By Cindy Marie Habana and Dave Thornhill
There is nothing easy about advertising.
For those determined to break in, particularly in a creative capacity, it’s not as simple as “go to school, get a job.” No sir. Nobody comes out of school ready to produce in this industry.
First you must undergo professional tutelage. We’re referring to the intermediate limbo stage between student and professional known as “the internship.” It’s comparable to a residency for med students, only there are slightly fewer lives on the line. And there’s beer.
But like everything in advertising, internships are competitive. Placements are limited and students across the country are competing for the attention of the best shops.
What can aspiring creatives do to improve their chances of landing a great placement? As two creatives lucky enough to be interning at Rethink Communications, we’ll tell you what worked for us. After all, we did find our way here. And that couldn’t just have been blind luck, right? Right?
Advertising is a demanding and challenging field, so you must be focused and passionate if you expect to compete. You’ll need to be enthusiastic and positive every step of the way— starting in the classroom. You should also be somewhat excited by (or at least prepared for) the prospect of working long hours with little or no pay early on.
Do your homework and find the right school— it can open doors for you and connect you to alumni who can mentor you. A good school will guide you towards building a book that stands out and provide you with the tools you need for the industry.
It’s a big decision, so make sure you get it right. For example, the Ontario College of Art and Design for art direction is probably a good idea. The Appleton Falls Community College for gun repair, probably not.
If you’re not sure where to start, check out this handy article on how to get a job in advertising.
Right from the start, set goals for yourself. What do you aspire to be? The best in your class? The best in your program? The best in the history of the galaxy?
Aim high. Even if you don’t meet your objective, at least you will hold yourself to a high standard every day.
And don’t just compare yourself to your peers. Look at the best work in the awards annuals and ask yourself if your work is on par. If not, keep working towards that goal, regardless of how well it is being received by the people around you. They’re probably just blinded by your good looks anyway.
Like, really hard. Generating ideas is analogous to wringing your brain like a dishcloth over and over again until it’s dry. Then doing it some more with the dried-out husk. It can be gruelling and exhausting.
If you’re going to produce quality work, you need to love working at it. But when the work is done and the creative results surpass your expectations, it’ll be worth all the tears, hair-pulling and sleepless nights it took to extract your precious brain juice.
You should be reading advertising blogs every day. Yup. Even on Sundays. (But maybe not on the Sabbath. Remember: the God of the Old Testament is vengeful.) That’s Ads of the World, Best Ads on TV, Creative Review, Lürzer’s Archive, Creativity Online, etc. And once you’re in school, you should be reading the advertising annuals and marketing mags in your school library. They’re not in your school library? Maybe try going back to the previous section on finding a good school.
Rejection and criticism are part of the creative process, so you’ll need to find an inner confidence. In fact, you should seek out and embrace criticism as a means of improving your work.
Do this, and you’ll be creating amazing, award-winning work in no time. Or going completely insane. Fortunately, insanity will not preclude you from working in advertising.
Don’t wait until graduation to start showing your book around. That’s an error that can set you back several months if your book isn’t where it needs to be. Better to find that out while you’re still in school and polish things up in time for your grad show. That’s when agencies go shopping for fresh interns to replace the ones from last year who have started talking back.
The industry is full of great people who will be happy to look at your book and offer their thoughts. The more people you can talk to, the better your book will be. Guaranteed. So don’t be afraid to make those cold calls and get ad types looking at your work.
You’ll also be building a network of industry contacts in the process. And visiting different agencies will help you determine the type of shop you’d like to work in. It’s like killing two birds with one stone. Or is it three birds with two stones? No matter. Point is, lots of dead birds, minimal stones.
And by easy, we mean ridiculously hard.
There’s no doubt that every success story has a certain amount of “right place, right time” magic working in its favour. But that’s not to say you can’t influence your outcome. Just work hard and make your internship a priority well before your graduation date, and good things will happen.
Remember: once you land somewhere, it will all be worthwhile. You’ll get to work with good, talented people on cool projects and learn to love the words “do it again, only better this time.”
Do you have any internship experiences or advice you’d like to share? Are you a prospective intern with questions about the industry? Post away, we’d love to hear from you.
Posted on July 13, 2010 by Cindy Marie Habana and Dave Thornhill, creative interns with Rethink in Vancouver, Canada.