I graduated from school during the recession of '91-'92 and probably had the same feeling in my gut that many of the recent or upcoming college graduates are having about getting their first job in advertising or marketing. I kept thinking that nobody would take a look at me until I had experience, but how was I supposed to get the experience? It seemed like a chicken and egg situation. While people are losing their jobs in the advertising & marketing sector, there are still ways to gain that important experience and even more important relationships that will set you up for success. Here are 5 ideas that can help college graduates in this recession.
1. Leverage What You Already Know: Chances are if you are 21 or so, you live on the web. Your life revolves around your mobile phone, facebook, myspace or any of the other social applications that allow people (and brands) to connect and interact with each other. Agencies and their clients are trying to find ways to utilize the social web to get closer to their customers. While people in the agency are certainly catching up and are learning about the social web, we are all interested in having people that are engaged in the social web as deeply as the Millenial generation. So, 2 things here -
1: Study how brands are interacting with you on the social web and learn about who is doing it right and wrong, this will serve you well in an interview and make you sound like you know what you're talking about.
2: Apply for a social media internship at an agency, if they don't have one open, offer one. Maybe they haven't thought about it.
2. Leverage Who You Already Know: Networking is a skill that's typically perfected over time and usually a student coming out of school hasn't mastered it, yet. These are extraordinary times and knowing how to properly network until you find what you're looking for will help you achieve your goals. A few ideas on this topic:
1: Join LinkedIn and add all of your college friends and parent's friends. And then, request to connect with all of their friends. Make it known that you are searching for an entry-level or internship in an advertising or marketing agency.
2. Join Ziki and utilize their search engine locator tool - people will search for you on Google and your Ziki profile can help you appear in the paid search listings.
3: Use Facebook as a networking tool not a place to post drinking pictures. You probably have hundreds of people already connected with you on either FB or Myspace, use them to get a job not a date.
4. Attend Local Marketing Events: If you live in a major market, there are probably marketing events either for interactive or advertising. Go to them to learn and to meet people.
3. Create a Google Reader Account and subscribe to the feeds of the top 500 marketing blogs. Sort your reader in folders that divide the content into areas such as, B2B Marketing, Interactive Marketing, Search, Mobile etc. Be religious about reading the content and learning it. Star the articles and posts you think are smart and be good about referencing them when you do get an interview. Being informed about what is happening in the marketplace is the best way to sound smarter and more advanced than the other people that are interviewing for your same position. Agencies hire people that can add value every step of the way, especially now when we need to do more with less.
4. Create A Social Media Resume which is a multi-media dossier that will give the potential hiring manager a layered and dimensional perspective on who you are and what you know. This would include not only your basic resume, but links to all of your social networks, papers you've written and a professional video introducing you to the hiring manager. This will certainly set you apart from the people that are just sending resumes to HR and praying someone calls them back.
5. Write a Marketing Blog that outlines your take on what brands and companies are doing in the marketplace. This is a great way for people to see your passion for marketing and your writing skills. This takes a great deal of effort, but is worth it. Not only will you be forced to analyze and study what is happening in the world of marketing, but it will most definitely set you apart from the other entry level candidates. And, if you do it right, you will be connected to other influential marketing bloggers that can help you network. Find a leader blog and emulate their content and widgets until you feel comfortable.
Breaking into our industry isn't easy, especially today. However, there are ways to separate yourself from the pack in the process of interviewing. These will test your will for how much you really want to break into the marketing/advertising world. And, if there is one thing you take away from this post is that agencies are needing to do more with less, we need people in our companies that will add value beyond answering phones or pushing paper. Make yourself a 'must-have' hire by pointing out ideas and thoughts that the agency and their clients can't live without.
Oh yea, one more small, but big thing - send your interviewer a handwritten thank you note confirming your key points from the interview. Best case, hand deliver the very next morning to the receptionist or assistant. This goes a very long way.