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Career Advice from the Pros

What skill sets/experiences do you look for when hiring an entry-level employee?

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Anne Melanson: I think, Steve, it might be helpful, and I don't know if you've covered this, but we were talking earlier in a conference call and I think it's important to know what kinds of jobs we're talking about, so maybe it'd be helpful if we qualified that. I think all of our agencies are involved in what we call total communications, which now includes internet and interactive agencies. So, when we talk about jobs in the business, we are talking about jobs in the advertising business or what you would traditionally call the advertising business, the direct response area, the sales promotion area, PR a little bit, and the interactive area. So, just for purposes of this discussion, those are going to be the areas that we're going to be talking about, and in each of those areas, there are generally four disciplines, the disciplines being account management, which is the client contact area; creative, which creates the product; media, which is buying the venue for the product that's been created; and research or account planning, in some instances. So, when we talk about skills -- your question about what skills are needed -- I think we'll probably each talk about those specific areas.
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Rene Bruce: Well, we hire in our agency entry level people at an assistant account executive level. Agencies do it differently. I think for an assistant account executive, just to give you an overview of what account management is. It's really the direct liaison with the client, and it's the person that represents the agency to the client and the client's needs to the agency, so they're really the go-between in a way. But they're also seen as sort of the center of the wheel in pulling together all those different functions that Angel's talked about. So, they need to help coordinate the team. For an assistant account executive, the skills you need, I think you need, first and foremost in any position in advertising, you need to be passionate about advertising. So, you need to get excited about what you just saw. You need to be looking at commercials. You know what I mean, you shouldn't be changing channels on commercials. You should be the type of person that's kind of looking at it, analyzing it, trying to figure out if it's effective or not, who the target audience is. Just really getting excited about it and talking about it. So, I think passion goes a long way. Its not really a skill, I guess, it's a quality. Communication skills are really important for account managers, both written and oral. You have a lot of contact with clients. You need to be able to handle difficult situations, difficult people. You need to be able to coordinate teams and make things happen. I'm trying to think. You need to be very organized. As an account person, you're juggling a lot of things, a lot of client requests, a lot of internal requests, and you're trying to stay on deadlines and make things happen, handling budgets. So, you need to be really organized. Do you want to add anything to that?
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Anne Melanson: No, that's pretty fair. Marketing skills. I think analytic skills, because the client and your bosses at the agency are really going to be looking to you, the account person, to be able to understand markets, to be able to understand what's happening in the marketplace, and that does require some marketing and analytic skills.
Rene Bruce: And I think also a general awareness of culture and what's around you. I think you need to be a curious person and just well rounded in that way, not totally focused on work but have outside interests in movies and trends and in what's going on the world because that's what advertising is about.
Steve Norcia: Account management is more than just being bushy-tailed and enthusiastic, although that's a great big part of it. The analytics and the thinking about the client's business and what you're really there for in the long term, to be creative, to be strategic, to be a marketing person, are all very, very key elements. So, sometimes an entry-level position with training programs and everything else rounds you out as a person but it's easy to get persuaded into the fact that if I do a good little Dooby kind of work here, I'm going to be fine. In actuality, it's a lot tougher than it seems. So, you know, if you think it's a lot easier to just get into it and just be enthusiastic. At least account management. Actually, account management's got the biggest problem in this area. The other ones start off being disciplined right off the bat. Would you agree with that?
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Angel Rivera: I think generally, and this is kind of across all these disciplines, is that for myself I'm looking for a very positive person, very enthusiastic person, a person who is going to fit in well with the culture. Each agency has a different culture. You have to learn what fits where. You have to be aggressive. You have to be assertive. You have to be able to think on your own. These are all really pretty much cross-discipline. But if I had to pick one thing, if a person -- I don't do the interviewing myself, I do sort of advising our recruiters on what to look for -- and I always say if a person comes in and says, well, I want to work for you because I hated my last job or I hated my job before that and I don't like what I do, I'm probably not going to hire that person because if that person hates something, they're probably going to hate wherever they go. Now, if they say to me, well, I love everything I've done and I want to work for you and I'm going to love working there. Now they got my attention. So, I look for positivity all the time.
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