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The Adventures of Entry-Level Job Hunting in Advertising
By: Cameron Kirkwood
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Ever hear that turn of phrase: How are you supposed to apply to a mandated two-years-experience job without two years of experience when every entry-level position requires it?

This is a real, scary truth in many industries, and let me tell you — the ad industry certainly does not shy away from it. Except there’s one thing that stands out in our field, and that’s that the infamous ad ego makes it that much harder.

Everyone wants something different. How do you find that unique balance of creative and professional? Will this place find this funny, or will they be offended by the lack of respect on the matter? Is the cover letter even the place for wittiness? Gasp, but like, what if I sound like a robot?

But back to the ego. How do you appeal to someone who will get turned off by one thing they don’t like? One little mistake and on to the next one!

Now, let’s be clear. I’m not talking about grammar mistakes or being too off-balance from the creative/professional spectrum. What I’m referring to is something along the lines of mentioning you did a campaign piece on KFC for school, and the person in HR happens to be a huge advocate against the service.

“Who cares, right? I have 1,000 other CVs to look over.” Is this fair?

Plot twist: I 110% think it is. Luck of the draw, my friend. Deal with it. Here’s where the ego comes back in. One day, when HR sends me their top 10 resumes to look over, I admit right now that I’ll fall victim to this bias. In fact, I look forward to it.

Thought this was a rant? Take a closer look at the title. It’s called “The Adventures,” not “The Struggles” of entry-level job hunting. A good tip I received once is that “applying in advertising is 90% luck, and only 10% about the work. The amount that you put yourself out there to test that luck is what’s important.”

However, I do have one problem with the application process. It’s something that affects juniors immensely, and it’s something I do believe should be brought to attention.

That’s the negligence of looking at the person’s work. What’s different and often forgotten about the junior application process is that it’s fully dependent on the work itself and not their prior work experience.
 
Both a beauty and a curse, this digital age has given the average job hunter the power of analytics. I can’t tell you the amount of times I dedicated hours, sometimes even days, to tailoring the perfect cover letter, the quirkiest approaches to deliver, and I didn’t receive a single impression on my LinkedIn.

Back in 2014, AdWeek posted an article explaining their top tips when writing a cover letter for an ad agency position. However, more than anything, what imprinted on me when I read it last year was the section where they explain in detail how they hardly ever even looked at the cover letter itself.

This is a frightening concept. It’s bittersweet to think that maybe past applications didn’t make the cut, not because of the work itself, but because it wasn’t ever looked at. However, that poses another problem. How is the junior supposed to learn from their mistakes when they’re not sure if their work has even been evaluated?

It’s a shame to think that my colleagues, who have produced incredible work, are still lacking of an employer. Interestingly enough, I got my gig by simply leaving a friendly message on their website.

And guess what? They actually looked into my work! I received one impression on my LinkedIn, and all of a sudden there was a plethora of visits all over my social medias by a number of people from the place, followed with an invitation for a Skype interview the very next day.

One thing I can both reflect on and advise to future job hunters is that you can and should have fun when applying. Seriously, there’s almost a thrill behind tailoring each individual piece to your future job.

Be different. Don’t just make any old email, cover letter, and especially your portfolio. How are you going to stand out amongst the clutter? Especially in an industry of creatives!

I’ve mapped out plans to mail entire mini fridges before. My portfolio was made into a fully tangible, life-sized LinkedIn (*Cough* which you can find here). A friend of mine created an entire video game for a portfolio! (Takes a second to load, if you’re interested.)

There are endless possibilities, and you have the imagination to think it up. Sure, it can be demoralizing when your hard work hasn’t been acknowledged; however, just get up and try again. Just keep putting yourself out there, and never forget the adventures your job hunting unfolds.


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About the Author
Cameron Kirkwood is a recent graduate, but a forever student of advertising. An aspiring brand strategist and digital aficionado, Cameron seeks to change the game through new and different channels of advertising in an ever extensively growing industry.
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