So, you want to work in advertising. An open letter.

This is an open letter to the many who have asked me, and will ask me, about working in an tough industry.

I’ve been slammed lately, seems like there’s just as much work these days but I’m doing a lot more things rather than creating ads. So I’m apologize if it’s taken awhile to get back to you but I’m busy adapting to all the changes in the industry.

Like you, a lot of people that are just starting out their careers have asked me about working in advertising. They usually want my opinion about their spec ads or work they’ve created for a friend. Sometimes they’re offended by what I have to say. I’m sorry for that, but I think it’s important to be honest with people rather than take the easy way out and tell you that your midiocre work is great. I’m not the kind of person who will stroke an ego of a person who seriously wants to work in a great shop. I’d rather tell people what they really need to know if they want to land a coveted gig.

First the good.

It’s good that you’re getting out and talking to people. You need to be on the top of people’s mind if you’re going to be hired, no one is looking for you. I know it’s tough to do when you’re unemployed and feeling down.

It’s good that you’re directing people to your Linked in profile. You’re letting people know what they need to know about you and they’ll be able to link you instead of losing your resume.

It’s good that you have a blog. It would show that you’re current with the industry if it didn’t have pictures of your cat and posts about that crazy road trip with your brother. So you may want to start a professional/career blog like this guy. It may be a little over the top for you, but it will give you an idea what people should do to stand out.

Your portfolio site has a couple problems. Mostly user experience related. Having stuff fly around your site for no reason is a problem these days. Cool for cool’s sake went out of style with corporate jets and $100 hamburgers. People want value for their time and you’re wasting it with flash intros and gizmos.

I need to see where to click and how to find information in a simple and attractive execution. And, frankly, your portfolio doesn’t need to be more complicated than an extra page on your blog. Or heck, it could even be your blog.

I’m also confused about what your trying to sell yourself as. You site tells me you do it all. You couldn’t possibly be the best at everything. For example, I’m not qualified for a senior job on a pharmaceutical account but I am an experienced advertising writer with more than a passing knowledge of online promotions and social media. I’ve produced a lot of different types of advertising over the years but I’m not selling myself for all of them, just what’s current and in demand.

To paraphrase Tim Williams, take a stand for personal brand. Why are you important to me? I need to know right away or I’ve lost interest.

The technology of the site is outdated. Flash is out of favor, unless their is a really good reason for using it – like demonstrating something, playing a video or a way for a user to meaningfully interact with it. These guys are at the forefront of the industry and look at their site. Still think you need to do something flashy? Create an app or do something in html 5.

Now this is part where I may lose a friend. Sorry, but the quality the work on your site is uneven. While there are some bright spots, much of it looks more like something that might be produced in a marketing department. If a corporate client is coming to an agency, they’re expecting something they can’t do in-house. You’ll need to be tougher on yourself if you want to get in the door.

There’s never been a worse time to be looking for a job in advertising, your competing against out-of-work people with great resumes and brilliant books. They lost their jobs for no fault of their own and they’re smart, talented, and fast. For some perspective on this visit Erik Proulx’s wonderful site.

If you really want to work as a copywriter or art director, now may a good time to reach out to my friend Norm Grey at the Creative Circus. Sharpen your skills and wait out the recession. Or, if you’re looking for a job in production or account service, consider offering to work for free and get some free training. You need the training more than they need you right now.

Good luck, Jimmy

Posted on: August 17, 2009, by :