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How to Get Into Advertising: Step-by-Step Career Guide

Written by MasterClass

Last updated: Mar 30, 2020 • 4 min read

The advertising industry is a highly competitive field. Whether your dream job title is graphic designer, art director, copywriter, creative director, or other marketing professional, you’ll need plenty of experience, raw talent, and a commitment to your craft in order to make it your career.

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Jeff Goodby & Rich Silverstein Teach Advertising and CreativityJeff Goodby & Rich Silverstein Teach Advertising and Creativity

Advertising icons Jeff Goodby and Rich Silverstein teach you how to break rules, change minds, and create the best work of your life.

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How to Get a Career in Advertising

It takes time to build up your advertising career and gain a reliable reputation. While many reputable agencies are located in cities like London, New York City, and Washington D.C., it is also possible to begin a career path as a freelancer for local agencies, or target digital advertising agencies as a start.

If you’re looking to be the next account executive a la Mad Men and make the long hours of the advertising world your full-time business, the following guide can help:

  1. Get a degree. Depending on the specific advertising career you’re after (like copywriting or art direction), a bachelor’s degree or master’s degree in an advertising program or creative department such as graphic design, fine arts, or other related field can be helpful in boosting the chances of a successful job search (it may also be required for certain employers).
  2. Build a portfolio. Your first priority is to prove that you were born to be an advertising creative. Remember that when a company hires you, they’re investing in you, and investing in any person is a lot of work that shouldn’t be taken for granted. Depending on the job type, collect your work and create samples like spec ads or mock marketing campaigns to showcase your creative side to potential employers. If you’re a copywriter trying to get a job in advertising, be expressive. Have a personality. Use proper grammar and spell-check your work. Show that you’re capable of writing headlines and that you can create compelling copy that will capture even the most disinterested customer’s attention. If you’re a designer, make a logo for yourself. Illustrate characters that interact within the thumbnails of your work. Use an interesting color palette and a custom typeface. Demonstrate your skills to prove you have the creative ideas necessary to work at an ad agency or digital marketing firm. Show that you can handle small advertising jobs as well as campaigns for big accounts. Learn Jeff Goodby and Rich Silverstein's tips for creating a portfolio here.
  3. Develop your skill sets. Along with your graphic design or copywriting abilities, you must also possess strong communication skills. Interpersonality is an important trait for anyone working in the creative field. Advertising requires the cooperation of the marketing team with multiple departments, and open communication facilitates the flow of information, leading to a smoother path to success.
  4. Be a problem-solver. Almost every career option in the advertising department requires you to be adept at creative problem-solving. The ad industry is fueled on innovation and finding ways to make the impossible possible, and it’s your job to develop an efficient marketing strategy for a client within the given brand mandate and time constraints. Whether you want your work to be in online advertising for new products, or writing slogans for major brands, taking initiative to overcome obstacles or prevent issues from arising is a quality any agency big or small would look for.
  5. Gain experience. Intern at a firm, or find yourself a part-time or entry-level job to gain agency experience and meet people. Employers don’t just want to see you can do the job, they want to see that you’ve done the job. While job seekers may be hard-pressed to find the perfect (and available) position—even entry-level positions—you can first try your hand as a freelancer and lend your talents to smaller gigs like social media campaigns or other online marketing, which can contribute to your valuable experience. Use Google to search for small, independent jobs, which is a great way to start building your network—and at the very least, your digital marketing work can help build you an online presence. You can also try to find positions in related fields such as public relations or advertising sales.
  6. Seek out fame. You should want people to see the things you’re proud of. When they do, it’s good for your career, it’s good for the health of the agency, it’s probably good for your clients, and it will open up more doors to help you do the kind of work that you want to do. Good work should be shared, publicized, and envied. Plus, when you seek out fame and recognition, it pushes you to find the opportunities to create rare ideas that would then generate that kind of notoriety, ultimately making for a more interesting body of work. Developing a reputation for yourself in the industry is a great way to start building yourself toward a long-lasting career.
  7. Fit the bill. Remember that you yourself are a brand, too. Knowing your own brand can make you relatable on an intimate level that feels inviting and kindred. You present yourself as someone worth investing in to those specific people who share that brand identity. The more you can think about your own brand as a communication device, the easier it will be to consider a company’s brand in the same way, and the more likely that company will hire you for an ad campaign or other creative work later.

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Learn more about advertising and creativity from Jeff Goodby & Rich Silverstein. Break rules, change minds, and create the best work of your life with the MasterClass All-Access Pass.

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