So You Want To Be A Mad (Wo)man… 6 Tips For Making It In Advertising
The following is a guest post by Dave Marinaccio. His bio follows.
In the hit television series “Mad Men,” which takes place in the 1960s, most of the women are confined to the lowest levels of the agency: the secretary pool, the telephone switchboard and the reception desk. But not Peggy Olsen. Using her talent, drive, ambition and fearlessness, Peggy rises through the ranks to achieve the same status as Don Draper, creative director. Fast-forward to 2016 and women hold about 50% of the positions in the advertising industry and are found at every level of management.
So how do you get your toe in the door at an advertising agency? Below are a few tips to get you started.
There are two kinds of internships, paid and unpaid.
Yep, paid is better, duh. But unpaid is better than no internship. Just like going for a job, many times you have to interview for an internship. So getting through this part of the process is key. The brutal truth is that you have little of value to offer the company. Your first day at work, you will be the worst employee in the place. You have neither experience nor a grasp of how the place functions. You’re there to learn. That’s fine. Remember you only have to be better than the other applicants going for the job. And there are a couple of very simple things you can do to get the jump on the competition.
Exude positive energy.
People want to be around people who are upbeat and positive. Your co-workers are going to be by your side for eight, ten or more hours a day. Nobody wants to spend that much time next to an arrogant jerk.
Demonstrate your flexibility and eagerness to learn.
Really listen during the interview. It’s more important to be interested than to be interesting. But it’s best to be both. To demonstrate the latter, talk about unusual experiences you have had outside the business or school world, about travel or art or sports. If the interviewer responds to one of those subjects expand on it. Be absolutely sure to say thank you. And follow up the next day with a thank you email.
That’s one of the best ways to get to know the place and get ahead. As a young copywriter, I used to wander the halls of J. Walter Thompson at night looking for lighted offices. That meant that someone was working late. People who are toiling into the evening will accept help from anybody, even a junior writer. In this way, I got to work on almost every account in the agency. These nocturnal treks built my portfolio. The first ads I ever had produced were a series of small space newspaper ads for 7•UP. I wasn’t assigned to 7•UP at the time. Prowling the corridors after hours provided the opportunity.
Yes, really, make mistakes. At this stage of your career, you’re not expected to know everything. There’s great freedom in this. It allows you latitude that others don’t have. More seasoned employees have learned the mistakes not to make. So they don’t consider solutions that go against previous orthodoxy. And sometimes, that’s where the answer lies. So don’t edit. Give your company the benefit of your inexperience. This is a no lose scenario. You won’t be blamed for making the mistake. Everyone else probably went through the same thing. But if works, you’ll get credit for looking at things in a fresh way.
Share your skills and knowledge.
As a young person, you will probably be the most tech savvy person in the joint. You’ve grown up around the most recent technology. Share that knowledge. Share it freely, abundantly and without recrimination and you will be very popular.
That’s it! Keep these things in mind, and you might be ruling the advertising world in no time, just like Peggy Olsen.
Dave Marinaccio is an international bestselling author, successful marketing business entrepreneur, and SVP, CCO of Laughlin Marinaccio & Owens in Arlington, VA. He is author of All I Really Need To Know I Learned From Watching Star Trek and Admen, Mad Men, and The Real World of Advertising