Friday, September 09, 2005


How To Get A Job In Advertising (or any other industry).

I truly believe in the maxim "Don't take diet advice from a fat man." But since I've been asked a couple of times, and I think it's valuable, here's what's worked for me.

People want to help. Really. Even in New York. I've found that just calling people works wonders. Get a name from somewhere (anywhere, even just from the receptionist), call them, and say the following:

"Hi, I'm [name], and I'm a freelance [copywriter, or whichever position you want]. Now, I know you probably get calls all the time, and you probably don't have an open position. But that's okay. Really, I'd love to buy you a cappucino in exchange for the priviledge of picking your brain for 10 minutes (15 minutes tops) on what you *do* have, the expertise on how you got your job, and the skills you've built to do what you do. So, whadaya say? I'm a nice person, and I promise not to bother you again afterwards."

Okay, don't read that script exactly. But communicate the gist of it articulately, while still being you.

What I found is, everyone jumps at the opportunity to talk about themselves. Everyone. Particularly to someone who's not only interested and listens well, but who's also intelligent & articulate. Do you have any idea how many stupid, uninterested, going-thru-the-motions people they have to deal with every day at work? Especially disappointing are the kids they deal with who are there supposedly to learn from them, the interns. 99.99% of the time those kids are pathetic. I know I was when I was an intern.

People in advertising usually work in groups (or will when they at some point work in larger agencies). All you have to be is someone they'd like to work with someday.

Schedule the meeting, show up on time. Then just listen. They'll be flattered and floored. Particularly if you take notes. 

(Oh yeah, bring a business card of your own. Give yourself the title of [Copywriter]. Doesn't matter if you're not employed at the moment. Step into the role, and the salary will come.)

Then comes the easy part. At the end of the talk (before you start getting up/packing up!) ask: "All of this has been fantastic, just great, thank you! You've been so insightful. My last question is, could you give me a name or two or three of other [copywriters] who may be at a similar point or at different points in their careers, but who might have just a bit different perspective or experience than you on how they got into the field?" (Again, don't be the script. Be you.)

Then meet those people, and do exactly the same thing.

The thing is, everyone knows you're looking for a job. But no one wants to have to turn someone down. So meet all of these people (send thank-you notes!) and sooner or later when they hear of a job opening they're going to think of that brilliant, beautiful/handsome person who was a really good listener. You.

One more thing. The meetings never last 10-15 minutes. Almost always they're around a half hour. I'm telling you, people love to talk about themselves. It's not just me. ;)

Hope this helps.

But before you do anything else, if it's advertising you want, read these books:

How to Put Your Book Together and Get a Job in Advertising: 21st Century Edition (Paperback) by Maxine Paetro
Pick Me : Breaking Into Advertising and Staying There (Paperback)  by Nancy Vonk & Janet Kestin

These people are much smarter and more experienced than I am.

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