we talked about. That’s one more touch point and one more way for me to remember our great conversation. Many people don’t take this step which means you have a chance to stand out. Oh, people ask if they should send an email thank you, especially if the hiring decision is being made ASAP. I think email thank you messages are fine, but not in the place of a written thank you note. Do both. Why not? There are many other solid tips to share, but we’ll start with the above. Feel free to comment and pose questions you might have on this topic and I will do my best to provide at least one point-of-view. Good luck – remember every pot has a lid so I’m confident you will find the right position at the right time!