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Graduation season is upon us and it’s an important time of the year to pause and celebrate those coming to the end of an academic chapter. But for those who are not recent grads, spring can provide us with an opportunity to reflect on our own careers, what makes us happy at work and keep ourselves honest about how to push ourselves and our teams to grow and be better.
Whether you’re a new graduate or simply looking to explore a change, below are a few tips to consider as you contemplate your next step, whatever that may be.
Apply even if you didn’t go to ad school
Many ad schools and programs are still super focused on art direction, copywriting or design. But today’s work, smaller budgets and tighter timelines call for content creators, makers and creative technologists. We’re seeing an increase in talent with less linear career trajectories and candidates that understand design and development but also know how to play with technology in an interesting way. The world of advertising provides people with so many different opportunities, so it’s OK to apply to roles that don’t fit perfectly with your experience. Diversity of thought is hugely important to this industry.
Utilize your director of talent
It’s important for candidates to create a relationship with recruiters or directors of talent. Most people don’t realize how entrenched these roles are within an organization. Sometimes candidates even see them as a barrier to get to a creative director. They don’t see that they have a pulse on the agency and the industry, know who will be a cultural fit, know what is important to our hiring managers and that they can be the candidate’s advocate as much as they are for the agency advocate.
If candidates make a great impression with a recruiter, that person can help them in numerous capacities down the line. At agencies, recruiters are not only the first touch point for candidates, but they often become their long-term advocates because they want to see them succeed. They’re about creating long-lasting relationships, matchmaking and helping people. Recruiters are the ones making the case for them to get hired and then helping them navigate the agency once they arrive. They’re responsible for a new employee’s onboarding, creating a career path, goal setting, checking in with hiring managers on performance, company culture, operational and departmental structures, company growth and expansion plans. They keep an eye on their performance and continue to stay in touch with candidates throughout their career. It can also be a resource in future jobs.
Don’t worry if you aren’t an extrovert
There’s a perception in our industry that you have to be a charming extrovert to be successful in advertising. Over the course of my career, I’ve received feedback that a candidate was “too nervous” or “too quiet,” as if those were negative traits. I believe there needs to be room for introverts as well as extroverts, and a great agency will create space for many different types of people to grow and thrive.
Overall, people who show they are passionate, determined, focused, work hard, listen well and follow through know how to read a room and treat others with empathy and compassion go far. A sense of humor certainly helps, too.
Know your story and be clear, concise and compelling. Be relentless. Keep at it. Create a network. Take informational interviews even if there isn’t a role available. Build relationships and keep up with people. And, most importantly, be yourself. Recruiters talk to so many people, it is really refreshing when they speak with someone who is direct, honest, genuine and not too rehearsed for the sake of an interview.
Learn about the company you’re interviewing with and come prepared with smart questions that are informed based upon what you’ve learned. Recruiters want to know why you want to work at that specific agency versus any other place.
Have a sense of what some of your goals are. Recruiters also want to be sure theirs is a place that can support your goals or help you find your way.