My Job Search, Part IV

I started writing this article in my head in January. I saw myself on the cover of Adweek with the headline, “She got a job!” Let me explain what happened.

A human resources representative at a direct marketing agency in New York contacted me about a junior copywriter job. I had been in touch with this agency since I graduated last May, and I’d shown a few of the creative directors my work. I was in the city the following week.

I met with two creative directors, an acd and two creative supervisors. I was even called, later in the day, to come back and meet more people. I had great conversations with everyone I spoke to. I learned about the opportunities writers get at direct marketing agencies. I could not help but be excited about the agency and the chance to work there.

The next afternoon, back in Miami, I got a call from another HR rep. We talked a bit about salary and what account I would be on. She told me to think about any questions I had and said we’d talk the next day. I started telling everyone, “I think I have a job.” But the next day came and went. The following week, she told me the agency was working out some structural issues. Another two weeks passed, and I got an e-mail saying the agency was almost ready to hire. More time passed, and I was told they needed another one or two weeks. When I stopped by Miami Ad School a few weeks later, I found out the agency had hired another graduate.

I realized my next column would not be my last. But throughout all of this, I’m still hopeful. Two weeks ago, I spoke with a HR rep from the direct agency, and she told me they were looking for junior writers for another account. They hired one person from my school, and I’m hoping they will hire more. Over and over I have heard, “It’s got a lot to do with timing.” And I take comfort in knowing my name, face and work are in the minds of creatives at the agency.

Still, I have to admit this set me back. During the next few months, my job search stopped dead in its tracks. A recruiter wanted to send my book to a small agency in NYC. I told him that was fine, but I didn’t even fake excitement about my chances. I wasn’t surprised when I didn’t hear back. I needed to revise my portfolio, but it collected dust on my desk. I sat around reading magazines, driving my niece to Little League and taking care of my nephew. I was becoming a soccer mom.

Then something happened that sparked me back into action. Betsy Yamazaki, the creative manager at Lowe, visited Miami with Adam Fels, a copywriter at Lowe who went to Miami Ad School. Adam worked with me when I studied at the school’s program in New York, and he helped me realize I should be a copywriter—before I took his class, I was a frustrated art director who didn’t know how to make her layouts look better. We had dinner with Ron and Pippa Seichrist (the founder of Miami Ad School and his wife, the school’s president) and their daughter. The conversation made me realize I’d been too far away from advertising for the past few months.

The next day, I heard my teacher talk about his work. I felt inspired again. I worked on headlines, body copy and layouts for a few weeks. Then I headed to Chicago for some feedback.

I was in town to work on the Cannes Young Creatives competition. The brief was e-mailed March 29, and teams had one week to complete a print PSA about weapons threats in schools. I teamed up with Jamie Levey, a freelance art director. She gave me some advertising contacts in Chicago, so while I worked on the competition, I also met creative managers at Hadrian’s Wall, Leo Burnett, FCB, Cramer-Krasselt and DDB.

The feedback on my portfolio was very critical, but it was what I needed. It seems that I still don’t have a book that’s going to guarantee me a job, if there is such a thing. A creative at Leo talked about how my campaigns need to find a voice. A creative at DDB said my book needed some packaged goods. I was also told my book was a good start but wasn’t really there yet. I walked out of one interview ready to cry because I felt like my work would never be good enough.

I’ve begun the process of transforming my book once again. Maybe I’m a fool, but for some reason, I feel better about it this time around. I am not just changing layouts, headlines or copy. This time, I’m changing concepts and creating new ideas for new products. I know I have to move away from ads I did in school and start really pushing new campaigns. More important, I need to push my ideas. In Chicago, a creative at Hadrian’s Wall told me to “swing harder.” That is exactly what I plan to do.