As part of our Ask the Agency column, we’ve received a number of questions from students asking about breaking in to advertising and PR – what do you look for? How do I stand out?
This week I visited a few of our offices where the hires are made at MMI and asked around for their best advice. Here are their top five tips for students to consider:
Employers look first and foremost for relevant experience. We can never stress enough how important it is to get an internship while you are still in school. Many agencies offer paid positions that give insight into the inner workings of the advertising business. Seek these positions with a professional attitude – and treat them as if they were a full-time job. The ability to navigate a “real” work environment comes with time – get your sea legs before you graduate.
What if I didn’t have time to get an internship? It’s important to show substance – did you work your entire way through school? Pay for it yourself? How have you shown perseverance, above and beyond maintaining your GPA?
Gimmicks work every now and then, but your main goal should always be to communicate your desire, drive and competence. Traditional approaches and solid skills will be your bread and butter, so start with a strong cover letter. Edit fiercely for typos, no matter how many times you rewrite, edit or send out to someone new.
Over-the-top fonts, colors and wacky email addresses will make you lose credibility. No one wants to trust FriskyFeline781@yahoo.com with their TPS reports.
KISS your resume. Place your most relevant experience at the top. Check again for typos.
Don’t rely on social media to get a job. Scouting out your favorite agencies on Twitter can be a great way to research the agency and its personality, but as a student this is not where you need to be to ultimately land the position. When approaching contacts through social media, there is always the risk of appearing too informal (even if the agency seems a little free-spirited). Remember that employers use social media to do their research too.
Think old fashioned – pick up the phone. Doing the things others may be afraid to do like calling to introduce yourself and find out who is the best contact is a quicker, more personal way to get the right information to the right people. It may be someone in operations who is the final decision maker.
Follow up with a hand-written thank you note. This should be done quickly – you may even want to drop it by the agency in person if it feels appropriate to do so.
Once you enter the agency world, be proactive in reaching out to others. Ask to go to internal meetings. Volunteer for projects that no one else wants to do – whether it be stuffing envelopes, monitoring social media and recording data, doing research or cold-calling to firm up a mailing list. Don’t wait for the exciting projects to fall in your lap. Take every opportunity to help out so you can make the most of your time exploring and figuring out if this is the right place for you.
Going straight to the top often has a lot to do with your relationships with the people right next to you. Find someone who has gone through a similar process, shadow them, offer to help with their projects, and ask a lot of questions. They will be your biggest advocates when your internship ends and it’s time to consider your next steps.