Mailbag: How to get started in Advertising.

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 This question came to me through At The Roundtable yesterday.  Its a pretty basic question so I thought I’d post the answer here.

 I’m a student, and I will graduate in May. I’m interested in starting a career in Media, and I was wondering if you have any advice or suggestions. What kinds of skills and qualities are necessary? What do you typically look for or think that other people look for when hiring new employees? I’m sure you are very busy, but any advice would be helpful.

 It depends on what you mean by media.  Are you interested in media planning and/or buying from within an agency, or more along the interactive/social media strategy side?  Or Media Relations/PR?  Either way, if you are graduating with some sort of advertising, marketing or communications degree, and have done some internships either with agencies or corporate marketing departments, then you should be in good shape.  You could also intern on the radio or TV station side, or even with a magazine or newspaper,  which would give you some insight into what happens on that side of the fence.

If you are looking for agency experience, then you will be best served getting into an agency in any capacity, because its all connected.  If you can get in on the ground floor as a media coordinator, or an assistant planner or buyer, then great.  But it would also be good to take an entry level position in the broadcast traffic/production department, or as a coordinator in the account service department, or as a project manager in the creative dept.  All of these positions get your foot in the door of the agency itself, and once you are there and prove you can work hard, you can let them know that you would like to move up into media positions as they come available. 

As an entry level person, the only skills you need are a willingness to work your butt off getting the job done, however its needed.  Being organized, managing multiple projects with multiple team-members and different due dates, and keeping everyone else on the team you are supporting looking good.  That’s the basics.  Once you get a handle on that, then you can start taking on more, like helping your manager with excess workload that gives you a chance to learn something new.  Always be the one willing to run errands, be a runner/gopher (as in Go For…) –  take things to other departments and get to the know the people there, so that if a position comes up in that dept that you want, they know you and could see adding you to their team.  Always be willing to jump in and do something that isn’t your responsibility but shows your leadership and desire to help the agency overall, even if it isn’t glamorous, like answering the phones or making copies.  Its the willingness to help out that people remember.  And this cannot be understated – MEET AS MANY PEOPLE AS POSSIBLE WITHIN THE AGENCY, AS OFTEN AS POSSIBLE.  Go to the happy hours (but don’t get drunk).  Babysit the Creative Director’s bratty preschooler – if someone trusts you in their home, they will recommend you to anyone who asks.  The CEO’s secretary should know you, well- (and I don’t mean in a personal – my boyfriend is an ass, thanks for letting me bend your ear kind of way- just… NO).  She makes things happen that others can’t.  This is the key to moving up.

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