4 Steps to Cracking the Ad Industry

By Sara Mahmood

Choosing advertising as a major in school is a lot easier than actually entering the industry after graduation. With the hope of recruitment, the college experience for seniors is filled with resume revisions, portfolio reviews and interviews. In addition to a fear of rejection, there is a level of anxiety that protrudes when students think about what life post-grad might look like if the ideal job is not secured. Although the advertising industry can be difficult to enter, possibilities do exist for those who are persistent in their efforts to find opportunities. These four steps can serve as a guideline for current students and recent graduates looking to achieve their first real world advertising opportunity

  1. Do not shy away from asking for career starting advice. Start by speaking to professors and visiting the career center on campus. These resources can help connect students with alumni and community leaders. Speaking with current professionals is the best way to learn about the culture of local agencies along with any internship or entry-level positions that might be available. Alumni were once students; they can easily relate to the experiences of current students and are often willing to share their career insight.
  2. Be focused. Note that advertising is a multi-faceted term that can include different career paths, ranging from media to creative and account management. It’s best to have a focus or area of interest within advertising–an area of interest helps recruiters in connecting students with informational interviews and relevant open positions. Through professional organizations like the American Advertising Federation, a series of student competitions are hosted on a yearly basis. Having a focus, such as creative or account planning can help students to build skill sets and a portfolio while still enrolled in school.
  3. Maintain realistic expectations about compensation in advertising. Conduct research about employment packages and know about the average lifestyle and wages for jobs within advertising. An assistant media planner will not necessarily earn the same amount as a junior copy writer or assistant account executive. Knowledge about benefits, salary and bonuses will enable students to best match their desired lifestyle with the resources provided by entry- level positions and internships within the industry.
  4. Stay open-minded. Entry-level jobs in advertising are limited and highly sought after. In order to build professional experience, consider taking an internship, even after graduation. Agencies often hire interns as full-time entry-level positions become available. Through an internship, both the student and agency can test each other to see if there is a good fit.

Adding ‘senior’ in front of most titles, from media planner to copy writer, can create an allure of authority and reflect substantial professional experience. While senior titles at work often reflect hierarchy and evidence of career advancement, the senior stage in college is just a starting point for building the foundations of a career. Although the final year of school puts students in senior rank within close proximity to graduation, the employment prospects are not always as straight forward. Having the confidence to ask for career starting advice, placing focus on an area of interest, knowledge about industry compensation along with an open mind can help ease the transition from student to working professional.

Sara Mahmood is a senior advertising student at Wayne State University and works part-time as a portfolio management associate (assistant media planner) at Universal McCann. She is also a member of the class of 2013 AAF Most Promising Minority Students, has served on the AAF Initiative Future Board and led her local AAF student chapter. Sara will serve as our student blogger at ADMERICA! Follow Sara on Twitter during the conference @CuriousSaraM and #FindSaraM for a chance to introduce yourself and get your photo taken for the AAF Instagram feed.