Advice To Graduates Starting A Career In Advertising

It’s the time of year when students leave the hallowed halls of university life and land in the real world—some of them in the advertising industry. These recent grads are brimming with passion and new thinking. The challenge and opportunity for both the individual and their new employers is to channel this energy in a way that enables the new professional to make a positive contribution in his or her first agency job.

To help these young adults get off to a great start in advertising, my colleagues and I have put together a list of 20 tips to survive in this field:

Be curious. Remember that acquiring knowledge is a lifelong activity, not something that ends with a college degree. No one is brilliant right out of the gate. Be open to learning from people who have been in this business for a while.
For a creative professional to be relevant in today’s world, that person must live, eat and breathe all things digital, or risk being instantly irrelevant. Many schools in North America don’t quite understand this focus. Be proactive in learning to work across any media type imaginable. It is the key to not only being useful at an agency, but in actually securing the job itself.
Never think any job is beneath you. Be indispensable.
Persevere: Be eager to solve new challenges, and think creatively while you do so.
As Sheryl Sandberg pointed out in her book, Lean In, in today’s world, workers no longer advance on a traditional career ladder. It’s more of a jungle gym, with many ways to get to the top. Consider your next position in terms of what you can learn, not necessarily what the title is.
Learn what motivates you and then do it. Make sure the position you accept is what you really want to do, and don’t be blind to your own limitations.
Network. Your colleagues may be your connection to your next job. But also remember that networking is a two-way street. Consider how you can help someone else.
Own your choices. Don’t be afraid to make mistakes. And don’t be afraid to ask lots of questions.
Broaden your perspective. Immerse yourself in all current forms of industry news, entertainment, world news and cultural stimulus. Read, view, discuss and debate topics that you have never thought about before. Don’t always read the same things everyone else is reading.
Companies are packed with managers who operate and think in siloes. Many of them secretly yearn for someone who can help them solve problems by connecting ideas that most others would miss. Look for these new connections.
Be nice to others.
Understand how an agency is actually structured and your role within. Creatively interface with people in all disciplines.
Respect the headline. Don’t get caught in the trap that a stunning visual, by itself, is effective advertising.
Do things that are in your clients’ best interest, not necessarily yours.
Be a true student of advertising. Study the industry awards and the campaigns that earned them. More important, study the people in the industry.
Never be satisfied with your first effort. For instance, write 20 headlines for every ad. Then write 20 more.
Listen to your clients.
Proofread everything!
Today’s employees will work at many places during the course of their lifetime. Jobs will die and industries will disappear. With this in mind, always be willing to reinvent yourself. Stay versatile and flexible. Update your skills to stay current.
Have fun and show it, but realize this isn’t “Mad Men.”

For those who have landed a job—congratulations! The creative industry is fast paced and can be really exciting. But like any industry, hard work is paramount to success and is definitely expected.

Michelle Crawley is a senior writer at gyro Cincinnati.

Follow Michelle @mcrawleywriter

Special thanks to gyro’s Gene Dow, Debbie Effler (@Debbieeff), Pete Healy (@PeteHealy), Terry Jent, Carolyn Ladd, Mike Tittel (@Tittel) and Steve Thornbury (@bloatarian) for contributing to this article.