Whether you aspire to be in advertising or not, looking for work sucks. But that doesn’t mean that you have to suck. The following is a true story.
After flitting about North Florida for a few months with a shiny degree, a spec book, and unabashed enthusiasm for writing advertising, I decided that to really break into the field, I had to look to people who loved it as much as I did. Namely, Creative Directors at the big agencies on Madison Avenue.
Because it was 1998, and the Internet wasn’t the Internet you now enjoy, I spent hours at the library pouring over the Red Books to find shops in NYC that seemed to best match my particular style. I targeted eight agencies with a highly specific appeal. I found the names of the top CDs at these agencies, and even called to confirm that these people still held these posts. Then I decided to put my skill to work for myself.
I knew that getting the attention of such important, creative, and busy people meant more than a nicely written letter with some spec ads that demonstrated my ability to solve creative problems. I needed something that they’d actually see. And remember. So–I sent each CD a fresh Vidalia onion in a small box with a hand-written note that succinctly juxtaposed the creative problem solving process with the layers of an onion. I ended the note with the line, “Now go wash your hands.”
Imagine being the personal assistant to the Group CD at a major Manhattan advertising agency and receiving a package like this for your boss. Let’s just say–it got noticed. Of the eight agencies I sent the onion to, I received six calls and three interviews. The three non-interviews were just to say that they appreciated my effort.
My point is not to give you the idea to use an onion as part of your own appeal, but rather to take the time to demonstrate your passion by utilizing your own strengths. You’re a creative person–you’ve got to dance with the one who got you here. Prove you.
Not a week goes by when I don’t receive an employment inquiry via email. I’ve found that most of people fall into two categories:
1) Here I Am! – These are the folks who don’t reference you or your company by name, but who feel that because they have graduated with a degree in advertising, design or PR, that they have an inherent right to work in advertising and that by God I should be lucky they’re contacting me at all. These emails get deleted with no response.
2) There You Are! – These are the people I respond to. When someone takes the time out to mention my work or my company, and they effectively translate their passion for this business in a sincere way–I always make a point to respond and provide as much value to them as I can. (This is also a really good tactic to keep in mind when writing advertising … just sayin.’)
If you want to break into any field, not just advertising, my advice is for you to prove it. Because one of life’s hard lessons is learning that the world owes you nothing. Stephen Crane put it this way:
A man said to the universe, “Sir, I exist!” “However,” replied the universe, “The fact has not created in me a sense of obligation.”
Proving your passion means more than a nicely written cover letter and going through the front door. Sometimes it means using a crowbar. Or an onion.