So, you want to break into advertising? Whether you’re a recent college graduate or a workforce veteran hoping to make a career change, metro advertising executives say it’s best to be realistic about this field.
“While we have an extremely eclectic group of people, they do share some common threads,” says Chris Ray, CEO of The Ramey Agency. “We look for new team members who are passionate about life and the career they have chosen. We often hire people with a can-do attitude even if they don’t have all of the skills for the position and need further training.”
Rick Looser, president and COO of The Cirlot Agency, cautions advertising job seekers to make sure they have the personality for this line of work in addition to the necessary skills. “You need to be fairly thick skinned but also believe in your ideas to defend and promote them. You must believe in yourself,” he said.
Jeff Russell, a partner and executive vice president with the GodwinGroup, says agencies need people with a variety of skills. “That includes writers, artists and Web designers on the creative side, but also includes market strategists, planners, researchers and accountants on the business side,” he said. “Everyone contributes to the end result, which is growing the client base.”
All three say the ability to communicate orally and through writing is essential. “The thing I see that seems to be worse every year is that we don’t come across many folks who can write well,” Looser said. “Communication skills are suffering. What’s appropriate for text and instant messaging is not appropriate for business communication. Everyone in advertising sees it.”
He added that job applicants need to exhibit well-rounded reasoning and thought processes because they must be able to get their ideas across in a presentation or a written one-page summary for a busy executive.
Russell and Ray stress the advantage of internships. “It worked for me,” Russell said. “I transferred to Delta State because they had an intern program although many schools have them now. It’s very competitive and there are few jobs so anything that can set you apart is helpful.”
Ray says the Ramey Agency receives truckloads of résumés this time of year from bright college grads. “The ones that rise to the top are those with agency internship experience. Those folks usually hit the ground running faster than graduates without agency experience,” he said. “As a former agency intern myself, I’m a huge believer in getting intern experience.”
Matching skill sets
Someone trying to get into advertising from another line of work is facing additional challenges. Looser recommends looking for an agency that matches a skill set from the previous career.
“For example, it makes sense for a hospital administrator to find an advertising agency that has healthcare accounts,” he said. “Find what you’re doing in your current career that translates into an advantage. Starting out, you must be able to pay your dues. That’s why it’s hard to jump from one career to another.”
Russell says successful career changers are coming from related fields because they must have an understanding of marketing, public relations, advertising and journalism.
“Someone wanting to change careers may need to return to school for courses or to get a master’s degree,” he said. “We’re all in continuing education. It’s hard work and not glamorous but it’s rewarding.”
Ray loves to talk to those people already in the workplace. “Over the years, we’ve done well by bringing in people from outside the agency world because it almost always expands our corporate-wide worldview,” he said. “We encourage them to do as much homework as possible on the role in an agency for which they feel they’re best suited and everything they can learn about Ramey.”
He points out that agencies have a wide variety of people on staff, some of whom are specialists who work in design, research, production or media. Others are generalists who build strategies and provide leadership for the client teams.
“If you are curious about the world around you; if you are passionate about solving challenges; if you are genuinely empathetic and driven to do your personal best, then there is a good chance we want to talk to you — regardless of whether you are a sharp college student or someone looking to make a change in your career,” Ray said.
Looser feels advertising is a great profession involving a wide variety of clients. “At the Cirlot Agency, we go from beans to battleships with our clients and that keeps us on our toes,” he said. “That way we get to know about a lot of different businesses.”
Contact MBJ contributing Lynn Lofton at firstname.lastname@example.org.