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Career Advice from the Pros

What kinds of experience do you look for from college graduates? What would give us the edge?

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Angel Rivera: An internship, some kind of experience, maybe like travel, if you've got an opportunity to travel to a foreign country. I would look for language skills, if you have a second language, if you have a third language, that's even better. I would look for key words. In fact, we were talking about scanning resumes and us sourcing candidates through these scanned resumes. How this works is the database is created and we look for key words. So, in other words, if I get a call from Foote, Cone & Belding, "we want somebody who has experience working with a beverage company." I would look for the word beverage on people's resumes and the computer would search for that keyword. I could search for other skills, like searching for resumes of candidates who speak Spanish. All the resumes that have those keywords would then be forwarded to the hiring managers. So, you want to look for and you want to prepare and know what those key terms are. Brand is a key term. You can read up on these things through Ad Age or Adweek, weekly magazines, and you'll see the words and the new terms and the new paradigm. Those things, all should be part of your cover letter and your resume, and you have to sort of think ahead. What is it that people are looking for and how can I get this on my resume?
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Patty Enright: I think the other thing that certainly I always look for is anything that's going to set you above or apart from someone else. Again, to the point that he made earlier, we do get lots of resumes, and we sit down and certainly I look at all of them. But we're looking at you today for the first job opportunity but what we're really looking to do is say, does this individual fit into my organization culturally and do we see -- hopefully we see all of you well beyond that first job. So, anything that can demonstrate a team, sports, leadership, because we don't work alone in this business. We work in teams. We're in a very collaborative environment. So, anything that can demonstrate your association with your university or schools, any sort of participative, competitive sports, debate, any type of cultural experiences which are going to have a broadening experience. My favorite resume is always, I scooped ice cream on Martha's Vineyard for the summer but I was responsible for the cash register. You talk to them and they did it for a week, and then the rest of the time they spent on the beach. Okay, fine. Yes, you had a summer job. But where are you really demonstrating responsibility, authority, did you have to go to work everyday at a certain time? They sound very basic but at the same time you'd be surprised. So, anything that's going to demonstrate your ability to be part of something and committed to something, whether it's a sorority or a fraternity. Maybe you were the secretary for your sorority or fraternity or whatever. Anything that's going to help you, certainly any job experience that you have had, volunteer activities. Were you a big brother, were you a big sister? Did you work as a candy striper in a hospital. Anything that's going to show commitment and sort of stick-to-it-iveness, and also rounding in terms of your experience. All school and no play, you know.
Rene Bruce: Yeah, just to follow up on that. Don't be afraid to show your individuality. I think this is one industry -- I love working in this industry because I meet so many interesting people with various backgrounds and all these outside interests. So, we're not looking for people who are just tunnel vision, job related. But if you put it on your resume, be ready to talk about it.
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Steve Norcia: See, one of the other things that you can also do is you can read The New York Times and The Wall Street Journal, as my class does every week, every day, and also read Ad Age and Adweek, and if you can't read them because you don't want to buy the newspapers, get on the web and get on there. One of my students emailed me and said, what do you mean by business-to-business? Well, go to the Ad Age web site, go to business-to-business, 100 leading business-to-business advertisers, and Microsoft at the top of the list. By the time you get finished with the list, you'll know what business-to-business means. There's a tremendous amount of due diligence and unraveling that you have to do on your own. This is not an easy business, and one of the reasons why the pay may not sound like what the Wharton guys are getting is because primarily that's the entry level. And if you prove your worth, your pay will go very, very quickly, probably quicker than any other business that you'll ever imagine. But the issue is you have to have some talent, and you have to have talent and perspiration. The key I think here is if you're thinking about how to write a resume or how to write a letter to an agency and how to get their attention, is just think about a wheat field out in Ohio somewhere. And think about every stalk, and figure out why one stalk is going to stick out from all the others. That's the way you kind of get an agency's attention. With some bit of thinking or some bit of experience or some bit of integrity or whatever it is, but you've got to communicate that you're a communicator. You've got to read books. You've got to go see movies. You've got to understand commercials. You have to listen to what the beat of the industry is telling you and you have to get it. If you don't get it, they'll figure it out in about a minute and a half. But if you get it, they'll also figure it out and they'll send a car for you.
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Rene Bruce: Please, this sounds really basic, but if you get to the interview point, be able to talk about ads. I always ask the question, tell me about some ads that you think are effective, and I'm constantly amazed at how many people can't talk about it. If you want a job in advertising, you need to be thinking about it.
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Anne Melanson: Let me throw out something, which might seem a little bit at odds with what we're talking about here, at the risk of sounding a little less Pollyannish, it isn't about just asking questions. That can make you stand out, but you've got to have the goods, too. You do need to know, there are a lot of people who are applying for jobs. We probably get 30 resumes for every job that we have, across all the disciplines. So, while it is a terrific market for people these days, particularly grads coming out, it is still a very competitive market. So, I think you do need to understand that there's a lot of competition. The people that you're competing against are people who, as Rene said, know, they've done their homework. They have a point of view. I have a particular interest in finding out what people's point of view is, not what they read in the trades. I want to know what they think about advertising. I want to know what they like about it, what they don't like about it? What's their beef about ads? What's their point of view on First Amendment rights. Somebody may think, well, what does that have to do with advertising? It has a lot to do with advertising. There are a lot of things. I was delighted to hear you say The Wall Street Journal and The New York Times, because I think people aren't reading enough of the general interest newspapers and publications. Because in advertising, we used to say we want renaissance people, which is a little clichéd, but you really do because the most successful advertising people are the ones who know about the world around them. It isn't just by reading the trade journals or by staying just in the marketing arena. If you really have a sense of what's going on in the world, you're going to be successful in advertising. Think about the internet entrepreneurs, they didn't get to where they are by just reading technical journals. They had the technical expertise but they also saw what was happening in the world and the need for a different kind of communication. Once having seen these things, they had the vision to say, this can work. Steve Case said, I'll bet I can connect all of these people in the world through an internet connection and keep it simple and people will come flocking, and they'll even pay money every month to do it. And, bang.
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