On getting an agency gig

POSTED BY on Oct 12, 2016

The lovely people at The School of Visual Concepts, a local portfolio school here in Seattle, are such great advocates for the creative community. Full Stop. They are amazing. So amazing, they regularly provide free opportunities to attend a class to learn from practitioners, and ask them about a variety of things related to our industry. That’s where I come in—along with a group of my extremely talented cohorts from other agencies around town.

A few weeks ago, we all sat down together for one of these classes, and Larry, Linda, and the rest of the SVC team allowed us to get pretty real and share what it takes to get a job at our shops. While it takes different experience and expertise depending on where you want to work, we all share a pretty cohesive POV on the bigger picture stuff. Following are three highlights from our recent conversation.

(photo courtesy of SVC)

Put together a great book.
It’s table stakes. This point is pretty focused on creative, but the idea it embodies holds true for anyone. We all do great (often global) work, and we need smart, talented people to help us continue on that path—and push us to get better. So, curate your portfolio. Show us your best work. And be able to talk about it. How you communicate the purpose and meaning behind your work can often be as important as the creative itself.

Do your homework.
We all shared how continually surprised we are when people send us their resumes and books, tell us how much they want to work with us, but clearly do not have a basic understanding of what our teams do. Take the time to understand what makes Hornall Anderson different from Possible, different from Publicis, different from WongDoody. And then in addition to that, know how you could add value to the team and be ready to share and articulate that. 

Build a network and use it.
It can be hard to get into agencies. One thing that can help is to build a strong network of advocates. Be willing (and in fact ask for the opportunity) to meet with people (whether it’s a designer on the team, someone who might be in a hiring position, or those of us that lead the hiring efforts) even when there is no job on the table. Be willing to have an open conversation, learn about us and what it takes to be a strong employee. It will be well worth your time and effort. Trust us.

(photo courtesy of SVC)

The job market is notoriously unpredictable, so very competitive, and breaking into that first agency job can be challenging. To get noticed, it’s critical for you to be smart and intentional, and do everything you can to set yourself apart from the throngs of portfolios and applications we see. As they say, you have only one chance for a first impression. Make sure yours is the one that stands out…and not for the wrong reasons. 


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