Ten Steps to Prepare College Students for the Job Market

A real good article in a recent Wall Street Journal offers ten steps to prepare college students for the job market. The reporter spoke with career coaches, recruiters and recent graduates. Read it here.

The ten pieces of advice are:

1. Look for a job early (while still in school).

2. Network with professionals while in college.

3. While is college, work part time or take an internship.

4. Get involved with career-related clubs and activities.

5. Apply for many jobs, but don’t be a application hound. Apply for jobs that you’re qualified for.

6. Become professional while in school:  Dress well, create a LinkedIn account, clean up your online presence, make business cards.

7. Set career goals. They can always change (and probably will), but write down specirfic goals with deadlines.

8. Go to the college career center.

9. Keep track of your achievements and share them online (like on your LinkedIn page).

10. Develope relevant skills. You don’t need to have a job to practice and get experience. Be creative and make things that are similar to your career goals.

Bonus tip from me:  Be positive, energetic, and do at least one little thing every week to help make your life’s work a reality.

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How do I make a portfolio?

Q: I hear that I should have a portfolio, but I have no idea where to start. I just started on the Strategic Ad track at VCU, and I don’t know what should go into a portfolio or what one should look like. I was wondering if you can just offer some insight where I should start or what are some pieces of work I should include.

There are many books that show how to build a good ad portfolio. Most (if not all) are focused on creating a portfolio for a creative position. They are worth reading for strategists because the same thinking goes into portfolios for strategists.

A:  Most people won’t expect you to have much of a portfolio if you’re still in college. Especially since you’re not a senior yet. But, any ad student (Creative and Strategic) who wants to secure a wild internship or an exciting job, should have an interesting body of work. It will help to sell you.

Simplify your thinking of a portfolio. It is just a collection of work — stuff you’ve done. To make a portfolio, first make it easy. Then make it better. And better.

First, just begin with a WordPress blog or any free place to collect your work. Put 10 things up there, and you’ll have a portfolio!! Then make it better.

Listed below are things you should show in a portfolio. I have listed them in the order of importance:

1- Show passion. A deep interest in anything. Really anything. And I mean a deep interest. That means that you go further than most people. People with deep interests are interesting people. Successful ad people are interesting people interested in things. In advertising passion trumps skills all of the time.
2- Show creation. Make stuff and share it. It doesn’t matter what you make, just make stuff. Stand up comedy, spoken-word poetry, write hip-hop licks, design a laser-light show, write music, redesign album artwork, make strawberry shortcakes, write stories, brew beer, design houses, or knit sweaters.
And share it. Put it out there for others to enjoy, criticize, steal, and get pissed about. Because creation without sharing or publishing might be OK for fine artists with issues, but it doesn’t work in advertising.

3- Show you’re willing to try, and suck, and try until you get better. That’s another big part of advertising. Ad folks are always presented with new problems every day. Every client wants something really new (never tried before). So there’s going to be things that don’t work out as planned. Trying hard and failing is a big part of the ad game, and so is trying again, and trying again… and eventually winning. Yippee!

4- Show you are a student of the ad business. Do you read at least one of these on a regular basis:  AdAge, AdWeek, CommArts, or Creativity-online.com? If you did, I’m sure you could show the ad knowledge that you have gained.

5- Show your ad chops. I know you have had Curiousness. Have you had Empathy, Awareness, Imagination, or Perspicuousness? How about Story? Did you have projects in those classes that you could share to show your ad skills? If your work wasn’t exceptional, you have two choices:  1) forget showing the work to anyone, or 2) rework it until it’s exceptional (see item #3 above). I suggest reworking those assignments until they are exceptional.

And you could do one thing that covers all of the 5 sections above. Here’s an example: Create a blog. Then get a list of the companies in the Fortune 100. For the next 100 days, write a one-hour brand analysis every day. Start at company #100 and work your way up to company #1. This project would show a passion for brands (#1). This project is a creation that’s shared (#2). This project would show that you kept up on your trying and learning about brand analyses (#3). This project would show you have a deep interest in the ad business (#4). And if your work is good, this project would show you know about branding.

Designers could start with the same list of 100 companies and redesign each company’s logo. Writers could write engaging answering machine messages for each company’s phone system. Have fun with your portfolio!

Recently some advertising hiring executives visited VCU to talk with students. A student asked William Manfredi, Executive VP – Global Human Resources for Wunderman, what he looked for in undergrad’s portfolios.  Manfredi said that Wunderman is so large that there isn’t one thing, but he looked for a fit in personality and in culture. Then he listed two specifics, “Energy and passion.” Susan Lim, also in Global Human Resources with Wunderman, nodded her head in agreement.

You can see that there is no one way to make a portfolio. There is no concrete list of things that should go into a portfolio. Tell the story of what you have done.

One last thing:  Include you in your portfolio. People want to see the person behind the collection of work. Tell your story. Stories are compelling (hey, that’s one more last thing).

Get your portfolio together and you’ll have some life-changing experiences. Best of luck!!

Advertising internship at Apple (writer)

Copywriter Internship for Apple:

Apple designs Macs, the best personal computers in the world, along with OS X, iLife, iWork, and professional software. Apple leads the digital music revolution with its iPods and iTunes online store. Apple is reinventing the mobile phone with its revolutionary iPhone and App Store, and has recently introduced its magical iPad which is defining the future of mobile media and computing devices.

Apple is looking for a writer intern with a "positive attitude and a curious mind.".

Looking for a copywriting student to spend the summer at Apple. You would be working on projects and campaigns with design interns, which would potentially include work across social media, in-store posters for Apple stores, web, app development, and iAds. Ideally you’re able to write great headlines and body copy so we could also pull you in on other day-to-day projects. And as you can probably guess, you would need to write in a way that makes all the tech stuff easy to understand and keeps with the voice of the Apple Brand. By the end of the summer you’ll have written a lot, everyday, and potentially have your work seen by millions of people worldwide.

Good things to have:

  • Advertising writing with headline experience
  • Ability to tell a story and be creative
  • A positive attitude and curious mind

Please send resumes and sample of work to Amber at akostik@apple.com

Checklists make work better and learning richer

Self-assessment is when students evaluate their own work. Self-assessment helps students learn and do better work (advice from “McKeachie’s Teaching Tips”). The trick is to get students to be critical at the appropriate level. One problem with many self-assessment exercises is that many students say that their work is better than it is.

One of the benefits of checklists is that they create gaps in students' knowledge, and that makes teaching easier.

To facilitate self-assessment, I’m trying to create checklists for all assignments. For example, one assignment in Judgment (a portfolio course for senior-level ad strategy students) is to make a strong resume. The specifics of the assignment include the checklist. Students use the checklist to make sure they thought of everything to make their work as strong as it can be. The checklist must be turned in along with their resume. And I use the same checklist to evaluate their resume and to determine their grade.

The checklist helps students realize what’s important on an assignment. And if a student doesn’t know how to address one of the elements on the checklist, he/she usually contacts me at that point instead of skipping over that element of the assignment. Some students turn in work with items not checked off of the checklist (often with a note or a question mark next to the check box). I like this because we can have a conversation about something that they already realize is a problem with their work. They are eager to learn what they know they don’t know. In “Made To Stick,” Chip and Dan Heath say that when there are “gaps in people’s knowledge” they are eager to know more. The checklist makes students curious (and interested), and that makes teaching easier. The self-assessment is working.

I have not figured out how to make a detailed and objective checklist for all projects, but I’m getting better at it. The key is to be specific and add guidance to the student how to improve their work on the specific criteria. Try to make each check item objective, measurable and quantitative (rather than subjective).

I have always included a rubric with each assignment… a list of 4 – 8 criteria on which the work would be evaluated. By turning the rubric into a checklist with 20 – 30 specific items (along with specific guidance), it becomes a tool that students use to create better work and engage deeper in the learning. Give it a try.

Here’s the checklist for making a good resume: ResumeChecklist

How to be a good creative (copywriter, art director).

Tom Lichtenheld is an accomplished creative director (at Cramer-Krasselt and now freelancing). Before that, he was a fantastic art director (at Fallon). Last year he spoke at the VCU Brandcenter’s Friday Forum on the myths about creativity. It was a great presentation (see my notes on that topic here). I recently ran across some more of my notes from the presentation. Tom made a list of seven things to be a good creative. Here is Tom’s list combined with my thoughts:

To be a good creative, one must give the creative director:

1) Passion (the most important thing): This was the top thing for Tom, and it is the most important attribute listed by most people when talking about being creative. Passion creates the desire to want to be creative. Passion fuels the need for generating the strongest idea. Passion helps us endure the endless pursuit for absolute beauty in the writing and art direction of advertising.

The author, Sir Ken Robinson, is an expert on creativity and innovation. His book is about finding your passions and how that can change everything.

2) Studiousness: Being a good creative is a never-ending pursuit of knowledge. Knowledge about the craft (writing and art direction). The craft is ever evolving. Knowledge about people – people in general and specific knowledge of the target audience. There’s always more to know about the target audience. Knowledge about culture – what are cool things that people are doing around the world (fashion, hobbies, technology, opinions, interests, etc). Culture is how creatives use their craft to connect with people… they do it by creating culture. Knowledge about he brand. How do people use is (apart from it’s primary use), why do consumers buy it (really), how does the brand fit in with people’s aspirations in life?  As a creative, there’s always more to learn

3) Constant focus on the brief: Creatives are paid to think of millions of ideas. To succeed in that mission, it is natural to veer away from the direction of the brief. That’s OK. That’s expected. In fact, that’s encouraged. However, good creatives always get back to the brief. The ideas that are presented are always on brief. And if ideas are presented that are off brief, those ideas have rationale telling why they diverted from the direction of the brief.

4) More ideas (and fewer pixels): Wonderful direction! The best tools for generating the best ideas are:  paper, pen or pencil, and brain. Notice that “computer” is not on the list. Our capacity to generate ideas is infinite. And all we need to tap into the endless resource of ideas (our brain) is the passion to want more ideas (see #1 above), the background knowledge on the topic (see #2 above), paper and pen/pencil (to record the plethora of ideas that will flow.

5) Good presentations of the work: Raymond McKinney (a CD at The Martin Agency) once told me, “Ideas that are presented like shit, are shit.”  In my years in the ad business (and my years outside of agencies, too), it was easy to see that the ideas that were presented well had a better chance of approval than all of the other the ideas. The guys who always presented their work in a strong, fluid, and easy-to-understand manner, got their work approved. Approved work equals bonuses and promotions. Learn to present your ideas well.

6) Acceptance of critiques: As the saying goes, “Everyone has an opinion….” Creative directors are hired to have opinions and to give critiques. It’s their job! Good clients give good feedback (compliments and criticisms = critiques). So creatives job is to accept all critiques, use them as tools to make the work better, and flourish. The opinions of the creatives are important, and everyone has an opinion. Creatives who don’t respect the opinion of the client or the creative director, tend not to get respect.

7) Independence: Good creatives take direction (as described on in #3), while at the same time they push ideas further (as described in #1). Creatives are expected to own the projects, push the work on their projects, and see the projects through without micromanagement. Creatives that require close scrutiny or micromanagement are less creative and drain the mojo of everyone else.

Tom Lichtenheld makes a great presentation. He is smart, he is down to earth, and he is funny. Every junior art director and junior copywriter should tape this list to his/her cubicle wall. Live by these ideas, and you won’t be a junior for long. And when you’re ready to be a creative director, Tom has a new list for you. Along with this list of how to be a good creative, he shared ways to be a good creative director. I’ll post those thoughts later.

Help Wanted: Account Coordinator, McDonald’s account, Richmond

Moroch is one of the top 20 full service independent advertising agencies in the country, based out of Dallas, with multiple field service offices around the US. We provide research, strategic planning, media planning and buying, brand and retail creative execution in print, broadcast and web for one of the world’s most beloved brands, McDonald’s.

Hold a Bachelor’s Degree or equivalent – in Advertising, Marketing, Communications or Business – a plus

We are growing quickly and reinventing the way media works in an integrated marketing environment. If you recognize that the changing consumer and digital environment creates opportunities to really move the sales needle more than ever before, then please read on, you might be interested in joining us. Click the link for all of the specs about the position. Good luck! Richmond Account Coordinator as of 1-14-11 FINAL

A job at The Martin Agency

Marty Thompkins is a recruiter from The Martin Agency who recently spoke at Virginia Commonwealth University (VCU). She shared some great insights about getting a job and answered a lot of questions from VCU ad students.

She said many things that connected with me. I really liked Marty’s list of the six things that they look for when hiring a new employee at Martin:

1) Excellent communication skills. That means no typos and all of that obvious stuff. But the important point was that Marty wants job candidates to tell their story so that their personality shows. This means no cookie-cutter cover letters and no just-the-facts resumes. This means to write more than just listings of stuff like day-to-day tasks.

Barely There Billboard

Everyone knows The Martin Agency's work with GEICO and Walmart. Here's an example their lesser-known (but still award-winning) work.

A good story has characters that the reader can relate to. The job candidate should be the hero of their story. A good story is a sequence of events. A good story includes a conflict or a problem that the lead character will face. And, there should be a resolution to the conflict or problem. A good story needs to be interesting… give the reader a gift for spending time with the story.

Under excellent communication skills, Marty talked about the need to be articulate in person and on the phone. Practice what you will say on the phone when you call an agency. Practice what you will say if the agency calls you.

An important aspect of advertising is to take a ton of information and to be able to cut it down into a succinct, digestible message for the audience. Resumes need to show that the candidate has this ability. A one-page resume is a good example of this skill.

Excellent communication skills cannot ignore the power of visual communications. Marty said that all resumes should have a “design element.” Granted that media planners don’t need a resume that shows the graphic finesse of an art director, but media folks better show that they are aware of visual communications.

2) Passion. This one was simple. Marty said that job candidates must show their passions. It is not important how the passions are presented. And, it is not important what things people are passionate about. Just have passion and show it.

I recently watched a nice, short TED talk about the eight keys to success. Richard St. John says that passion was one of the eight “secrets of success.” In fact, he says that passion is the first key to success. Watch the video here.

3) Opinions about advertising. Have a point of view about the ad business or an aspect of it. Be able to tell someone what your favorite ad campaign is. Be able to comment on current ads that are getting attention in the marketplace.

4) Be tenacious about getting a job. Other people are working hard to get the good jobs. Anyone who wants a good job will need to work for it. Good jobs don’t just fall out of the sky.

This means to scrutinize your resume, cover letter, and portfolio. Customize everything for each job applied for. This means to follow up on applications… BUT do not become a stalker!  The Martin Agency gets back with every application they receive. Allow two weeks for the recruiter to get back with you before following up.

5) Show that you’re willing to work. The Martin Agency expects people to pay their dues to secure a good job. Entry-level job candidates should not dismiss starting at the bottom because Martin hires from within.

6) Fit into the agency’s culture. The best employees are the ones that fit into the culture of the company (the people, the process, the mission, and the personality). No company has the culture that would be perfect for all employees. Likewise, no job candidates have the personality that would be perfect for all companies.

The Martin Agency looks for people who 1) collaborate well, 2) have integrity, 3) have a sense of humor, and 4) are down to earth. Marty forgot to mention that The Martin Agency also looks for people who know a lot about advertising (or at least a lot about a part of advertising).

At the top of The Martin Agency’s website, there are four links next to the company logo. The first link is “Culture.” It’s important.

Marty Thompkins is a fantastic ambassador for The Martin Agency. She shared her time and her expertise willingly. She was personable. She showed passion for her work and for the ad business. And she was down to earth. The Martin Agency receives around 300 resumes every week — tough odds for any job candidate. Focus on these six elements and the odds will get better.