How to get ahead in Advertising/Marketing/Design…

by Julian Westaby.

Can we start by saying this blog’s designed to help University Graduates to get a job and because of this, it HAS to be taken in the spirit it’s intended. If not, it could easily come across as a boring, old, jaded, Industry fart, taking a pot-shot at our Education system and its inability to arm students with the necessary chutzpah for them entering possible employment in the ‘big bad world’.


If it does come across like this, we apologise, but we think honesty, straight-talking and a ‘cut to the chase’ aspect is the wake-up call required, particularly when we look at our experiences over the past few days. So, without any further ado, some killer things that we think are fundamentals for Marketing/Advertising/Digital/Design/Communications hopefuls. Before you send out ANYTHING let alone a poorly spell-checked, template CV, read this:

1. Know what JOB you want to do

If we had a quid for every student who says they’d like to get into ‘Creative Communications or Advertising’ we’d have 50 quid. Erm…ALL advertising is meant to be creative. What you really need to know is…what job would you like to do? Are you a writer, a designer, a talker, a good manager? What EXACTLY do you fancy doing? A big, enthusiastic grin and a First Class Honours isn’t enough any more. Find out what kind of jobs are typical of the place you’re looking to attend and find out further if you’d like to do this job. If you don’t know what you want to do, we’re hardly likely to know either.

2. Get a blinkin’ website!

“Y’see Victor, I’m a really great web designer” said an un-named student looking for a placement. As they had no website of their own, I was left to guess if this statement held any water. Another said that she’d “not had time, over the last THREE YEARS at Uni, to do my own site”. Again, ‘Old Fart Alert’ but a cursory glance at her Facebook page would suggest that her time was not as tight as she’d suggested. If you’re a ‘Designer’, your own website is a basic. We would NOT interview anyone who didn’t have one. No arguments, get one done, now. “Too busy”, for three years? Sheesh!

3. Get your sh*t together

If you fit into category (2) and you value your work at £5, stick it in a cheap, £5 portfolio. However, if you value it at a bit more than this, get it organised, get it looking good, annotate it, get rid of the crap, dog-eared stuff, and get a ‘story’ going. A bit of a wee tale, not just five or six bits or unrelated nonsense. Are you bored presenting it? Then the poor Design firm will be bored listening. It’s three years of your life, make it look like you’ve spent all that taxpayers money wisely.

4. Do your flippin’ homework

“Dear Sir/Madam, I’d like to be considored (sic) for a placement in your company”… Lazy, lazy, lazy. If you can’t be arsed to pick up the phone, to find out more, neither can we. Names, a bit of background, are they hiring? Do ten KILLER letters rather than 200 completely hopeless e-mails that nobody will read. Do you know how many staff we have? Who are our clients? Is the company even DOING what you’re good at? We’ve had a few special ones who haven’t a Scooby but turn up and ask us what the possible salary might be! A crap, generic, template-based, badly-spelt CV is just crap. Oh, we’ve said that twice, which shows how much we hate them.

5. Rehearse

Don’t turn up only to be faced with a barrage of questions or a red-faced silence because you can’t describe your work well. To present well takes experience OR lots of practise. Which one do you think you’ll need to use? Smile, have fun, be passionate but above all, think about the firm and what they want. Of course, you’ll know this, because you’ll have done your homework. See (4).

6. Be different

You’re NOT a Fund Manager, you’ve chosen a path where you’ll make a frighteningly smaller amount of money, so be DIFFERENT. You need to be able to demonstrate that you’re the one. Basically, this has got shedloads to do with your work but it’s also got a fair wee amount to do with your personality. We don’t employ stress-puppies, lazy people who turn up 15 minutes late or ‘forget’ to bring their portfolio. We like happy, smiley, confident and erm…clean people. If you’re not all four, you need to do a bit of grooming and work on the offending aspects. Turn up wearing what you like (and you can have even the most intimate bits of your anatomy pierced as far as we’re concerned), but make a bloody effort.

7. Have Fun

The people you’ll meet might seem like hard work but as they went through the same process when they started, they’re testing you. If you’ve done most or ALL of the above, you’ll be moving the position of power round to your side of the table and they’ll soften. There are LOTS of Design graduates, but there aren’t lots of really great ones. Make it your job (because that’s what it is) to be one of the great ones. Make people love you, your approach and your work.

8. If at first you don’t succeed…

Head down the pub and get smashed, telling all your friends it’s everyone else’s fault. Or, you could call back, ask advice, ask where you went wrong, get your pals, parents, clever relatives and important people you know to tell you what they reckon. The cleverer people are, the more likely they are to offer you advice. Take it, act on it, dust yourself down and get back intae them!

9. Be positive

We’ve just come out of a MEGA recession, so things are improving. Communication platforms mean you can do ANYTHING and creativity is becoming highly valued. It could sound a bit evangelical but we genuinely love coming in to work in the morning, we deal with a huge diversity of organisations and individuals and we’re really lucky to be able to do what we do. It’s easy to forget this, so don’t. You’re going to be working at something loads of people envy.

10. Full House?

If you’re all of the above, we can GUARANTEE  you an interview here (or at one of our peergroup’s places), so let us know!