11 Tips for Job Seekers

Originally published in the One Club's Where Are All The Black People attendee booklet, 10/3/12

Hi Job Seeker!

You’re awesome. I know it. And you’re going to get a job. I believe it.

First things first, this is advertising, and the biggest thing you have to know how to sell yourself.

PART ONE: Who Are you?
Why should anyone hire you?
What’s so special about you?
What do you bring to the table?
What are your skills?
Do you have the experience, attitude and enthusiasm to make it?
What can you do better than the guy sitting next to you?
How does your past experience make you a great employee?
What’s your vision? For yourself? For the job?
What is your ideal job?
What is your career path?

Now that you’ve taken the time to ponder (and answer) those questions, let’s move on to part two.

PART TWO: A Reality Check
Job hunting is not easy. The economy is struggling. The unemployment rate is still high. There are more people competing for fewer positions. There are people who have more connections than you. There are people who are better than you. There are jobs that are available but aren’t posted online. You’re going to apply and never hear back. You’re going to interview and get turned down.

It takes a lot of time, effort, dedication and resilience.
Be patient. Your day will come.

Now for the main attraction.

Here are some things I’ve learned along the way. I hope they help you as much as they’ve helped me.

1. Update your resume/portfolio. I bet you already thought about that one. But did you really do it? Did you go through your stuff with a fine-toothed comb? Have you gotten feedback from people in the industry? What’s your LinkedIn profile looking like? We all have that one thing we only kinda like or we know could be better. Fix it now. Make sure you look the absolute best on paper.

2. Craft Your Elevator Pitch. If you were on an elevator with someone you want to work with/for going from the 5th floor to the 8th, what would you say to get him/her interested in you? Come up with a concise 3-5 sentence spiel that encompasses everything about you and gives someone a feel for who you are, what you offer and what you're looking for.

3. Stalk job opportunities. You have to devote several hours to looking for and applying to jobs every day. There are a bunch of sites you can use to look for jobs, bookmark all of them and go through them every day. Apply to 2-3 (appropriate) positions every day. Email 2-3 different friends every day telling them you’re looking and ask them to keep an eye out for you. Follow the trades every day to see who’s in the news and who is winning or losing accounts so you know where the growth is. Until you get hired, job hunting is your job. Every day.

4. Study the job descriptions. Go through the job description line by line looking at the requirements, duties and information about the company. Google the agency, look at its clients, read industry news on it. Find out everything you can about the job before you apply. You need to make sure you’re qualified for the job at hand. And see if it’s a job you actually want. (You don’t go out with every girl that smiles at you, similarly, don’t apply to every job because it’s open.) Once you’re sure it’s right, customize your cover letter and resume/portfolio to make sure you show why you’re perfect for the position.

5. Write a cover letter/email. Whenever possible, find out who the HR person/recruiter is and write to them directly. (“To whom it may concern” makes me want to vomit.) If you can’t find out, pretend that you do know and keep your letter personable and approachable. Always write a new cover letter (no generic) to introduce yourself, say how you heard about the position (name drop if possible), show why you, this agency and this job should be BFFs, and request a phone call or meet up to talk more. Keep it concise, typo-free and action-oriented.

6. Research. Be up-to-date on the latest industry news and trends so you can come off educated and excited. It’s easier to start a convo with a stranger with “This Samsung-Apple situation is heating up, huh?” vs “This weather’s crazy, huh?” Google agencies and their leaders.  Read ad blogs and trade magazines. Follow thought-leaders on Twitter. Study commercials, print, digital, mobile etc. (I’m the dork that used to tape the Superbowl so I can fast-forward through the football to get to the ads) If you have an interview, know everything you can about the company, the clients, the person interviewing you and anything that’s relevant to them. Knowledge is still power.

7. Network. Ad folks love to socialize. There are tons of organizations and clubs (multicultural and general) that are forever putting on events, having talks, conferences or socials. Go. Meet people. Ask questions. Get to know everyone from hiring managers to people who have the job you want to people who work with that person who has the job you want. Everybody, no matter their position, is another connection that can get you closer to landing a job.

8. Be involved. You shouldn’t just attend events, join an ad organization or two. Volunteer. Be active. Be seen. Make sure people know your face and that you’re invested in the industry. Consider this getting your toe in the door. The rest of your foot will follow in due time.

9. Shine on LinkedIn. You may only have one page for your resume or 10 campaigns for your portfolio, but on LinkedIn you can write as much as you like. Show just how awesome you are by adding your achievements, showcasing your interests, getting recommendations and connect with more people through groups. Always, always, ALWAYS send a note with your request to connect.

10. Get people to talk about you. 90% of jobs come from a recommendation. (I made up that number, but I’m sure it’s pretty high.) This is why numbers 6, 7 and 8 are so important. Having someone suggest you for a position or endorse you can put you over the edge. Reach out to people you know to find out if their agency is looking – ask them to refer you or apply and then ask them to send a note on your behalf. If you don’t know anyone, reach out to a junior or mid-level person* and ask to meet for coffee. (*They’re easier to talk to, have more time and, as a man-on-the-ground, will have helpful insights.)

P.S. Reason #298,3871 not to be a jerk. 

11. Do Something Different. Whether it’s advertising-related or not, you should have something that you’re giving your time and creativity to. It’s a great way to show your personality, gives you something else to talk about during interviews and can add to your sellability. Agencies want people with diverse backgrounds and various skills. And who knows, your little hobby may help you get recognized and land you an interview. So start a blog, work with a non-profit, win a skateboarding competition, do something worth talking about.