Perhaps you were like me…an advertising major in college with high hopes that a job would follow soon after graduation. Well, in a perfect world that would happen, but in our world (you know, reality?) it’s time to plan ahead. Here are a few tips and tricks on what can help you get your advertising career started, based on my personal copywriting experience.
Step 1: Get a degree
Make sure you have graduated and obtained a bachelor’s degree. Some places will accept just a high school diploma, but I strongly urge you to seek further education. Having the required degree puts you ahead and shows your determination. For an advertising career, the best related fields to major in are: advertising, marketing, communications, journalism, liberal arts, media relations, and psychology. While in college, definitely consider participating in extra-curricular activities related to your field (Advertising Club, Marketing, American Advertising Federation (AAF), etc.).
Write for the paper–Does your college or university have a campus newspaper you can write for? Do some reporting and broaden your horizons. Most copywriters tend to know a lot of different information about random topics. While in college, I was a reporter for my campus publication and thoroughly enjoyed the experience.
Step 2: Perfect your resume
There should be absolutely NO errors in your resume. Proofread! I can’t stress enough the importance of perfecting your resume. If an employer finds even one mistake on a resume, more often than not it gets tossed in the trash with no exceptions! Visit your career services department on campus; usually there are people available who can help you with building your resume. You can also visit resume building sites online to learn tips and tricks to making your resume look the best it can be. Here are some to check out:
- Resume-now.com (Free service for resume building)
- ResumeGenius.com (Free service for resume building + cover letter)
- Myperfectresume.com (Free service for resume building, cover letter, and templates)
- GotResumeBuilder.com (Free service for resume building + sample resumes)
Step 3: Craft your Cover Letter
Writing a cover letter is just as important as a resume–especially when applying for a copywriting position. This is your first chance to show a prospective employer the way you think. How can you show your creativity through your writing? Develop pithy copy and explain how you would be a great asset to their creative department. I have experienced situations in which an employer solely calls based on cover letter content, resume aside. Here are some helpful articles to look into when crafting your cover letter:
- Forbes –“6 Secrets to Writing a Great Cover Letter”
- Best Cover Letters 2013
- Careerealism – “4 Inside Secrets to Writing a Great Cover Letter”
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Developing a robust digital strategy is both a challenge and an opportunity. Part 3 of the Digital Essentials guide series explores five of the essential technology-driven experiences customers expect, which you may be missing or not fully utilizing.
Step 4: Build your Portfolio
Show only your best work when building your portfolio. A former professor once gave me great advice by proposing this simple question: Would you show 10 samples of B-C quality work or show the top 3 ‘A’ grade pieces? I think we all know the right answer.
What should you show?
Campaigns: At least one idea with multiple executions–show a range from print, television, radio, digital to mobile. Your employer will want to know that you are someone that cannot only come up with a great idea, but can also properly execute strategies.
How to Display?
Have a hard-copy and digital copy. Some employers appreciate holding your portfolio while others prefer to view it online. Remember, only show your best work and leave the rest behind–you can always revamp other ideas later.
There are many helpful resources to explore while building your portfolio. One of my favorite sites is Wix.com, offering pre-made templates to save the time and money of creating your own website. Here is a fun list of helpful portfolio building sites to browse and peruse:
Step 5- Landing an Internship
Before you can score that dream job, you need to gain the experience needed to do so. My top-wish for while I was in college would have been to make an internship required for all advertising programs. This would have saved time and provided me the experience to help me achieve my goals sooner. If your college or university doesn’t require an internship, seek one out yourself so you aren’t a step behind come graduation time.
Where to look?
All advertising agencies: mid to full size. Contact employers where you would like to work and get in touch with their creative department. Be prepared for unpaid internships. While some companies do offer paid positions, most do not. Don’t be afraid to reach out to non-profit organizations if you’re having trouble finding internships in bigger agencies. Do NOT turn down an opportunity just because it is unpaid; it could lead to a full-time position. Everything you do in your internships will get you one step closer to securing your job and building more ‘A’ grade work for your portfolio.
What opportunities are there for copywriting? – In-House vs. Outside Agencies
There is always the debate of where to go, in-house or outside agencies? The best way to examine this situation is to know your preferences. Do you want unlimited creativity or are you willing to stay within strict guidelines? This article does an excellent job of explaining the ins and the outs of each.
What is freelancing and is it beneficial?
Freelancing refers to someone who is self-employed and not committed to an employer on a long-term basis. This is more commonly known as being an independent contractor. When agencies need copywriting help for a specific amount of time, they will post for freelance opportunities. This can be a great way to start getting experience if finding a full time position is challenging. In some cases, a freelancer can choose what their fee is for services, but there are set payments by the employer, too. Do you already have a full time job and are looking for something on the side? If so, freelancing might be an excellent idea. However, continually having to find work in freelancing can be difficult, and benefits or salary based pay is not included, unlike a full time position at a company.
Here are some articles and sites to help answer more freelancing questions:
- wiseGEEK – “How Do I Become a Freelance Copywriter?”
Step 6: Network
Ever heard of the statement, “It’s not what you know but who you know?” Well, in a sense, this is true. Networking is extremely important when trying to make your mark in advertising. While in college and anywhere else you see fit, make as many connections as you can with professors, peers, and people who are in your related field. These are individuals that can later be resources as you pursue your career. LinkedIn is a free business networking site that lets you connect with people in your field and allows you to post your resume. Prospective employers can access this information before even meeting you in person, meaning they could make a hiring decision just off of your LinkedIn profile. Check out www.linkedin.com and get started on making connections today.
Step 7: Know Current Industry News
As an advertising professional, you should always stay up to date with the latest news. Being in the loop helps you see what other brands are doing, as well as how campaigns are ranking. Having this knowledge is perfect for conversations with prospective employers during interviews and shows you are truly passionate about the field. There are many resources you can use when finding the latest information.
Hopefully these tips have helped you to get a better understanding of securing a job as a copywriter.