Graduating this summer
Graduation is an exciting milestone, but it can be a stressful one too. Leaving behind the carefree days of university and climbing the first rung of the career ladder can seem overwhelming, but don’t fret, Anna O’Callaghan, Head of Creative Talent at The Industry Club is here with some tips to help you through it.
First things first, when creating your CV, I would always recommend a one pager, no ‘the more info the merrier’ here guys. This holds whether you’re just starting out or well established in your field. Make sure your past experience is relevant to the job you’re applying for in some aspect.
Secondly, be creative! A bog standard CV in a Word document doesn’t stand out, and just won’t cut it. You’re entering the creative world of advertising – so sell yourself! The content of your CV is crucial, but it needs to look attractive too.
When I left University (a long time ago now, shhh) our tutors advised us not to have more than 7 campaigns in our portfolios. With so many mediums available to creatives today, I’m not sure that 7 campaigns are even necessary anymore, as long as you’re making use of networks like Bēhance and social media.
My advice to any recent graduate is that less is definitely more. People are busy and rightly or wrongly, are almost guaranteed to judge you on the first campaign that they see, so make sure it’s a good one! Idea wise, it needs to be the strongest and clearest in your portfolio.
Try to keep your campaigns diverse: don’t repeat ideas, and include a broad range of clients to demonstrate that you really understand different types of audiences. Make sure you really do understand them though; otherwise you’ll definitely be caught out come interview time.
Only put the work that you are most proud of in your portfolio. It’s so important to know your campaigns and be confident with them. Ideas are incredibly important, but the way you sell them can be just as crucial. When it comes down to it, people still hire people, not computers. They want to know you’ll be a good fit for their business.
After my partner and I had just graduated, we had our fair share of crits. We found ourselves taking on all of the advice from all of the creative directors, and we ended up with campaigns that just didn’t make sense. So, our advice is to take on board the advice you really believe in, and that resonates with you most. We all have an opinion; it doesn’t mean we’re all right. Back yourself – it’s your work.
The Job Hunt
Once your CV and Portfolio are the best they can be, let the job hunt begin! First off, get yourself as many crits as you can: this helps you develop your ideas, but exposes you to alternative ways of thinking. Always ask whether the creative giving you your crit can put you in touch with someone else, the creative industries are a surprisingly small world.
Then it’s all about placements, placements, placements. A lot of agencies offer them, and you’ll quickly come to understand the way agencies work, and learn a huge amount while you do. Your best bet to try and secure a placement is to try and get yourself in front of the Creative Director, or contact HR, or alternatively – give us a shout!
Once you’re in, go above and beyond every day. Don’t be shy about asking for briefs or a new challenge. Equally, don’t think asking loads of questions will be annoying; everyone you meet will have been in your shoes at some stage. Try and help and add value at every stage – you want to be noticed (for the good things…). If that means making endless rounds of tea, then so be it, we’ve all got to start somewhere, and a cuppa goes a long way.
The most important piece of advice I can give you is just to be yourself. It sounds like a cliché, but in my experience it’s totally true.
If you’re part of a team it’s absolutely crucial that you let your chemistry shine through. As I said, people employ people, and attitude and mindset are the most crucial factors when businesses are recruiting. Don’t forget that training can come later, personality can’t. Don’t be nervous if you feel you lack experience, most people do when they start out, and you will learn more than you ever thought possible on the job.
Of course, if you have a portfolio you have a handy prop to talk about during your interview. Make sure you know your portfolio inside out and are confident talking about your campaigns. Questions are inevitable; don’t get caught out through lack of preparation. Practice your presentation, and if you’re a team, make sure you decide in advance who will talk about what, so you don’t end up talking over each other and repeating yourselves.
Before any interview, do your research. Know who works there, who their clients are, any recent awards they’ve won. Go through their website with a fine-toothed comb, and stalk them on social media. Don’t think you can wing it, you’ll be busted. Come up with some initial thoughts about their clients, and if you have a good idea, then share it. You want to come across as keen and pro-active, so if you can find out anything about the person you’re meeting to embellish the conversation, then do so. It’s worth coming up with a reason why you’d like to work there – I need a job is not the right answer, however true it may be.
It can be tough out there, but all new graduates are in the same boat. Your job hunt is important, but there’s no harm in some fun and creativity along the way, plus it will give you something to talk about in your interviews. Keep motivated, be proactive and try to stay in touch with anyone you meet along the way, you never know what might come of a quick hello.
The best advice I can give you for your whole creative career is to never stop being a sponge. Absorb anything and everything: in London especially, there is absolutely no excuse not to turn yourself into a culture black hole, sucking in everything around you to feed your creative ideas.
Finally, here’s a great article by Laura Bombach, CD at Mr President, that inspires me to stay creative every day, I hope it will inspire you too.
Once you’ve got your CV and portfolio ready, have a look through our vacancies and get in touch, we’d love to help you take the first step in your career.