Interview Dos & Don'ts

from Step Brothers movie - best interview montage ever.
Hurray! After sending 288 emails, you finally have an interview! Whether it's for an open position or just a meeting -- sometimes folks just want to meet you to get a feel for you and if they like you, they'll keep you in mind for a future position -- either way, you should be excited.

Now it's time to close the deal.

DO
* Go to the interview. Whether or not you want the job, you should always go. Consider it practice. Plus, you never know who this person knows or where they'll be next.


* Be 10 minutes early. This gives you enough time to catch your breath, gather your thoughts and your notes, and take a sneak peek around the office.

* Be prepared. Have all your materials. Have your printed portfolio, iPad or laptop poised for presentation if they ask to go through your work. Also, be ready to discuss what you did and why for each campaign if they ask.


* Dress for the job you want. If you want a job as a high schooler, feel free to throw on some chucks, jeans and a random t-shirt. If you want to be employed at an ad agency, dress accordingly. You don't have to wear a suit and tie, but you should look polished and professional. (Feel free to add a bit of flair. You're a creative after all)

* Know you story. They will inevitably ask "So, tell me about yourself." Have a 3 to 5 sentence response on hand that neatly rolls your personal and professional life into one. How do where you're from, where you went to school, your hobbies/passions and your career goals fit together to make you awesome? 


* Sell yourself. Talk about your skills, interests and experiences and how you can add something to the agency.


* Ask Questions.  Ask for feedback on your work. Ask about the culture of the agency, recent positive news, the clients, the expectations of you and anything else you'd like to know pertaining to you joining the agency. (And if things are going well, ask to meet people. This will help you gauge if you like the place a bit more and give you new contacts to reach out to.)


* Say what you want. Let them know what kind of experience you're looking for. Not every agency/team/client is for you. So be clear as to where you think your skills would best be used and how you can properly be an asset to the agency. If you prefer digital, a partner, a mentor, a spot on the dodgeball team, say that.

* Research. Look up who you're meeting with and what they've done. Look up the agency and recent work and news. Look up salary ranges for someone at your level.

* Name drop. If you know someone who works there or who knows the interviewer (and who will vouch for you), slip their name into a sentence and see how it goes down. If you've worked under someone of the big names (and they don't hate you), mention what you've learned from them. Don't just name drop for the sake of name dropping. 

* Say Thank You. Show your appreciation for their time. And send a follow up email or card after to thank them again. You can never say thank you enough.

DON'T
* Be late. Don't not call if you're going to be late. But seriously, don't be late.


* Chew gum. Also, don't eat anything smelly or teeth-staining before your interview.

* Lie. They'll find out and blacklist you.

* Be nervous. But if you are, say you are, and tell them you're just really excited to meet them because they're awesome/ the agency is awesome. Turn your negative situation into a positive.

* Be boring. Be engaging and interesting. Don't give one word answers and blank stares. Your personality matters almost as much as (sometimes more than) your portfolio. (I personally hate boring people as much as I hate assholes. I wish they'd walk into the ocean and take a deep breath.) 

* Be rude or arrogant. Ever.

* Talk too much. Yes, you're excited and possibly nervous and possibly awesome. But don't overwhelm them with your stories, antics and chitterchatter. It's a dialogue not a monologue.

* Talk bad about anyone. (Even if it's true.) Find a way to turn the negative into a positive. What did you learn from the situation? How are you a better creative/employee?

* Show too much leg, cleavage, tattoos, toes, etc. Save that for your first day of work. (I kid! I kid!)

* Overstay your welcome. 

People to always be nice to:


Everyone.

Seriously.

Even the people you don't like. Even the ones who aren't nice to you.

You're going to meet these people again at another agency or at an industry event and you don't know who they could introduce you to, what job openings they may know about or when someone is going to ask them about you. (See Friday's post with advice on the Six Degrees of Separation in Advertising from a long-time creative recruiter.)

Who you know is just as important as what you know.

And they may not be the big fish now or be at the big name agency, but you'd be surprised where they end up (and where they can subsequently help you get.)

My old boss's boss started off as a creative assistant. Now he's a CCO.

Here's a list of people to always be extra kind to

* Receptionists (Get on their good side and they'll put your calls through, set up meetings for you, and tell you who you need to meet and maybe even introduce you.)

* Creative assistants. (Similar to receptionist. And he/she may help you with expenses!)

* Your counterparts. Even the lazy, douchey ones. (You'd be surprised how many informal reference checks happen)

* Recruiters. They remember. And they move around. So if they like you when they’re at Mediocre Agency Y, they’ll still like you when they’re at Amazing Agency X.

The connections you make follow you everywhere in this business. So do the connections you break.

Advertising karma is no joke. *Cue eerie music and light flicker*

Lessons from other blogs: You're Kevin Bacon

Six Degrees of Separation is no joke in advertising.
Everybody knows everybody else.
And everybody knows somebody that knows you - or somebody that you want to know.  

No joke, this happens all the time! Once, I was sitting with a coworker in NY discussing our weekends only to find out his friend Rodney from Atlanta was my friend Rodney from Atlanta. (Good thing I didn't say anything bad about him. lol.) Another time, an ACD that was awful to me emailed me years later asking me to introduce her to my ECD. Yeah. Right.

This is why it's important to manage your reputation, be amazing at work, connect with people and not be an asshole

If you don't believe me, read Cecilia Gorman's post (see below).  Cecilia is a creative recruiter and advocate for juniors (previously featured in Recruiter Loves & Hates). Her blog Confessions of a Creative Recruiter is pretty much what Baby Food For Creatives would be when (if) it grows up. She has great advice, examples and input for all aspects of your creative life.

Here is a post of hers I absolutely love on the six degrees of separation in advertising.

Coming Around and Going Around

In our industry it is a well-known rule, every person you cross paths with once, you'll cross paths with again. The sooner you learn this, believe this and act on this, the better.

First learn this. Learn that every person comes into your career for a reason. That co-worker you kinda can't stand. That creative director who is uber-ridiculously-detail-obsessed. That sweet receptionist who offered you a glass of water while you were waiting.

It's no accident that particular person crossed your path at that exact moment in time. Now your job is to treat them with respect (even if it is merely respecting their ability to be a jerk) and respond always with professionalism and kindness. You are building bridges early on in your career, it's much too early to tear any down.

Next believe this. Believe that any encounter with someone teaches you something. That ucky co-worker teaches you how to interact with difficult people. That polite receptionist teaches you that courtesy is title neutral.

Believe that you are going to spend your entire career meeting and mixing people who'll range from sweet as pie to big fat ugh. They teach you how to be a better person, a better creative, a better manager, a better whatever. You don't learn all this work stuff on your own. You learn it by having experiences (the harder, the better) with others. Those experiences are what help you grow in your career.

Lastly, act on this. Act like the person you've crossed paths with will be back in your life 10 years later. Because, in this industry, that's a given. Act like you would if, in 10 years, this person will be your boss. Or your HR director. Or your partner. I guarantee if you use this mentality, you'll always come out ahead.

Everyone remembers kindness and respect. Just don't ever, ever, ever forget that people remember disrespect and bad encounters even longer.
                                                                  --- 

Follow Cecilia
Twitter @adschooladvisor

How to Show Off Without Looking Like A Show Off

"Hey everybody! Come see how good I look!"


She said: "I make the best lasagne!"

I thought: "It's probably not that great."

I'd never tasted her lasagne. And I didn't want to. And I definitely didn't believe it was "the best."

Maybe if someone had told me. Or maybe if she had a certificate or something. Or maybe if she'd given me a slice and let me decide for myself.

But her bursting out that her shit is The Best turned me off a bit.  

Self praise can have the opposite effect. So be very careful how and when you show off.  

Even though you have to be aware of what you're good at - there's a fine line between confident and cocky.

Here are some tips and tricks that have worked for me to help walk that pesky line. 

How to Show Off Without Looking Like A Show Off: 

* Show don't tell. Actions really do speak louder than words. Get a reputation for being amazing by being amazing.

* Let someone else toot your horn. Do great work and about five people will notice and one or two will say it. And more importantly, they'll want you to be on more projects because "He writes the best long copy!" or "Her design sense is light years ahead of the game." (It sounds so much better when someone else says it, doesn't it?)

* Rephrase it. Say "I'm good at... I love... I am well versed in..." Now you sound competent and confident.


* Sneak it in. Subtly drop your accomplishment/skill/accolade into the sentence WHEN APPLICABLE. Don't go bringing up the One Show student award you got when dude is talking about his kid's school play. You're too creative for clumsy boasting like that. Make it relevant and relatable. 

Bonus - all these tips work when flirting too.

Get Your Shit Together

Organize Your Files (That's the nice way of saying that I suppose)

Pop Quiz :
CWs - Where is the first draft of that copy you wrote back in October?
ADGDs - What layer is the trademark symbol on?

Get into the habit now of properly saving, filing and organising your documents. 



For one, it keeps you more efficient in the long run and two, if you have an idea or line you really like that doesn't grow into anything, save it, it may work in another campaign or on another client.

My tip is to do everything as if you'll have to hand it off to someone else for them to finish.

Save every draft
or keep them at the end of the document so you can scroll down and see where you started.

Save documents (word, psd, pdf, etc) with version numbers and dates.


Create folders for each project and subfolders for each category (print, digital, image selects)

Properly label all of your layers and pages in the adobe creative suite.

Back up all of your files. Always.
The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse will come the morning of your big presentation and will take all your files, corrupt your documents and freeze your inDesign, so be sure to have them in a cloud somewhere and on a hard drive somewhere else.

Back2Work: Be On Time

That's it.

Nothing else to say on that topic really. 


When I did MAIP, I remember Tiffany R Warren always saying "Early is on time. On time is late. Late is unacceptable."

As someone just starting out and trying to make a good impression (and as a human with body parts) you should aim to always be early.

To meetings.
To interviews. (They Hate this

To work.
To meals (especially with me. When I'm hungry I am a 2 year old and cannot be trusted.)

When you're on time it shows people that you respect their time, you're a go-getter and you value whatever activity you're about to partake in. You come off interested and engaged.


When you're late, you come off as an asshole. (And you know how I feel about assholes) 


Be responsible.
Time yourself accordingly. 
Get up earlier. 
Leave earlier. 
Set an alarm for when you need to wake up and another for when you need to leave the house. Put out your clothes the night before. 
Allot time for traffic delays, rain and unforseen hiccups to make sure you're on time.
 

And if for whatever reason, you are going to be late - call, email, send a carrier pigeon and let people know so they're not waiting for you and silently plotting your death. (I really hate waiting when I'm hungry.)

Things that make me want to burn down ad agencies

Ridiculous ads like this.


Perhaps this isn't the time or place for this, but I'm genuinely hurt and upset. When I see misguided and insensitive ads like this it makes my heart cry.

Especially after knowing how many rounds of revisions it had to go through.
Especially after knowing how many people had to approve this.
Especially after knowing that someone picked this as the best option from everything else they had.

Usually when I see ads that people say are racist I say, "Eh. Maybe it has racially prejudicial undertones. But you're reading too much into it."

But this mess right here... *pulls out race card and places it on the table*

Sigh.

We need more multicultural creatives.

We need more people with diverse backgrounds and interests in brainstorm sessions.
(Diverse not necessarily meaning Black/Asian/Hispanic, but meaning well-traveled, culturally involved and aware.) 

And most importantly, we need more people who will speak up and say "This may not go over well, guys."

Interview: Freelancer turned full-timer


Intern schmintern. Working for free is great and all, but what about freelancing?

I interviewed Josh Horn, a long timer freelance art director/designer/fake mustache wearer. Read his story, get some tips and get to work. 

Q: How long have you been freelancing: 
Josh: I've freelanced on and off for the past 3 years or so. I actually "permalanced" at Ogilvy for about 2 years straight before taking a full time offer this past February (sell out).  I still freelance on the side tho. I'm always on my hustle. I'm trying get paid. Bitch. (I'm not referring to you as a bitch. I don't want to get slapped.)


Q: Why did you choose to freelance vs working full time?
Josh: The money is usually better. And it's easier to walk away if another opportunity arises. Plus, I don't feel as bad dipping my pen in the company ink. Not that I ever feel THAT bad. 

Q: How did you get your start freelancing?
Josh: Well I moved to NYC with two paisley patterned suitcases and six grand. As you know, six grand aint a lot of money in this city. But between drink specials, Trader Joe's, no health insurance, free concerts and 45 year old sugar mamas - you make it work. It's funny cause when you're in school I think a lot of people assume you graduate and there's this abundance of full-time jobs with benefits waiting to be plucked. But when it came to looking for gigs, I realized that freelance opportunities greatly outweigh full time opportunities. So I took what I could get. Did I mention it was 2008 and we were on the cusp of a recession? So yeah, there was that.  Broke during a recession, in arguably the most expensive city in the US. Good times.


Q: What are some of the perks? 
Josh: Usually the money is better and you get paid for overtime.

Q: What are some of the downfalls? 
Josh: No subsidized health insurance. And you feel more like an estranged cousin than part of the family. At one point, the Ogilvy gym was reserved for full-time employees only. So us freelancers would get dressed in 80's work out gear and go do jumping jacks and squat thrusts outside the gym windows. Oh and jazz hands. Lots of jazz hands. The gym opened up to everyone soon after. 

Q: How do you decide your rate? 
Josh: I have a rule that I always counter offer at least once. You'd actually be surprised what you get out of life if you just ask. I recently got a freelance offer, and honestly I wasn't really up for the amount of work it was going to take. So I said eff it. I took my hourly rate, which was already a little high, then added $50 bucks to it. I wasn't hurting for money so I felt I had nothing to lose. And lo and behold, they went for it. 

Q: Do you prefer hourly or daily or overall per project? what's better? how are they different? 
Josh: ALWAYS CHARGE BY THE HOUR OR DAY. NEVER BY PROJECT. A wise man told me this a long time ago and it has saved me many times. When you have an hourly or day rate, you're establishing the value of your time right off the bat. People will respect it, and they will work more efficiently because of this. This is probably going to be the best lesson I can give the young guns who might be reading this. 

Q: How do you get new clients?
Josh: I'm at the point now where people come to me. That's what's cool about this business, there's a snowball effect that occurs from doing good work. 

Q: How do you deal with non ad agency clients? 
Josh: You have to hold their hand a little more. And often they're really not sure what they want. That can get annoying. I find it's best to ask them to show you examples of work that is similar to what they're aiming for. Saves a lot of headaches. 

Q: Do you look at yourself like a business? 
Josh: I'm not a businessman. I'm a business, man. You have to or you're gonna get the shaft. That's why it can be tricky doing work for friends. I don't find that works out too well most of the time. 

Q: How do you sell yourself? 
Josh: Show a lot of leg. That, and exude confidence. Oh, and this might be a little superficial, but dress the part. I can't take design advice from someone whose wearing cargo shorts and a graphic tee. 

Q: Any advice to someone starting out wanting to freelance?
http://shouldiworkforfree.com
Josh: Don't work for free. Treat everything like a business transaction. Utilize social media to get your name out there. If you do good work, people will start coming to you. And don't take shitty projects unless you're broke. 

Q: Any tips to be a successful/ long term freelancer? 
Josh: Geezus. The questions just keep coming. What is this, some kind of interview or something? Umm... don't try to do it all yourself. I'm running at a faster pace these days because I loop in my friends to help carry the load. 

Q:What are your favourite types of freelance projects? 
Josh: Websites and any kind of film. Although I designed some watches once. That was dope. Stuff like that is cool. Keeps it interesting. 

Q: Anything else you want to add? 
Josh: If you don't have an online portfolio stop reading this now and make one. And don't try to do some fancy flash website or something. Keep it simple, keep it clean.

Now, I'ma ask you some questions. What made you want to start this blog?  
Me: I used to impale beetles on common pins when I was a child. This is my penance. Also, I had a lot of people help me when I was a clueless/hopeless student and a junior, I'm try to pay it forward.  

Do you want to lecture one day? 
Me: Definitely. I've taught at Miami Ad and given workshops and talks at other schools.  

Do you ever cut your hair? Or does it just reach the perfect-fro-circumference and stop growing? 
Me: Always about the hair, huh? I do cut it all the time actually. When it gets too long and touches my neck it freaks me out. Also I need to show it who's boss. 

Last question: Do your readers know that I was your unofficial office crush? Sorry fellas.  
Me: Nice weather we're having. Hope the rain stays away this weekend.

                                                                                ---
See more of Josh's work:
Facebook
Portfolio
LinkedIn

Post Internship To Do List

If you didn’t have an internship this summer, you’re failing. Okay, maybe not failing, but you’ve got a C average.

Internships are so valuable to your professional development and your portfolio. It’s one thing to come up with ideas for Tide with no budget, client or limitations (that’s the part of school I miss the most) but when you get into an agency, even as an intern, you get a taste of that cold, hard reality of budget cuts, last minute client changes and 300x600 banner edges. 

It’s also a great way to network and create career connections and to see how things are done from behind the scenes. (Who knew people went to 387 image selections just to find 1 for that print ad!)

For those of you who did intern, whether or not you had a good experience, be sure to take stock of everything you’ve learned. Maybe you learned that you had account management and want to be a planner. Maybe you learned that you hate advertising all together and want to move to Costa Rica and teach orphans. Or maybe you learned that you’re an awesome Photoshop genie but need to work on your conceptual skills to really get a job. Whatever it is, look for the good in the situation and see how you can use it to propel you forward. 
 
Now that it’s all over, here is a Post Internship To Do List:


- Send Thank You notes. Email, handwritten, embroidered, whatever you see fit – just make sure you let the people who you worked with and who helped you throughout the summer know how much you appreciate them, how much you learned and that you will continue to stalk them over the next 2 – 7 years. 

- Update your resume and portfolio. Look at all that you did and add adjectives and descriptive verbs to make it sound like the best thing since God created the Internet. Gather all the projects you worked on and if they’re not great, make them great, then put them in your book. If it was produced and isn’t great, make it great then put it in. Greatness trumps everything.

- Make a strength and weakness list. Start tackling your weaknesses.


- Take a break. Once you start working full time it'll be go go go go. Go.

- Do personal follow ups. You warned them with your Thank You Notes, now follow through over the next 3 – 6 months and check in with those folks who you built a good relationship with. Let them know how you’re progressing and share any new/exciting news on your career


- Plan and plot. What’s your next move? Looking for a full time job? Trying to freelance? Going to portfolio school? Make a two year plan and start looking at how you can get to where you want to be as painlessly as possible.

It’s not too late to look into Fall internships and to start prepping on internships for next year.

My personal favorite is the Multicultural Advertising InternshipProgram (I’m biased, I’m an alum) but every agency has their own program and several ad organisations do too, so look out starting in November/December for applications.

Also, start reaching out to places in your area (Check The Creative Ham's agency listing or even Craigslist) and seeing if you can intern for free to get experience. 

(Everybody loves free labour. This is America after all.)

Back2Work: There's No Crying in Advertising

Once you step into the office, put your bag/phone/iPod/whatever you carry down, take a minute to gather your feelings and pack them away in your bottom drawer. You won't need them.


Things need to get done. Ads need to get made. Deadlines need to get met. When you're in a professional environment, your personal feelings/needs/wants/expectations don't matter.

How you feel about this project, the strategy, that account person, the client, the timeline, the logo size doesn't matter.

There is work to do. Put your feelings and emotions aside and do it.

When someone doesn't like your idea, it doesn't mean they don't like you.

When someone gets short or snaps at you, 9 times out of 10 they're super stressed out and just thinking about how to get this done in the quickest and easiest way. Sometimes there's no time for formalities.*

You can't take these things personally.

The project you spent all week working on will get cut. The idea you love will die. Your campaign will get completely changed. Someone else will execute and take credit for your concept. People won't say please or thank you or good job.

Cry about it when you get home. Right now, you have to shake it off and keep it moving.

Your creative director doesn't hate you. The project manager didn't look at you funny. The ACD isn't trying to ruin your life. No one is sitting around trying to hurt your feelings or ignore you or go all Mean Girls on you.

And even if any of that were true, it doesn't matter.

This is a place of business, not a soap opera.

What's next on your to do list?

Related Reading
Split Your Personality - separate your work life from your personal life on social media
Get What You Want - go into situations with a plan of what you want to gain from the experience

* Don't get me wrong, there are rude, malicious and uncouth people running these agency halls. But what are you going to do about it? Tell your mom to talk to their mom? You just have to suck it up and keep it moving. There are assholes everywhere and you can't let them, or your hurt feelings, stand in the way of your greatness.

Don't be an asshole

When was the last time you stopped and checked yourself? Really sat and asked, "Am I being an asshole?"

If you haven't, then you're probably an asshole.

Yesterday I was at the Multicultural Advertising Internship Program (MAIP) end of summer extravaganza and career fair and someone asked me for advice. All I said was "Don't be an asshole." Take that with you everywhere and anywhere you go and you'll be alright.

I have personal beef with assholes. I feel like work/clients/budgets/timelines/projects/life are difficult enough already, I don't need the additional stress of someone being a total jerktard on top of everything else. Thanks but no thanks.


How to be an asshole:

Let your ego run free.

Never accept feedback/criticism.

Do it your way, or don't do it at all.

Speak louder. And for longer.

If they don't like it, do it anyway.

File a formal complaint. Go above people's heads if you have to.

Break the rules.

Show everyone that you're smarter/better/prettier.

Feel free to whine, bitch, complain, huff and puff.

Be creative with the truth. Embellish and exaggerate where necessary.

See how other people can help you. Whether or not they know it. Whether or not they want to.

Create drama.

Promote yourself. Shamelessly and incessantly.

Break promises. Miss deadlines.

Don't make a decision if you don't have to. Wait until you see what your CD likes best, they get on that train.

Follow your mood. If you don't feel like it, don't do it.

Get there when you get there. Make people wait for you when you can.

Tell it like you see it.

Keep score. Make sure everyone knows what you did, how late you stayed and how much you put in to each project.

Socialise a lot. Flirt a little even. Gossip when you can.

Convince people that you're right.

Surf the Internet. Do your personal projects. Skype. Facebook. Tweet. Send emails. Play your music extra loud.

Share your story. Specifically, your side of the story.

Defend yourself. Incessantly.

Throw people under the bus.

Keep an eye on everyone else. Are they busy? Are they meeting their deadlines? Is their work any good?

Jump right in. To any conversations, project, meal.

"Borrow" people's ideas.

Make sure everyone knows what you know. And how much you know. And how little they know in comparison to how much you know.

Always look out for Number One. 

Be generous with your opinions.

Ignore other people.

Don't trust anyone.

Be a winner. Always.

Be lazy.

Don't take anything seriously.

---

If you don't want to be an asshole, do the opposite of everything listed here. 
It's that easy!

Lessons from other Blogs: Ad Aged

Most of what I write here falls into two categories: What do I wish someone told me and What do I wish more people knew (so they'd stop being assholes.)

However, I'm still super new in the game (blogging/copywriting/flame swallowing). So I'm always checking out other blogs and perspectives of people wiser and smarter than me.

Here is a post from a blog I enjoy - Ad Aged written by George Tannebaum, an ECD at R/GA.

 

The Past 14 Months
 
7/17/11
I am off this evening for a week on the left coast, shooting a campaign for my client with Errol Morris.

I've been working on the campaign for well over a year. I've lasted through three group account directors and a series of creative people who, once they saw the vicissitudes of this particular piece of business, packed their bags for purportedly sunnier, more ambient climes.

I've written, over the course of this year, something on the order of 200 scripts on this campaign. Probably half of those I showed the client. After all these months and scripts and meetings and disappointments, back in mid-May, they finally bought three. Those three, somehow survived the self-fulfilling prophecy we call testing and after some more sturm und drang around directors, casting and, mostly, budget, I'm on the way to shooting something.

I've learned a lot running through this client gauntlet. Or, better, I should say a lot of what I know and have always known has been confirmed over the past year.

1. Until someone can do things better than you can, you should do them yourself.
2. It's not dead if you keep fighting for life.
3. Keep coming back with something better. The best revenge is a better ad.
4. Know what you want and keep demanding it until you either a) get it or b) get fired. This is better than compromise.
5. Always do more than you're asked to do. Always try to sell more to your client than they've asked for.
6. Around everything you try to do there is a chorus of chatter that "wouldn't do it that way." It's best to ignore that chatter.
7. Hard work and persistence can overcome nearly anything.
8. It doesn't hurt to thank the client at the end of every meeting and phone call.
9. The people who have never done it before always say they know a better way to do it.
10. Stay away from breakfast burritos. You're way better off with a simple bowl of cornflakes and a banana. 


Inspiration: Creative Mornings

Make more of your mornings with CreativeMornings. 

CreativeMornings is a monthly breakfast lecture series for creative types. It's free and great for networking, learning and being inspired.

Check out this great one from March with Ji Lee, at the time Creative Director Google Labs, now Creative Director at Facebook.


2011/03 Ji Lee from CreativeMornings on Vimeo.


Back2Work: Do You Want Fries With That?

Everybody loves an overachiever.
When you get an assignment and they ask for two things, give them three.

When they ask for a print campaign, throw in a free and easy to make it a digital idea.

When they ask for some banners, add on a way to extend it to Facebook, Twitter and foursquare. 
Look at your work and find a way to add fries. 

Take whatever project, no matter how big or small, and try to find ways to turn it into something that will make your client look good, your agency look good and most importantly, something that will make you look good.  

As advertising folks, we're supposed to be leading the client down the path of greatness.

As juniors/interns, you're supposed to be leading the agency down the path of greatness.

I had a creative director who'd say, "That's good. Now make it great." I hated him for it at times. (I mean, I worked on this every day 'til 3 a.m. and it's 87% better than anything that client has ever done and you're saying it's just "good"? WTF man.) But it made me always push my work and really try to take things to another level.

Let the account team and client water down your idea. Let them say "Whoa, this is too creative." Don't ever limit yourself.

Especially if you're in school. Your portfolio should be epically amazing. You have no budgets, no CEOs, no FCC, no boundaries. You have absolutely nothing stopping you from creating the most groundbreaking, interesting, exciting and engaging campaign EVER.

This is what will make you stand out. This is what will get you hired. 

You have the time, thoughts and talent to be completely awesome. So go ahead and do it. 

Go above and beyond.

Go reach for that next big thing.


Give them what they think they want, then give them what you think they want, then put some whipped cream on it and serve it up on a golden platter.

But always, always (always) give it on time.

Nobody loves missed deadlines.



How to Apply To Portfolio School


Portfolio schools all basically do the same thing: help create amazing campaigns to blow the minds of creative directors and get you a job.

The thing is, portfolio school is nothing like high school or college. No one is going to make you go to class or make you push your ideas more. The grades barely matter. There is no extra credit. Your entire experience depends on you. No matter which school you go to, you are the one constant and the one thing that will determine how far you make it. 
Seeing that you're about to commit your whole life and being to creating your portfolio, you should pick a school that best fits your needs, personality and goals. You're going to be spending a lot of time (and money) there, so do your research to make sure you're in the right place.

Don’t limit yourself by cost or location. Look at the culture, environment, agency liaisons, internship and placement opportunities, teachers, students, awards and the work of recent graduates. Find where you fit in best and then roll your sleeves up and get ready to work.

I interviewed some admissions folks at Art Center (AC), BrandCenter at VCU (VCU), The Creative Circus (CC) and Miami Ad School (MAS) to get information on the application process and gather some tips for how you can make sure you get in.

When to apply:
AC: Any time. Classes start September, January and May.
VCU: January through May. Classes start in every Fall.
CC: Any time. Classes start January, April, July and October.
MAS: Any time. Classes start January, April, July and October.

What you need to apply:
AC: A portfolio, application, application fee, essays, high school or college transcript.
VCU: A series of assignments based on your track (Art Direction, Communications Strategy, Copywriting, Creative Brand Management, Creative Technology), the Brand You questionnaire, bachelor degree (any degree, doesn’t have to be advertising), college transcripts, 3 letters of recommendation, application and fee, GRE/GMAT (for Creative Brand Management and Communications Strategy only)
CC: High school diploma or GED equivalent, admissions interview (to see if The Circus is the right fit for the student and if the student is the right fit for The Circus.) Application and fee, essay and portfolio.
MAS: A checklist with various, fun assignments to see their ideas and creativity. Along with the regular requirements of an application (contract, letters of recommendation, etc) we require an assignment, creative samples and a video component having them show us how they are creative. 

Who reviews your application:
AC: Admissions staff and chair of the relevant major
VCU: Brandcenter professors
CC: Admissions reps and department heads for each program
MAS:  An admissions person from the specific location

What they look for in your application:
AC: Fresh ad concepts across different mediums (print, web, etc). The ability to connect in a quick, impactful and relevant way. Drawing, graphics and typography skills.
VCU: Creativity. Smart Thinking. Passion.
CC: Passion and drive. Those are attributes we can’t teach.
MAS: Ideas and creativity are the most important. We can teach the skills needed but we can not teach creativity.



Ways to win them over:
AC: Layered meanings. Unexpected solutions.
VCU: Interesting perspectives and life experiences. Humility. Humor.
CC: Enthusiasm. Humility. Talent.
MAS: Ingenuity. Organized applications. Packaging - when I tear open the postal package to find a neat hand-made box or collage binder inside, it shows the effort. 
 
Ways to turn them off:
AC: Shock value for the sake of shock value. Bad spelling/grammar. Pieces with no idea behind them.
VCU: Typos. Immature/ unprofessional communication. Having their mom call me.
CC: Thinking you know more than you do. Not listening.
MAS:  Poor time management. Applying to more than one location. Doubting yourself.

Tips & Advice:
AC: Include finished pieces and sketches and process pieces that lead up to the final ideas in your portfolio.
VCU: Simplicity is best. Just like the industry we serve, we look for diversity in our candidates. Not only racial and cultural diversity but also diversity of life experiences. 
CC: Our most successful students don’t need to be reminded or cajoled into completing their work because they are passionate about it. They do it because they love it.
MAS: If you want to be a writer, submit writing samples - a fun Twitter account or insightful blog. As an art director, you do not necessarily need to be a painter/drawer - things like photography or a Tumblr with everyday things that inspire you show insight.
When you’ll hear back:
AC: Within two weeks.
VCU: Six to eight weeks.
CC: Within two weeks.
MAS: Usually withing two to three weeks of receiving the complete application 

What if you’re accepted:
AC: Work out your financial aid, put down your deposit and start counting down. 
VCU: New student orientation in late August.
CC: A whole bunch of paperwork and financial aid. Start reading and preparing. Get lots of sleep.
MAS: They start getting correspondence about housing, financial aid, software etc. I also try to invite them to our various FB pages so they can start meeting/interacting with current students. 

What if you’re rejected:
Try again. All schools give feedback, make recommendations and encourage students to reapply.
Special thanks to
Shannon Cobourn, Director of Marketing and Admissions at the Creative Circus Shannon.Cobourn@creativecircus.edu
Karen Berndt, Admissions Coordinator at VCU Brandcenter berndtke@vcu.edu
Kit Baron, Vice President of Admissions at Art Center kit.baron@artcenter.edu 
Katie Lever, Admissions at Miami Ad School, Miami katie@miamiadschool.com


Article: Will You Pass The Social Media Background Check

Remember how I said you should keep your business and personal self separate and be wary of connecting with coworkers and ad professionals on social media? (read it here) And that you should be wary of friending/following your coworkers and superiors on Facebook/Twitter? (read that here) 

Well here's an article about how your social media self can get your business self in trouble. As usual, I bolded the things that stood out to me.


I Flunked My Social Media Background Check. Will You?
By Mat Honan
 Your next job application could require a social media background check. Odds are, you have no clue what that means. Nobody does. It's new and scary and probably scours the Web for pictures of you puking on the beach.

But screw speculation. We wanted to know. So we ran background checks on six Gizmodo employees.

Here's what we found, and why you should both freak out about and embrace it.

First, some context: In May, the FTC gave a company called Social Intelligence the green light to run background checks of your Internet and social media history. The media made a big hulabaloo out of the ruling. And it largely got two important facts wrong.

Contrary to initial reports, Social Intelligence doesn't store seven years worth of your social data. Rather it looks at up to seven years of your history, and stores nothing.

The second was the idea that it was looking for boozy or embarrassing photos of you to pass along to your employer. In fact it screens for just a handful of things: aggressive or violent acts or assertions, unlawful activity, discriminatory activity (for example, making racist statements), and sexually explicit activity. And it doesn't pass on identifiable photos of you at all. In other words, your drunken kegstand photos are probably fine as long as you're not wearing a T-shirt with a swastika or naked from the waist down.

Basically, it just wants to know if you're the kind of asshole who will cause legal hassles for an employer. Which brings us back to my report.

We ran background checks on six Gizmodo employees, including our editor in chief Joe Brown, and all but one came back clean. When it doesn't find anything incriminating on a potential employee, it simply issues a notice that the employees passed (see below) and doesn't generate a file.

And then there's me. I flunked hard. When that happens, Social Intelligence creates a report, which it would then send to an employer. And if you don't get a job because of your social media report, you can request a copy. Mine's filled with delightful details, like "subject admits to use of cocaine as well as LSD," and "subject references use of Ketamine."

Basically, I may never work again.

Yet the report is fascinating to look at. So privacy be damned, we've posted the entire thing online, you can read it at the bottom of this post. We've also annotated it and called out some interesting highlights in the gallery on this page.

More importantly, we learned a few things about how it works, and what you can do if you've got to have one of these reports run. And you will.

For starters, what it doesn't include in the report is nearly as interesting as what it does. Every image of me that might be able to identify my ethnicity is blacked out, even my hands. On my homepage, a line that reads "I drink too much beer" has been obscured because it's ultimately irrelevant. Screw you, boss man. I love my beer. (Joe: please do not fire me.)

And then there's the stuff it didn't find. For example, our editor in chief, Joe Brown, has a Facebook account under a different name he uses for close friends who do not want to be subjected to his work-related posts. (And, you know, to avoid annoying publicists who try to friend him.) It's easily findable if you know his personal email address. We gave that address to Social Intelligence, but it didn't dig up his aliased account, just his main profile.

It also seems like it helps to have a large Web footprint. Yeah, it found some negative hits. Tip of the iceberg, my man!

There was much more to find buried deep in my Google search results that could have been just as incriminating. Sometimes, on even more than one level. Like this tweet, which although written in jest, is pretty much a twofer:
Full size

Another interesting tidbit: It only uses the data an employer gives it to run a search. This tends to be standard issue information from your resume. Your name, your university, your email address and physical location. Which means that, ultimately, you are the one supplying all the data for a background check. Because you are the one who supplies that data to your employer. And that means you should be smart about what kinds of contact information you put on your resume.

Your personal email address, especially if you've had it for a long time, could have all kinds of things tied to it that you'd rather an employer not see. Spend the nothing it costs to set up a dedicated job search email account, and list that one on your c.v.

And then there's sex. One of the things that Social Intelligence scans for is "sexually-explicit content for the purposes of sexual excitement and/or erotic satisfaction." That can be photos, video, or even text. And there's no clear cut rule as to what's explicit. "Since our team are in fact human beings," says CEO Max Drucker," they are able to discern to the best degree possible what 'explicit' means."

Maybe so. And in fairness, the explicit example he sent me did make me want to bleach my eyeballs. But what's sexually explicit in one place, like where I grew up in Alabama, may not be in another, like where I live now in San Francisco. None of my Folsom Street Fair photos turned up in the report. Nor did any of the Bay to Breakers cock shots that I've published on both my blog and in my Flickr stream. I wouldn't consider those explicit (after all, they were taken on the streets of San Francisco) but would I want this extremely NSFW photo going to a potential employer? Probably not.

But ultimately the bottom line, and my takeaway, is that these kind of services actually make a lot of sense. Employers would have to be stupid not to Google job candidates. Yet it's better for both the employer and the candidate to have a disinterested third-party do full-scrape background checks.

We now routinely bandy about the kind of information online that employers are legally prohibited from asking. Your average Facebook profile can reveal an entire litany of details like your race, sexual orientation, national origin, or religious affiliation that are off-limits in the hiring process.

As an employee, you don't want potential employers knowing certain things about you that might make you a less attractive candidate due to their personal biases. As an employer, even if none of those things matter, just accidentally finding them out can be a problem.

For example, consider the following scenario. Let's say you're a California-based employer and you do a basic background check on a job candidate. In scouring the Web, you discover a brand new Tumblr update that says "I'm pregnant!" Holy impending mandatory paid time off! But you're good a corporate citizen. That doesn't matter to you. Yet for unrelated reasons, you hire a different candidate. Meanwhile, the rejected candidate sees your company's IP address in her analytics program. She assumes you didn't hire her because she's pregnant. She sues. Now what?

If Social Intelligence finds out you're pregnant, or gay, or a Muslim, or newly married, or newly gay married to a pregnant Muslim, it leaves that out of its report. All an employer sees is, basically, that you passed or failed. And it won't flunk you for getting drunk or knocked up.

Even if you do both things at the same time. Party on.