Your advertising job search should begin with examining your career goals. Do you want to be the best graphic designer at a large ad agency? Do you see yourself as an ad sales agent working up to advertising manager? Would you rather work for a large advertising agency, in the marketing department of a large company, or at a small ad agency?
Once you have an idea of your goals, start your job search with a plan of action. Here are some ideas:
- Check with the career-counseling center at your college or university. They can often guide you to job postings.
- Attend career fairs or email a resume to the fair listings.
- Ask your professors for leads to jobs.
- Don’t forget to ask anyone who supervised you during an internship or research project whether they know of any job openings in the field. You might be able to work for them or they may know someplace to recommend.
- Search online sources, such as Monster and CareerBuilder. Post your resume on these sites and apply to any appropriate jobs that you find.
- If you belong to an advertising organization, post a resume on the organization’s website and check its job boards frequently.
- Check the websites of the ad agencies where you think you might like to work. Send a resume to their human resources department.
- You might find recruiters who handle advertising jobs. Sign up with them.
- Prepare a resume and a cover letter and think about possible interview questions.
- Make up a portfolio of your best advertising projects.
Design your job search campaign and follow through and you will find job openings that match your background, experience, and goals.
Resumes and Cover Letters
You will need an excellent resume, possibly more than one, and an outstanding cover letter to carry out your goal of finding and obtaining advertising jobs. Here are some tips for your resume and cover letter.
- It is best to use only one font for your resume. You can use bold or italic versions, but stick with a clean-looking, strong font in a 12-point size.
- Don’t fill the entire page with text. As you probably learned in advertising courses, some white space is pleasing to the eye and makes the text more readable.
- The resume should be no longer than one page.
- Use bullets and numbers to increase white space and draw the eye to important points.
- You will need both paper and online versions of your resume.
- You might need to prepare several resumes, featuring different goals and strengths. For example, you could have one for account executive and another for ad sales.
- You must have all of your contact information at the top of the resume. Include a professional sounding email address, not a cutesy or cartoonish one.
- If you are a recent college graduate, include your GPA, a short list of appropriate courses, and information about an internship you had.
- List concrete examples of work you have completed and the results from that work. For example, if you created and produced an ad campaign, add specific details about the effectiveness of the campaign.
- Use only active verbs and sentences.
- List all of your jobs, even those outside the field of advertising.
- Proofread for typos or misspellings. Have someone else read it as well in order to double check its accuracy.
When you send a resume by mail, you need a cover letter. Many online job listings also require cover letters, so you need to write the best one that you can. The letter should be short, only one page, and written in business letter format. It’s a good idea to indicate some knowledge of the agency or company in your letter, so you should write a new one for each job application. You can use a basic format and then add details. Point out the benefits that you would bring to the company. Address the letter to a specific person if one was listed on the job posting. Make sure to include all of your contact information. Mention that you have references and a portfolio. Check for typos and misspellings before signing the letter.
Your resume and cover letter have gained you a job interview. It’s a great feeling, so enjoy it and then prepare for the interview. As a person seeking advertising jobs, you probably have little trouble meeting and talking with people, but you still need to get ready for an interview. Here are some tips:
- Research the ad agency or company so you will have an idea of the work they are doing, especially if they have won awards and honors.
- You might be required to do a phone interview before a face-to-face one. Have your resume in front of you, speak in a calm voice, and ask questions about the job if you are given time.
- If something is not clear, ask a question.
- For a face-to-face interview, plan to be early and map out ahead of time where you need to go.
- Wear business attire. Your clothes as an employee reflect on the ad agency, so you should try to meet that standard for an interview.
- Be friendly to everyone, including the person who greets you. They may all have input into the hiring process.
- Take several copies of your resume and your portfolio of samples.
- Shake hands firmly with the interviewer.
- You might have a group interview, so try to prepare. It will probably be similar to an ad campaign presentation you might give for a client, so your school experiences in making presentations will help.
- Think ahead of time about possible questions that you might be asked. Be prepared for the typical interview questions, such as those about your strengths and weaknesses.
- If you have worked in an internship, be ready to share projects that you have worked on.
- Speak clearly and concisely. Don’t wander from the topic.
- Ask questions about the position, showing that you have considered the job.
- Only speak in a positive way about your school, professors, and former bosses.
- Be yourself. If an amusing remark is made, it’s all right to laugh.
- If given a chance, show your portfolio. Prepare remarks about the different projects and challenges you overcame with those projects.
- It is all right to ask when the position will be filled.
- Be sure to thank everyone who has interviewed you and write thank you notes or emails as soon as you are home.
Many employers will ask for letters of reference, so take them along on your interviews for advertising jobs or send them ahead if requested. You need to start gathering them before you start the job search process.
Decide who would write a good reference letter for you. A letter from a professor or a boss from an internship is a valuable choice. You will need more than one letter, so you can fit them to the position for which you are applying. For example, ask your advertising professor to write a letter for an advertising job. If the job is copywriting, you might have a letter from a journalism teacher or English professor. You will usually need two or three letters. Choose the professors that know you best or that you have worked most closely with. If needed, give them a list of the classes you have taken under them. If a professor has supervised you during a senior project or research, make sure he or she includes that information in the letter of reference.
If you have worked on an internship, request a letter of reference from your boss. Remind him/her of work you have done for the company, so it’s fresh in their minds.
When you request letters of reference, ask the letter writer if he or she has the time to write the letter and if the letter will be a positive one. A negative reference letter would destroy your chances of being hired, and a neutral letter hurts would hurt far more than it would help, so it’s imperative that all your letters of reference are positive.
You can find sample reference letters on Internet sites, should the letter writer need them. Be sure to allow plenty of time for the letter to be written before you need it for an interview and check a few days in advance to see whether it is ready.
Ask the letter writer to include specific information about you and your work. Just saying that you are a good student doesn’t carry much weight, but concrete examples of your projects should be mentioned. Be sure that your full name and contact information are included with the letter.
Besides letters of reference, an employer may ask for contact information for character references. Be sure you have the reference person’s permission to include this information in an application.
Write thank you notes to everyone who writes a letter of reference for you and to everyone who is willing to be a character reference. Their time is valuable, so show your appreciation.
Working in an internship during the last of your college years can be an invaluable experience. You will be able to participate in real-life advertising campaigns, from talking to the client, to the launch and analysis of the campaign’s effectiveness. Do everything you can to find an internship, because the experience puts you ahead of job searchers who have not had the opportunity. An internship enables you to start with experience along with your degree.
Finding an internship will be similar to finding advertising jobs after graduation. You should ask professors if they know of anyone looking for interns, search online websites and the job listings of advertising associations. Once you find an opening, submit a resume of your classes and GPA to that point. Prepare a portfolio of samples and fill out an application if required. Just as with a job search, you will likely need some letters of reference, so ask your professors to write them for you. Some internships will pay a small amount, but even unpaid internships can be valuable.
Once you have an internship, treat it as you would a job after graduation. Always be on time, courteous, willing to learn, and ready to help anyone who needs it. Listen carefully to the instructions that are given to you and do everything you can to participate in any projects. Ask questions and do extra work when you can. If you plan to be an advertising account executive, you may think it useless to do tasks usually done by a copywriter or graphic artist. But it is advantageous to learn a little about the jobs of others on an advertising team. Use the opportunity to try out those jobs.
As you work on the internship, you will likely have regular performance reviews. Listen to what is said and change your work behavior and attitude if needed. Also, notice what things you are commended for.
Many colleges will award credit for the hours spent in an internship, so be sure to check with the school. It can be difficult to fit the hours needed for an internship around your class schedule, but well worth the effort.
Once your internship is complete, thank everyone that you worked for. Ask the boss and a couple of other people to write letters of reference for you. You might find that they have a permanent job for you and then you are well on your way to an exciting advertising career.