Saturday, 12 May 2012

Grad Down The Track: Di Caplinska

We haven't done one of these profiles for a while..


Hello all.

Something a little different today, but a feature that's something that (hopefully), older AdGrads readers will remember. We've got a fairly recent grad, Di Caplinska, who is a planner at Euro RSCG, to write for us about how she got into the business.

So, without further ado...here's Di's account:


"On a number of occasions recently I have found myself on the receiving end of questions from soon-to-be graduates about how to get into this tricky industry. A number of paths can be proffered, but how people get into their first advertising job are always interesting - and never straightforward. So with some encouragement from Will and AdGrads, whose contribution to my journey has been invaluable, I have decided to write up mine, as long-winded and frustrating at times as it was.


Coming from Latvia, a small country loved by British stag dos, feared by Scandinavian ice hockey teams, and hated by the IMF, advertising was never really on my radar. Being born in a family of Soviet engineers and spending summer holidays in Maths camps didn’t exactly further my exposure to the industry that is, frankly, still in its infancy anyway (as you’d expect from a country dealing with a communist hangover). My love affair with advertising kicked off when I moved to the UK for University and studied Business, later switching to Marketing - focusing on Brand Management in my final year. At the same time, suddenly finding myself in a new country provoked a deep interest in all things ‘culture, people, and the way they think’, so I started observing the world from an outsider’s perspective to an almost scientific degree. One would have said that is a pretty clear path into Planning, but not before I spent a year in the corporate world of B2B Marketing; something which helped to confirm that it’s not for me. 


My first exposure to advertising in practice (as opposed to through books, blogs, and newsletters – all in this deck) was with JWT London as part of their 2 week Account Management placement just before the start of my final year. Apart from meeting great people, having to squeeze a gigantic papier-mache cow into an elevator, and running 5k in holey Converse, it confirmed my intuitive leaning towards Planning, as well as teaching me very valuable lesson. Namely, that getting in was going to be painful, especially if you don’t have any relevant family contacts, and even more so if your alma mater is outside the Russell Group. And…let’s just say I felt like I was doomed as I wasn't born speaking English and wasn't able to master some eloquent assessment centre banter. With this positive outlook, I decided to harass the finest of JWT’s Planners for advice. Some shared interview wisdom, others bought me encouraging cups of coffee, and one pointed me towards Miami Ad School’s Planning Bootcamp in case graduate schemes didn’t quite work out.


And they didn’t. In the interests of putting my dissertation first, I limited my applications to Planning positions only and managed to secure two final rounds – at Dare and Leo Burnett, but sadly, I didn’t land the coveted gig. In parallel to this, in the climate when redundancies were far more popular than graduate schemes, I pulled out at all stops. I ran a cheeky recruitment Facebook ad that got blogging exposure and some LinkedIn introductions, I milked what advice my lecturers had to give, crashed semi-relevant industry events with a handful of (pretty embarrassing, frankly) business cards, and watched agency twitter feeds for internship opportunities. And when my university wasn’t part of the advertising recruitment milkround, I blagged my way into the one that was - Oxford, which was conveniently next door.


Unemployment panic aside, my graduation week culminated in shooting a cringeworthy video about how geeks are the new mainstream as part of my Miami Ad School application. Less than a month later I was in their Hamburg office trying to shake off that ‘Business School student’ look and soak in all the ideas flying around. Probably the most tangible thing I came out with a few months later was this ‘Junior Planner for Hire’ presentation that has been viewed over 1,000 times since. And then I came across The Planner Survey, an annual report on the state of Planning in the world lovingly crafted by Heather LeFevre, which provided a handy list of relevant recruiters in the UK. In the end I got a break with the help of wise, genuinely interested, and very well-connected people at Copper who helped me land an internship at EuroRSCG London which eventually led to a permanent position.


There it is, a very happy ending! And now, in the interests of keeping karma on my side, I’ve put together this presentation of ultimate tips on getting into the industry. Enjoy it, pass it on, and don’t hesitate to get in touch if you have any questions."



Thanks very much, Di. I hope that was interesting for you, AdGrads folk.




3 comments:

milkyorange said...

Thanks for the post! :)

Its really helpful as I am from Lithuania and am facing same struggles (still jobless and having a massive fear towards what-should-i-do-after-graduation) so its good to actually realise that its possible to get a job even if you are from Baltic countries! Nice!

Thanks for the story as it's really inspiring!

Jamie said...

This was a really useful and interesting route Di!
I'm on the look out for junior planner roles too, but they really are few and far between. Even for junior roles, agencies are after people with 1-2 years experience, as it is a role that requires wisdom and experience. Few are prepared to train, many expecting the finished product straight away.

I've been lucky enough to intern at BBH for 6 months and have been applying for any junior planner roles that have been popping up since. But I think there needs to be a much clearer route into planning. I appreciate that there are many, many different routes, but there needs to be more... encouragement and opportunity to get people to the level that agencies expect.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for sharing this. How does the industry see people from the East-European block? Or is background irrelevant? Greeting to the Baltics!