Find Work

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Finding work can be daunting when you are first starting out. We have some tips & tricks to help from CV writing to industry specific networking events, you can even check out the other courses to pool ideas.

“Starting anything requires energy”

Building your career takes time so start early in your course. This image is taken from The 50 (tweetable) things every creative should know.

8 key steps to building your career in advertising

1. Get to know your market

Whether you want to work freelance, a design consultancy, or in-house, start by building a list of companies you aspire to Check the trade press for insider knowledge and use directories like The Design Business Association and Creative Review.

Don't just focus on agencies though. Many major advertisers also have in-house agencies or design departments on the client side. Gaining experience in this environment may help you to eventually move across to a mainstream agency.

Whatever area you chose to work in, get to know who is winning awards, and leading in their field. The study zone has online and offline subscriptions to trade Magazines like ‘Campaign’ and ‘Brand Republic’ to help with this research. You will quickly learn about companies that are expanding or contracting along with industry trends and from which you can develop some leads. The useful websites section has a link to all the relevant sites with passwords for subscription services.

Do look at out the graduate and placement schemes mentioned in our job websites section but you also need to be proactive about setting up your own opportunities.

2. Use your Linkedin account

Set up a professional profile (see advice here). By reading the group posts and taking part in discussions you will learn a lot about key issues in the industry. Not all of it will be relevant to you but all that you read will expand your knowledge of the industry.

‘Advertising Professional’ is an example of one such group but check the profiles of people you admire to see what groups they have joined.

Look up the names of contacts within companies that appeal to you on Linkedin and connect with them with a nice friendly personal message (not the LinkedIn default message). It is really normal to connect with people you have never met on LinkedIn, just make sure your profile looks professional. The Careers and Industry Liasion Team can help you with this.

3. Create your own opportunities

The thing to do is to campaign like crazy for an opportunity, and show how persuasive you can be. Accept that you will be up against the odds but in this industry you can't be afraid of rejection. Agencies don't remember everyone who gets in touch with them so find ways of letting them know you are there. They all love polite persistence and to feel that they really are the place you want to work.

You can ring write or email, or better still meet them in person at events. It is usually copywriters and art directors who will be expected to pitch in pairs. Young Creative Council (YCC) offer a match up service.

All creatives want to know that their work is appreciated so always start by telling them what you like about their work or company. You can always congratulate them on a particular piece of work or campaign. Then ask if you can meet them to show some of your work. Tempt them with something memorable in advance to get them excited about seeing you as viewing work takes up their time. If you are looking for a placement mention this as well as a possible outcome of the meeting.

Portfolio meetings can open up new opportunities but if you are just sending a straight speculative CV and enquiry letter, apply the same principles- enthusiasm for their work and a clear message on what you can do.

Creatives, be prepared to do a bit of 'Scamping’ (mocking up campaigns to show what you can do.)

Finally, if you are taking this approach, ensure you have a named person to contact (“Dear Sir/Madam” is definitely not acceptable) and a targeted CV and portfolio. Be upbeat in your correspondence but not too pushy.

4. Be nice to everyone and follow up on applications

You will inevitably make emails and applications that go unanswered but don't lose heart or feel wronged by employers who don't respond as these are speculative approaches after all. Think about how a busy person might receive your email, pay attention to the title and the tone. Approaches like this one don't go down well: How not to get a placement

If you keep a list of all speculative applications and portfolio meetings you will be able to keep track of this. We know you would do it but just a reminder to always send a thank you to people who made the time to see you or responded to emails even if they can’t offer anything.

5. Talk to real people as well

Do not rely on emails alone. Creatives are sociable people so try to attend events. You get to meet interesting people, build your contacts, and learn from the event. You will be surprised how many experienced people like to mix with students and graduates.

Meet up is a useful website that puts together groups of people with similar interests that has many advertising groups. 

6. Always look your best online

Employers will always check you out so delete inappropriate material. A blog is a good way of showing people what you are interested in. By posting regularly you are showing people that you are active, engaged and still building your knowledge of design.

7. Keep an eye on opportunities outside of London

So, there are lots of London agencies but many have smaller creative regional offices in Edinburgh, Manchester, Leeds etc.


We particularly like this searchable map of ad agencies by the folks over at Young Creative Council you can search the UK for agencies and places to stay when you visit them.

If you long to go further afield, check out the visa situation first. Great opportunities can be had as long as you look after the contacts you have made here if you want to come back. This “Design week” feature considers salaries and options of a range of designers overseas read articleAdrem also offer helpful advice on global working and find advice at Going Global

8. Keep going

We know it can be disheartening, but if you don't hear back from your applications, just make a note to contact that person again at some date in the future in a friendly manner. Maybe this time your email will arrive at just the right moment.

If your applications are not working, seek feedback on your approach. We don't all get it right first time. The Careers and Industry Liaison team can help with this.

Why not also check out Glassdoor, a unique resource where students can read real-life experiences current and former employees had with a company. 

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