Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Job Search Plan of Attack


Agencies don't hire between Thanksgiving and New Years. That's a fact that holds so true that I tell my students who graduate in early December to just chill, get their portfolio together, enjoy the holidays, refresh, and plan to hit the ground running in January.

Over the years, we've written quite a bit about various aspects of the job search. I thought it might be helpful to compile some of those posts here in some sort of order. So, as you get ready to jump into the job search, here are some things to keep in mind:

1) Portfolio. Obvious, right? But just because you've graduated doesn't mean your portfolio is finished. Your portfolio is NEVER finished. Get your work together. Get your website polished. And get ready to keep working on it until you retire. Here are some questions you can ask about your portfolio.

1b) Presentation. Your website speaks for itself. The moment it loads in my browser window, it says something about you. There are plenty of very simple portfolio-hosting sites that are easy enough my mother could set up a professional-looking portfolio in a day. DO NOT let your site's appearance kill your chances before anyone sees your book. This goes for real-world opportunities too. If you have someone coming into school to look at portfolios or are going to a portfolio review of any kind, be professional about it. It's an opportunity to make an impression. Don't bring a stack of foam-core boards in a plastic grocery bag (I've had it happen before).

2) Contacting agencies. Have your list. Use your connections (friends, alumni, LinkedIn). Start sending out emails or making calls. Here's a post about writing down your five criteria to help you narrow down your agency search, a few examples of emails and followups, and another on what not to say in your email.

3) The interview. Know what you're looking for. When someone comes in to show their book to me, I always ask first: "What are you looking for?" As in, do you want me to comment on everything in your book? Are you looking for "what to keep in my book and what to take out?" Do you want our agency to hire you? It might seem obvious if you're sitting in someone's office showing your book, but it's not. Be clear about what you're looking for. And have an opinion on work in your book. I ask questions about pieces I like. I often ask the person I'm interviewing what they like best, because I want to know what kind of work they like to do most. And know what questions you want to ask about the agency. Here's a good starter list.

4) The followup. When you're interviewing, write down the names of the people you talk to. Ask them each for a business card. And then send a thank-you note afterward. It can be a card, which is nice, or simply an email. It shows the person appreciation for the time they spent with you and, more importantly, is another opportunity to connect with them.

5) The negotiation. If you're a student, there shouldn't be much negotiation, really. Getting into a good agency where you can learn and grow and do good work is invaluable coming out of school. So whether you making $40k or $50k a year isn't as important as the kind of work you'll be doing. I know that $10k sounds like a ton when you have school loans, etc., but going to a place where you make less but have the opportunity to build a great book will pay off multiple times over in the long run.

Finally, here's a post Greg did about the timeline of the whole process.

Good luck in your search.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

What Committees Do

Our friend at Graphicology is redesigning the flags of the United States on his blog. This post gives a brief and interesting history on the Arkansas flag. He shows how this...



Became this...


Someone needed to add a fourth star so one group wouldn't be offended. And, of course, the name of the state had to be prominent in case couldn't figure out which state the flag belonged to. It's pretty amusing to see that we're not the only ones who've had clients giving their suggestions and mandates to clutter up clean design.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Anatomy of an Agency

Originally found on Big Orange Slide. (Probably easier to view there, too.)

Monday, December 19, 2011

Jumping to Execution


In the last year or so, I've seen a major increase in the polished case study videos that students do. Pretty professional case studies, for events and programs and guerilla stunts that never happened (though you wouldn't know it from the slick comps and videos). I do plenty of these in my job. They're a pain in the ass to do. So when I see students who can crank them out, part of me thinks "Yes! We should hire this person so I don't have to make these damn things anymore." But usually I think "Nice case study. Too bad the idea's not that good."

This past quarter, after a student presented his first round ideas with full-on comps in a seven-page deck, I asked him, "How long did it take you to build that deck?" Thinking I was complimenting his skills, he smiled and said, "Not very long. Like an hour and a half." To which I said, "That's an hour and a half you could have spent coming up with better ideas."

I have given this advice over and over, and each year I feel like I'm shouting it into a stronger, louder wind of technology and "paperless" schools: DO NOT CONCEPT ON A COMPUTER.

If you don't want to kill trees, awesome. Reuse the back sides of paper. One of my former instructors, a creative Jedi who really loves trees, Jelly Helm, suggests cutting your reused sheets of paper into quarters. However you do it, write your ideas down. Headlines too. Write them. With a pen or pencil or marker. On paper. Your brain works differently when you do this. You're less likely to edit your ideas when you have to turn the pencil around and actually erase something. And that's good--you shouldn't be editing at the beginning. Just coming up with ideas, writing them down, and sticking them up on the wall. Lots of them. Like 100 or more. Then, and only then, pick your best and refine them. Make them better. Generate more.

When you jump to the computer, you're skipping to execution. You're cheating yourself out of the most important part of the project. You're skimping on the idea. And you might end up with a nice looking video or well-executed comp, but if the idea's not awesome, it doesn't matter.

Scanwiches

This has nothing to do with ads. But we're always fans of side projects.

I first heard about Jon Chonko's project, Scanwiches a few years ago. But only recently did I hear his interview on NPR's Marketplace with Kai Ryssdal and find out that he'd turned Scanwiches into a book.



Just a nice example of a side-project that built momentum over the years.

Friday, December 16, 2011

How to Spend Your Christmas Break

My first Christmas break in portfolio school was great. I crossed several states to return home. I relaxed. I snowboarded. I read. I didn't think about advertising at all.

Then I went back to portfolio school in January. And I was rusty. Really rusty. Not because I'd taken a break from advertising. But because I'd taken a break from writing. And maybe even thinking.

As you head into the holidays, take a break. You probably deserve it. Step back from advertising. But don't step back from your craft.

If you're a writer, continue to write. Doesn't have to be headlines or taglines or anything for a school assignment. But write.

If you're an art director, draw, paint, sketch, or sculpt some snowmen. Whatever. But keep using your hands, and your brains.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Do ad schools turn out the best talent?

If you're a student in a portfolio school, you need to watch this video on creativity-online.com.

Sorry I can't embed it. But I've got to say I agree with a lot of what they say. (Craft is often neglected, junior creatives struggle to create "scaleable" work, a lot of schools turn out a vanilla product, etc.)

You should spend eight minutes watching then, then go back and reassess your book.



I'm curious to know what some of you portfolio school students think about this. Love to hear your comments.

Friday, December 9, 2011

Doodle

I often emphasize to my classes the importance of changing up your routine, particularly when you're in a concepting rut. Take a walk. Work somewhere else. Change the music you're listening to. If you've been writing for a while, try solving your problem by drawing.

Today, I came across this TED video that confirms the importance of doodles. Sunni Brown is speaking specifically about doodling in meetings as a way to enhance your focus, but her point about it engaging your brain in a different way is true not just when you're trying to file stuff away, but when you're digging around trying to get stuff out too.












So the next time you're turning an idea every which way, remember to turn your brain every which way as well. And don't forget, if you're a writer and your doodling produces something interesting, please submit it to Illustrated by Copywriters.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Seven Reasons We Forget The Work Is All That Matters

  1. Client Fear. We think we know the client so well, we kill our own ideas (or allow them to be killed) based on what we imagine they will and won't like.
  2. Organization Fetish. We become more concerned with the presentation of the work than the work itself.
  3. Bullet Points. We come up with a list of reasons to explain why the idea works instead of just letting it work or die on its own merit. 
  4. Production Lust. The client greenlights an idea, and we get so excited about getting something produced that we stop working on it.
  5. Politics. We think it's either our right or our turn to get something produced. Either we're so senior we just expect the work to happen. Or we're junior enough to believe that we deserve to get thrown a bone.
  6. The Internal Editor Goes to Lunch. We're trained early on to produce tons and tons and tons of ideas. And that's very good training (at least according to Malcolm Gladwell's 10,000 hours rule). But sometimes we think that since we came up with lots of ideas, at most of them deserve to be loved.
  7. Technique Love. We confuse a cool technique with a good idea.
Sally Hogshead says brilliant ideas are fragile. Any wonder why so many good ones are extinguished, pulverized, or simply passed over?