This new article in our Emerging Voices Series is made possible by the generous support of Adpulp’s patrons on Patreon.
For anyone struggling with what seems more like a scavenger hunt than a job hunt, I feel you. As a young creative striving to break into advertising as a copywriter during a global pandemic – I’m struggling. I know I am not alone in this, which leads me to want to share some of the advice I have picked up through Zoom networking sessions and from the wonderful people who were willing to speak to me about the interviewing process and continually improving my portfolio.
Who Am I To Reach Out To Them?
When applying for entry-level jobs and internships you are entering at the bottom of the totem pole. This is a wonderful thing, it is your entrance into the world of advertising. It does not mean you are any less valuable to talk and connect with than more senior creatives. You are passionate, you have fresh ideas, you know how to use Tik Tok! There are also just a lot of lovely humans looking to help people who stand where they once stood, so be brave and ask for a meeting.
We’ve stumbled into this crazy advertising jigsaw puzzle because we love a good insight that solves our problem. Well, for anyone who struggles with imposter syndrome when reaching out to more accomplished professionals, I have a reassuring insight from a Creative Director at WONGDOODY in Seattle. Jennie Moore says, “It’s flattering to be reached out to.”
So, go flatter someone today. People love to know their work thus far has warranted young professionals to seek advice from them. Sometimes the person is too busy to reply right away. Moore says, “Don’t give up too easily…be patiently persistent.” This obviously doesn’t mean email them every morning at 7:55 AM. However, don’t be afraid to reach out a couple of times, it’s likely they are willing to have a chat at some point.
Learning To Take Feedback
Listen to everything. Be the most absorbent sponge in the sponge aisle. Take it all in. A wise friend once told me that you will learn with time which advice will inspire you to action and what advice will simply feed your perspective. All feedback has value in some way, it’s just a matter of sorting through it with an open mind, free of that sneaky little thing called ego.
Speaking of that sneaky thing, it’s especially pesky when your ego is telling you that your idea is the best idea and that you should ignore anyone who suggests that you change it.
This is usually a lie. Your ideas are not precious. Don’t put them under that sort of pressure. Some of the best advice I have ever gotten was “Don’t be afraid to kill your babies.” In other words, if it sucks, start over.
What Makes One Portfolio Shine Brighter Than the Rest?
One important thing to remember here is different people see different sparks. One person might be over the moon about your Tofurky campaign targeted at vegan, and another might feel it’s flat and lacking crucial ingredient.
I am no expert on which portfolios are going to stand out in the endless sea of Squarespace and Wix sites (still figuring that one out), but I asked some people who are. Here is what they had to say.
Åsk Wäppling, Chief Technology Officer at Brown&Red, says “I like when I can see projects that show their thinking beyond their portfolio, and I highly recommend creatives to include such things. These days when everyone has a portfolio website, it’s easy to include a blog and an Instagram area where one can show inspiration and thoughts.”
Don’t be afraid to be the copywriter that moonlights as a collage artist and dabbles in birdhouse building.
Moore adds, “Range is what everyone wants to see. People want to know you’re flexible.”
Mom and Dad Are Not The Customers
Let’s all just admit it – we love to show our parents our work. They are ‘guaranteed’ going to love it and be so so proud. Every time.
This will make you feel all mushy inside but remember to always seek just as much criticism as you do praise. I am learning slowly that what is going to create the most interesting work, the kind that pushes your portfolio to the next level, is the kind that is inspected with the most magnified lens.
I think it is critical that we seek criticism as creatives and learn how to incorporate what we hear. It probably won’t feel like motherly love when taking notes on how much your current campaigns currently suck; in fact, it’ll feel more like sandpaper scratching away at your ego. BUT, after you feel overwhelmed and stressed out about it, you can gather yourself, jump back in, and back get to work, just like you will do on the job one day.
Portfolio Reviews Are A Two-Way Street
When creative directors and other well-established creatives review your portfolio, they are able to gain insight into the minds that are breaking into the industry today. Stagnancy is creativity’s evil twin. By looking at your work and your ideas, they can better understand what kind of talent is budding and how it can impact their clients’ needs.
Wäppling says, “Discussing ads and ideas is always fun, and I like to hear how new talent has approached a problem. In these discussions, I remind myself to look at a creative problem from several angles, and fresh insights always come up. It keeps me from growing stagnant, I find inspiration in the excitement of new talent.”
It’s not easy to ask for and receive criticism of your work or to ask for a job, but this is the path and there is significant progress available to those who walk it. When you hear Moore say that people are flattered to hear from aspiring creatives, and Wäppling says that she gets inspired when discovering new talent, it gives you confidence.