Dear recently graduated Millennial:
Congratulations on your graduation! I understand you’re ready to conquer the world of advertising. I want to get to know you. You may be exactly what we need.
Before you begin your conquest, let me introduce myself and offer up a few pointers.
I’m the creative services manager at an ad agency. I work with our creative directors to assign teams. Day-to-day, that’s partnering people with the right blend of sensibilities, suitable experience, drive, and magical team chemistry. Bigger picture: That’s being thoughtful and extremely careful about who we hire, inviting in only those ready to work hard, contribute something every day, dream big, and make stuff great.
To understand me, you should know I’m the poster child for Generation X. I’m the self-reliant, pragmatic manager you may have seen at industry events or met for an informational interview.
My Gen-Xism is part of the reason I need people like you. I understand change is inevitable, but you embrace it and approach it with less cynicism. You are naturally nimble, technologically savvy, and ever-present socially. I know this is valuable, and I work towards these things, but it tends to be just that — work. For you, it just is.
That progressiveness coupled with your confident persistence is a force. Let’s be honest, in marketing and advertising, those traits of yours personify what we need to be — dynamic, idealistic, and fearless.
With this said, there are guidelines that apply to you and anyone entering the field. I’ve seen some of your counterparts make detrimental missteps you should avoid. Here are my suggestions:
Are you tired of your elders describing you and your peers as “entitled?” If you aren’t, you should be. I am. Prove them wrong.
We (my generation) could take a lesson from you on self-advocacy. However, you need to be realistic and educated about your requests and approach. Be confident — don’t be arrogant. Negotiate — don’t demand.
When you call to demand an interview, don’t take it as an opportunity to set up networking meetings with top executives or declare yourself a creative director though you lack any real-world experience. You are overstepping and risk being disregarded.
Back in a time of Tetris and dial-up internet connections, a man by the name of Stephen Covey coached aspiring effective people to “seek to understand, then to be understood.” Though times have changed, the value of empathy has not.
When I interview candidates, I’m exploring how the potential hire can be a win-win situation. Not only am I looking for someone to fulfill the skills and experience needed of the position, but I want our agency to be the right fit for our next hire. I’m asking candidates questions to uncover whether we offer the benefits, culture, team chemistry, and work environment in which they could be happy and thrive.
You need to do the same. Think about the agency’s needs and what the creative director seeks in his next hire. Ask smart questions, challenging questions. Envision the direction the organization is going and the demands of the role. Process all that — don’t skim over it as you contemplate how to ask about vacation time.
Be objective and aim to comprehend. This hiring decision is not just about you. It’s about both of us.
We have never lived in a more exposed and better-networked time. The impression you leave today is fixed and shared and outlasts your near-term pursuit. This is powerful — in good and in devastating ways.
The identity you’ve created online and socially is far-reaching. Know your brand, and ensure this brand is the one you want people to consume.
That brand of yours carries over to each person you meet. Botch your first encounter, and you risk losing out. Whether that first encounter is with me, the creative director, or the receptionist who gets your coffee when you arrive for an interview, spoiling that experience could wreck your chances of getting hired by the agency — now or ever.
Capitalize on the longevity and resonance of your interactions. Be respectful, positive, smart, and genuine. That will get your foot in the door and open other doors as well.
Now, get out there. Get busy trying to change this advertising world of ours. Aim high, and keep that goal in your sights. Know the path to your dream job is not a linear or predictable one. Learn from every step and trudge forward persistently. I’ll be watching on and am looking forward to seeing the great things you accomplish.
Your potentially biggest fan