March 6, 2012
We never really had much of a chance to celebrate winter around these parts, but nevertheless, spring is on its way. And though I’m eagerly awaiting the return of Major League Baseball, everyone in the agency world knows spring is really only good for one thing: doing informational interviews.
Eager students, about to graduate and enter the work force, come clamoring our way, looking to learn more about the business, the daily life of a marketer, how they might find a fulfilling career of their own, what corner of this broad world they might find happiness in. We, the pros, are happy to oblige. Not because it’s easy — it ain’t, with the time commitment and conflicting priorities and all — but because it’s critical. After all, the only thing more important than finding good talent is putting that good talent to great use for our clients.
In that spirit, I want to share some of the advice of give in response to some of the questions I hear most often during informational interviews or other chats with budding marketers.
Do informational interviews. If you’re doing informational interviews with people who have jobs that sound interesting to you, you’re already one step ahead of the game. It’s the single most effective tool you have in your quest to find a fulfilling job. It’s the only way you can really get a sense for what an agency or a company is like and what it might be like to work there.
Learn about the place before you apply for a job. An informational interview is one way to do that. Researching the agency and its clients — online, via social media, etc. — is helpful. Arm yourself for an intelligent conversation. Think about how you can prove to those folks you want to work there, not just anywhere you can get hired.
Address a cover letter “To whom it may concern” if you’d rather work somewhere else. See above comment about proving you want to work here (wherever “here” is). If you don’t take the time to figure out whom it may concern, you’ve proven something, alright. In my case, the first agency I really pursued and interviewed with was so small (two people!) I had no choice but to address my email to a specific person.
Show some personality. This is particularly true for the cover letter. A resume has a rather technical job to do, so don’t have too much fun with that. Cover letters, on the other hand, specifically are your chance to live a little. Make us give a damn. Make us laugh. Make us think. Ninety percent of the cover letters I read sound like the came from the same bad textbook. Differentiate or die, as they say. The tough part is, we, on the hiring side, don’t really put that much stock in cover letters. But early in the game, a cover letter is almost all you have to work with, unless you’re really creative (hint: unlike me, you should be really creative in your job pursuits).
Be curious. People who succeed in this business, particularly agencies, are naturally inquisitive. Voracious readers. Rabid googlers. Uncontrollable media junkies. Eager tinkerers. This fuels intelligent conversation, meaningful brainstorming, creative work and — most important — being an interesting human being.
One thing I can tell you with absolute certainty: You’ll have trouble getting places if you’re not an interesting human being. Go get ’em.