Last month, McKinney’s Ellen Steinberg and Stevie Archer spoke at The Creative Circus’ Friday Forum about “The Pitch” and working in advertising. On the lookout for new talent, our recruiters Katelyn Johnson and Josh Janicek came along to see student books, and Josh spoke with Circus Advertising Department Head Dan Balser in a “Don’t Get Me Started” podcast. But they did get started, and Josh shared five tips for new-grad creative hoping to land a gig at an agency:
Use every tool you have at your disposal (social media, LinkedIn, your career services departments, etc.) to learn about the agency and the people you will be interviewing with well before you walk in the agency doors — not the night before. Look at an art director’s portfolio so you can talk about what you admire. Scour the agency’s website to learn what new accounts and awards they won, who was recently hired and what campaigns launched. “I see people become dismantled when an interviewer asks them, ‘So what do you love about McKinney?’ because they looked at the website the night before and don’t remember what they saw. They didn’t take the time to internalize it,” explains Josh.
Tailor your conversation differently for each agency. “You can’t go into every meeting with the same questions because each agency has its own culture and its own problems,” says Josh. If you’ve done the research mentioned above, you’ll do this naturally. Focus on understanding each agency’s problems and, most importantly, how you can be relevant to the agency in solving them.
#3 REALLY GOOD WORK
“If you send me an email with a link to your portfolio, to your website,” says Josh, “I’ll click on it and look around for 5 to 10 seconds, but it needs to make some sort of impact in those 5 to 10 seconds so that I stay longer.” The site must be easy to navigate and the first work the viewer sees should be your best. How do you know it’s your best? Dan Balser explains it this way: “Care about every element on the page or screen. Every element represents a decision you were charged to make. It takes caring about things that you feel like you shouldn’t care about. Those who are that neurotic have the best work.”
Send a couple sentences (not paragraphs) to a recruiter through email or LinkedIn to introduce yourself, paste a link to your work, and ask for something as simple as an informational interview or a tour of the agency. You’re goal, initially, is to start a relationship with this person, not to get a job. Josh warns, “Don’t blindly send me your resume.”
Do what it takes to work around a potential employer’s schedule; do not expect them to work around yours. “If you want to work at McKinney, you have to be willing to meet with me at our office for a half hour, see our space, maybe grab a beer or a coffee downtown.” Basically follow through on the brief email mentioned above. This relationship you’re building is going to be one-sided for a while.
Josh and Dan also talk about the tendency to jump from agency to agency, the benefits of grinding it out at one shop, what ad schools could do better to prepare their graduates, and how Josh and creative directors at McKinney mentor creative once they’re in the door (a benefit of being a mid-sized agency).
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