Undergraduate and portfolio school students attended Creative Week 2012 in noticeable numbers. At an event like Creative Week (or Advertising Week, which is in a few months, hint, hint.), advice is shared and contacts are made – both things being extremely valuable to students trying to get into the industry.
As not only the previous Creative Manager of a well-known ad agency, but also now a certified coach and consultant for creatives and their agencies, here are my seven top recommendations for creative students from Creative Week 2012:
1). Understand your audience.
When you understand the audience you are trying to reach with the pieces in your portfolio, you will be able to figure out how to reach them most effectively. Understand who they are, how they function, and what they care about. Then cater your work to these insights. Employers notice smart work that represents its audience well.
2). Make a decision.
During The Creative Suite: Presented By Adobe at Creative Week 2012, Jeff Benjamin, CCO of JWT, stated, “People take too long to decide on the idea. Decide on an idea, so you’ll have time to blow it.” Once you make a decision on what “the big idea” or the key consumer insight is, only then can you begin to see how to make your work relevant, innovative and fully-developed.
3). Create a personal project.
After The 91st Annual Art Directors Club Awards, this advice was given to an undergraduate advertising student, “Do a personal project outside of your portfolio.” That advice was given by none other than Benjamin Palmer, the current president of the Art Directors Club and CEO/CCO of The Barbarian Group. Having a personal project outside of your student work – or outside of your portfolio at any level – shows what you care about, makes you more interesting, and sets you apart.
4). Talk to people.
It’s not about wowing an Executive Creative Director or landing your dream job with one conversation with a recruiter. It is about connecting with people. Who cares about the titles? Who cares about the prestige? No matter who you are discussing the industry with, he or she is simply a person who wants to have an interesting conversation. It also helps to know your audience. (See No. 1 above. Understand your audience.) If you can learn something more than what the title of the person you are talking to is, relate to that. Maybe they are from another country. Maybe they have a family. Maybe they love video games. If you haven’t a clue what this “something more” might be, treat your interaction with this person like an investigation. What can you connect with them through – other than the industry? And remember, they used to be where you are now – just starting out.
5). Ask for what you want.
To make the most out of your time at any event, decide on what you want before you get there. What would the best possible outcome(s) be for you? Do you want to collect all the business cards you can so that you can begin building relationships after the event? (Note: this works best for those who feel they are better through e-mail and online platforms than they are in-person.) Are you hoping to meet someone who can connect you to a specific company? Is your main objective to get someone to critique your book (typically after the event)? Regardless of what your goals for the event are, set those goals and then be brave enough to ask the people you meet to help you achieve them. (See: No. 4 above. Talk to people.) To be blunt: if you don’t ask for what you want, how do you expect to get it?
6). Own that you are the fountain of youth.
Consider being young an advantage. Savannah College of Art and Design advertising student Taichi Kozaki learned this during his time at Creative Week 2012. “We are the first generation that is truly interactive, truly digital. Because we grew up using the Internet, we have a lot of insights to put on the discussion table.” In addition to thinking in the interactive space exceptionally well, agencies know that fresh-out-of-school employees bring enthusiasm to their projects – and an energy to the company that simply can’t be fabricated.
And last – but far from least:
7). Follow up. Follow up. Follow up.
Two weeks after an event – no matter how brilliant you were – you will be forgotten. It’s a hard truth. Before the two-week mark – when the memory of your engaging discussion gets moved into the “To be deleted” file in your new contact’s brain – remind them of who you are. Send a short e-mail. Make a quick call. Deliver a handwritten note. Simply reconnect. Then, every four to eight weeks, connect again. Sometimes you may want to show them the progress you’ve made on a project. Other times, you may want to ask how their campaigns are coming along. Often, you can take the advice of Ron Faris, Director of Brand Marketing for Virgin Mobile USA, given during the Social’s New Starting Point session at Creative Week 2012 and simply, “Curate the funny.” Following up often enough – but not too often (again, every four to eight weeks) – will allow you to maintain relationships with the contacts you met.
Take these seven recommendations and implement them before, during and after your next creative event.
They will dramatically increase your chances of success in your industry.