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Career Stories - Laura

Vice President, Management Supervisor
Grey Worldwide, New York

My first job in advertising was working as a Group Assistant at NW Ayer here in NY. I didn't have any personal contacts in advertising when I started looking for a job, so I attended a job consortium for college graduates.

NW Ayer was one of the agencies recruiting there, so oddly enough, my first interview in advertising was in a booth at the Javits Center. As it was February, they couldn't predict what openings they would have during the summer, but they encouraged me to call after graduating. I graduated from Franklin & Marshall College as an English major w/ Sociology minor. I called Ayer in early July, and then had about 4-5 interviews with different people and accounts at the agency. I was hired as a Group Assistant on the AT&T account. My first day there was very strange, as the entire account was attending an off-site, so only one other Group Assistant and I were in the office. Since my group didn't leave me any projects or materials to read, I literally had nothing to do except answer the phone (no voice mail in those days - imagine!) The other GA kept trying to give me magazines to read to kill time, but I refused to take them. I was paranoid that someone from HR would come by and think I was "slacking off" on my first day!

In the years between Ayer and my present position at Grey Worldwide, I worked at Foote, Cone & Belding and Bozell. There are several things I think are important for candidates to consider when looking for a job. First and foremost, every agency has a different personality and structure, so do your research, and find which agency suits your personality. It's very much like when you looked for a college. Some people thrive in large agencies and like being part of a large, well-known company. Others prefer and excel in smaller, more intimate agencies or "boutiques". I've never worked in a small agency, so I can't truly judge or recommend one versus another. Both have their advantages and disadvantages. Either way, focus on getting the position you want, and prove to the people around you how dedicated and driven you are. You will work hard - advertising is a service industry and I've yet to find the agency or the account that's "easy" and 9 to 5. That said, I love it! I've been surrounded and supported by some amazing people, and have had some incredible experiences.

My other piece of advice is to focus more on finding the agency you want and meeting people you want to work with versus a specific account. It's great to have an area you want to focus on, but you also should be open to a variety of accounts. Often accounts that don't seem glamorous end up offering you more opportunities to learn and have the budgets to experiment with various media vehicles. Your sustained happiness and motivation will more likely come from being part of a strong team of people with good agency support versus working with miserable people on a "cool" account.

And finally, send thank-you notes, and do it within 48 hours if possible! I know it's a pain, but it really does reinforce your professionalism. I hate to say it, but my co-workers and I agree an e-mailed "thank-you" just doesn't cut it. It screams "I know I'm supposed to send a thank-you, but I just want to get this done quickly." The people you've met with took time out of their day to meet with you, so you should at least be willing to take 10-20 minutes out of your day to write a short note.

Good Luck and Welcome to Our Industry!