Tuesday, September 29, 2009

How to get an internship in advertising: A JMU grad shares his experience and advice

One of my former JMU marketing students, W. Jesse Wright, recently completed an intern program at Crispin Porter + Bogusky (CP+B), a top awarded advertising agency in the US. I was excited for Jesse and wanted to hear more about how he landed the internship. Jesse contributed to this blog post by sharing his story and providing some advice for current students.

Jesse graduated from James Madison University in December ‘08 and applied for a CP+B spring internship through the traditional channel, sending his resume and cover letter to Human Resources. This landed no tangible results and he soon found himself in the worst job market in 30 years. He continued to shoot resumes and cover letters to local firms and companies all over the US. Realizing the walls he was running into and fed up with presenting himself via 8.5 x 11” PDF files, Jesse decided to take a chance. He sent his application to a local firm with his resume taped to the back of a champagne bottle suggesting the reader “enjoy some bubbly while looking over [Jesse’s] qualifications.” It worked! He got an interview! No job, but an interview!
The free booze was a nice touch but Jesse knew the tactic was not the ultimate solution. “
I knew that a gimmick would get me noticed but I really needed to connect with the decision maker and present quality content in an original, attention-grabbing way,” Jesse said.

Jesse wanted to take another stab at CP+B. He researched the top decision makers and found out that one executive played guitar and the agency had donated hundreds of guitars to local youth. Jesse utilized social media to reach out to him, hoping to gain some wisdom and perspective from the industry veteran. Jesse communicated an ultra-abbreviated resume and asked his advice. Jesse also threw in a guitar joke he had heard two guitar-playing buddies say a few months before.

BINGO! The executive responded, encouraging Jesse to apply for an upcoming internship. Jesse then replied back, asking if there was anyone he could speak to about the process. The guitar-shredding, advice-giving executive then gave Jesse “the password” he should use in contacting his assistant. (Unfortunately, by threat of bludgeoning, this password cannot be shared.) Jesse contacted said assistant the next morning and simply asked for her advice in applying for a future position with the firm. She got Jesse in touch with the Intern Manager. After five casual, but intense, interviews later Jesse was on the road to the internship. He says he approached interviews as mutual conversations. Jesse remarked, “
Imagine you are speaking with an old friend that you haven’t seen in a long time. There are always personal connection points between you and the interviewer. It is your job to find those, present yourself in a way aligned with your extensive company research, show passion for helping the company reach its goals, and hopefully authentically connect with this person.
Keep in mind that advertising agencies are most likely to fill full-time positions when: 1) the applicant is an advertising genius and gets the agency's attention, 2) the agency is diversifying services and the applicant is a specialist in the field and gets the agency's attention, and/or 3) the agency landed a new client, the applicant is both an expert in the new client’s industry and gets the attention of the agency. If you do not fall into one of the above three categories, another strategy may be in order.

Let's take a look at the key success factors from Jesse's experience:
1. Before communicating with CP+B, Jesse did his homework by reading industry news such as Career Advice from CP+B, B-NET, Creativity, etc. As an additional suggestion, check out what is available in Twitter such as @CPBInterns.
2. Jesse utilized social media and grew his network with a focus on quality content. He reached out on LinkedIn, Facebook, and built a solid base of followers through Twitter @wjessewright. Jesse emphasized that his approach is not “media based” but is “message based.” He says, “As in traditional design, the form of communication here should follow its function. The focus of such a high content message like a job application will not ‘stick’ with only gimmicks.”
3. While Jesse's communications with CP+B were pro-active, they were not aggressive. The conversations started with obtaining advice and guidance. They moved on to expressing Jesse’s passion and connecting his skills with CP+B’s goals.
4. Jesse paid attention to the details and showed CP+B that he was listening to them.
5. Jesse showed appreciation for the time given to him with personal notes and respect.
If you have suggestions on how to get an internship in advertising, feel free to comment on this post.

1 comment:

  1. Not a suggestion, just wanted to say thanks for the excellent post.