Use Your Past Life

Everything happens for a reason. My motto is "Everything is a lesson and every lesson is a blessing." (I have a lot of mottos.)

Every part of my past is beneficial to my present and my future.
Including my pre-copywriting jobs working as a hostess, bartender, sales associate and my internships in the account management department.

All of these things make me a better creative and employee.

How does your previous work experience help you as a creative?

Look at your background and see what transferrable skills you have that will make you a more attractive candidate to an agency.

Agencies are looking for people who have had different experiences and different stories to tell. Your colourful background can be used as a selling point to not only help people to remember you, but to show some of what you have to offer.

Here are some ways you can use your past life to propel your present:

Retail: Working as a sales associate in a store, you have experience talking to a wide range of people, finding solutions based on their needs and tastes, turning features into benefits, and getting someone to buy something. You also have experience standing for long periods of time, making things look presentable and orderly and smiling even when you don't mean it.

All of these can translate to your job as a creative. (Well, maybe except the standing one. Unless you like standing.)
You're going to have to take features and turn them into benefits to show people how having 400 more megapixels makes their life better. Being able to translate boring product features into useful and captivating benefits is a must-have skill.

Service: As a waiter, bartender or hostess, you have to smile and be personable all the time, you have to know how to make people feel comfortable and special, you have to sell dishes or drinks to them based on their needs and tastes and you have to be able to relate to a wide range of people.
Many people forget advertising is a service industry. We are constantly catering to our clients and our consumers. So knowing how to be kind, hospitable and believable in your work and in your behaviour are very important.

You're going to have to know how to talk to a wide range of people - you may be a 24 year old from Miami, but your target market for this campaign is 45 year old moms for the Midwest. Knowing how to relate to and address different people is an extremely valuable skill.
Office: Whether as a receptionist, account person, mail room guy or accountant, your background working in a professional/ corporate setting is attractive to employers because it shows that you have some business sense. In an office you have to work with deadlines and time-sensitive materials. You have to be organised, attentive, personable and professional.
As a creative, it helps to have business sense because your clients are looking at sales and budgets and want to raise one and lower the other. Your job is to find creative solutions to business problems.

Plus, you're still working in an office and though the dress code may be different,  a lot of the same rules apply.

So don't sell yourself short. Just because you don't have any agency experience yet, doesn't mean you're not a value to an agency. You just have to know what to highlight and how, when working on your resume and talking about yourself. All of your experiences add up to make you great, so use them to your advantage. Plus, nothing beats real world experience.

(Get an internship though. Seriously, this will give you a leg up.)