My Job Search, Part III

Nine months and counting. I graduated from Miami Ad School on March 20. I checked my diploma just to be sure. A friend told me he couldn’t believe I didn’t have a job yet. But I can believe it. After all the interviews, calls, portfolio reviews and e-mails, I can believe that I am still looking for a job. Some people look at me as if I’m a hurt puppy when I tell them how long I’ve been looking. But all I need to do is talk to my friends who are also looking for advertising jobs to instantly find people who know what I’m going through. It’s hard to feel alone in this job market.

I spent much of my time since my last update [Adweek, Oct. 6] getting ready for a Miami Ad School portfolio review in New York on Dec. 18. Revising headlines and copy, and working on some art direction. I added a long-copy campaign about Miami Beach. (After the reviews in May, I’d gotten mixed feedback about my only long-copy campaign, on Saudi Arabian oil, and I took those ads out.)

While I was getting ready for my trip, I heard from a creative manager at a big New York agency who told me she wasn’t hiring but wouldn’t mind looking at my revised work. A few weeks later, an assistant from the agency called and said my work was not what they were looking for. Not what they were looking for at that time or in general? She said in general. I asked what the agency does look for. She told me she would have someone else call me back. This was the first time I’d been in the position to ask an agency this question. If my book is not what an agency is looking for, then what are they looking for? But a few days later when the creative manager e-mailed, she said the creative directors had nothing specific to say about my book. She also said the job search is all about being at the right place at the right time and she was sure I would find something.

In the weeks before the review, I sent out 25 books to creative directors in New York. I arrived a week early to try and see as many creatives as possible. But the timing—a week before Christmas—was tough, and I was only able to meet with people at two agencies.

One, an art director at Arnold, suggested an internship, assuring me that three to six months at an agency could only help my portfolio. I’m seriously going to consider it. A group creative director at McCann-Erickson talked to me about how to fine-tune some of my copy and sent me around the office to meet other creatives. A creative at Deutsch told me over the phone that he liked my book but the work and my experience level were not right for his group. Now more than ever, I wanted this portfolio review to go well.

I walked in and realized I was surrounded by students who had just graduated from Miami Ad School. A new crop of grads, some in the hunt for the same positions I wanted. The atmosphere was very different from other reviews I had been to. We were seated around the showroom of an architecture and design studio. Everyone was lounging on the furniture, and the relaxed venue made for a better review. I met with people from Draft, Young & Rubicam, Temerlin McClain, J. Walter Thompson, Powell, DCA and Lowe. A recruiter from Greenberg Kirshenbaum whom I’d met before told me she thought I’d gotten a job because she hadn’t heard from me. I kicked myself for not keeping in better touch. A handful of agencies weren’t interested in looking at copywriter portfolios at all, and maybe half of the agencies that replied didn’t show up.

The response to my work was better than I’d expected. The work had gotten stronger. People seemed to enjoy my writing. A writer from Y&R gave me great feedback on my long-copy campaign and asked that I keep in touch as I worked on the ads. All the revisions had paid off. And I had made more contacts for 2004.

I’ve learned a lot from a freelance copywriter in New York who teaches at SVA. (He contacted me after my past columns ran.) Recently, he asked me to mail him some great ads, not including anything in an awards annual. Questioning my choices, he reminded me that without a great concept, an ad goes nowhere. I’ve realized that although I went to ad school, I still have a lot to learn (and remember). I’ve started picking up books about copywriting.

I’m trying to stay focused on revising my portfolio. I’ve even found myself renting movies with the ad industry in the plot, everything from What Women Want to How to Get Ahead in Advertising. My college marketing professor once showed us the scene in Kramer vs. Kramer where Dustin Hoffman gets a job at an advertising agency during its holiday party. Maybe I should have crashed a few parties while I was in New York?