Friday, 30 November 2007

When What You Want Isn't What You're Getting

Grad recruitment isn't the be all and end all

We've all been quiet over the last week but in our defense we do have good excuses. Anton has (as usual) high-tailed it out to the Middle East for some winter sun, Alex is growing a classy tache (which you'll hear more about) and Will has been waist deep in the art of planning.

What about me? Well like a lot of us, I've had some first round interviews this week, I had JWT on Monday, M&C Saatchi on Wednesday and AMV on Thursday. I think they all went ok, but as is the nature of the beast, you only know how it went when you're told. And waiting is a big pain.

A lot of you have asked us for a post about other ways into the industry, and it's something that we'll go a little bit deeper into in the early part of next year, but as a starter, I hope this is useful.


There are nothing but rejection letters on your desk and in your inbox, your friends are asking in lectures how the interviews went, you have a dissertation to do and feel deflated or all you can see is another year ahead without a grad training job as you’ve held out for the previous round with no joy.

Well, it doesn’t have to be so shit. Firstly if you’re still at uni you will need to drag yourself up to focus on your finals, without a 2:1 it’ll be hard to find a grad training scheme anyway. If you’ve finished uni there is still a boat to catch.
There is an emerging trend where agencies don’t actually practice the usual grad recruitment which is the usual 2 stage interview process. Saatchi & Saatchi, Leo Burnett and Publicis now use their Summer Schools as grounds to recruit for their grad training schemes, so keep a close eye on their websites.

Also there is the other way which isn’t the traditional grad route. It’s to join an agency as a junior account exec. This is where you pretty much feel like you’re on work experience, don’t receive the training the grads get and usually paid a little less. But it is actually one of the best ways to enter the industry.

While the grads get pampered with training, you, as an account assistant, are thrown into the thick of it where you’re expected to be a strong support line to your account team. You’ll learn quicker than the grads and you’ll be under more pressure than the grads. If you’re worried that you’ll do twice as much work as the grads and not get promoted like they are think again. Agencies are very prude when making promotions and it usually is made on merit especially at the more junior levels so this is still a great chance to enter and climb the ladder of the ad industry.

So how do you go about becoming an account assistant if you’ve missed the grad recruitment boat? Well, firstly you need to have some kind of experience within agencies. Account assistants are usually hired because they were a close choice to being on the grad rounds and usually its experience that speaks volumes. So if you don’t have any get on the blower to some agencies and organise the odd 1 or 2 week stint or apply to the summer schools as you could still make a grad scheme. Once you have the experience and a paper reference from it, you can start approaching agencies.

Start by finding out which agencies have just won large accounts and jump on them straight away (large wins are usually screamed about in Campaign and at BrandRepublic). What usually happens with a large account win is that the agency will start to organise moving key people off other accounts to front the new one, it’s pretty much all hands on deck - a perfect opportunity for a budding account assistant who rings the agency, tells them they are ready to go to work and help out where needed. Don’t be disappointed if the first few say ‘no thank you’, like all things it’s a trail and error process. If you really want it you’ll come across an agency that is looking.

Sign up with some recruitment agencies (eg. Pathfinders), Google for the ones who specialise in advertising/marketing and be prepared to go with an agency in digital, marketing services, DM as well as the large networks.
The point being is that just because you didn’t get into a grad recruitment scheme it doesn’t have to mean that advertising isn’t for you. It could have been a number of things that just were not in your favour on the day and how can a lifelong career be judged simply off an interview that lasted maybe 30 mins?
Well….it can’t so if you really want it go about making it yours through whatever means necessary!

And don't give up.


Anonymous said...

Couldn't agree more. People working in the industry who joined as grads tend to be a minority...

One other thing. The Ogilvy Fellowship (which opens for applications in the next couple of weeks) does not require a degree, let alone a 2:1.

Anonymous said...

I second that. Other good recruitment agencies for Account Assistant/Exec jobs - Impact, Spectrum and Red Triangle.