Sunday, 21 April 2013

Some practical advice...

Borrowed from here. Usual rules apply. 


I thought that it might be a good idea to talk a little bit about something most graduate schemes (and indeed, the industry) seem to neglect. The practical side.

For those of you who don’t live in the South East of the country, getting into Advertising - (or, at the very least, getting some work experience so you can make your mind up) seems doubly tricky; because a) You don’t know anyone in London or have anyone you can stay with and b) Most of the graduate schemes or work experience programmes are closed/you’ve not heard anything back from those few emails you sent to a general email address most agencies offer.

Before I go on, I do know there are agencies outside of London. Of course. There are many fine agencies in Manchester or Birmingham.  But, given that the bulk of agencies are in London (and London is what I have experience of, as a West Midlander who wanted to work in London), that’s what this blog post will concern itself with. The same, general rules apply for any big city, I think - whether it’s within Blighty or the US.

Right. There are two flavours of practical advice you need to concern yourself with, which I’ll outline below:

1) Proving that you know about/want a career in Advertising

Over the past six odd years, I have met a lot of people who have seemingly done everything right - they have a good degree, have already made in-roads into meeting people in Advertising and may even run their University or College’s Marketing/Advertising student club.

Despite this, they haven’t been able to get in. I’m afraid (and I had to learn this the hard way) that there’s a gap between being academically adept and getting into the industry. This puts a lot of bright people off, chiefly because they’ve been used to getting good marks and simply progressing. ‘Getting in’ is not an empirical thing. There isn’t a magic route. Some people are simply fortunate by getting in via their first interview. Others, like me, have had to have a year or so getting work experience, living at home and saving money before they finally succeeded.

That said (and I don’t wish to hector or belabour the point), there are definitely short cuts you can use.

I did several things to prove that I knew about and really wanted a career in Advertising. I blogged, showcased my situation and my thinking and tried to connect, via twitter, with a wider number of Ad-folk. There wasn’t one magic, ‘eureka’ moment. It all worked together to help me get into the business.

Whilst, I know, more people blog than ever nowadays (at the time, in 2005/6, ad blogs were fairly new, much less a wannabe, graduate blog), not enough grads use Slideshare to showcase their thinking/situation. Consider using it - it’ll help provide an introduction to those potential agency employers when sending those initial emails to agencies.

If you can, email a named person, not just a generic email address. A real person has responsibility. A 'wanttowork' email has very little obligation to get back in touch with you.

2) Getting to, and living in London.

This, for most, will prove to be the biggest stumbling block. You don’t need me to tell you that London is bloody expensive, and if you don’t have family members/friends living here, it seems like a right bloody faff.

It needn’t be. There are ways and means for getting down to the Big Smoke and having somewhere to live. For starters, unless you’re loaded, don’t consider a short term let. The chances are, you’ll need to be in London for a week to about six weeks, depending on what you’ve been able to get (work experience, or a summer school programme; or even just a day of graduate interviews).

Instead, consider youth hostels. Yes, I know. YOUTH HOSTELS?! If you went travelling, you probably last encountered them somewhere halfway round the world, or somewhere to be put up on a school trip. Suffice to say, neither memory is likely to be wholly positive.

I’m pleased to say that the YHA is a brilliant option. I stayed in one when I had work experience at Fallon, DLKW and Saatchi & Saatchi. Don’t get me wrong, it’s not exactly the Ritz, but it’s good value for money and gives you breakfast, which is the important thing.

Yes, London is costly, but if you’re savvy (the Taste Card is a good shout for evening meals) and stay in the right sort of accommodation, it is affordable, no matter who you are. And, personally, it helped spur me on to do my best at my work experience to try and turn it into a full time position.

I hope that little lot helps, all.

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