HOWseGuest: Ad Grads and The New Path To Success – Part One

By Shannon Stull

As a wide-eyed, ironically mustachioed student in ad school, chances are you had your eyes set on graduating and entering into the world of major ad agencies. Perhaps you pictured yourself in a New York high rise, working on national ad campaigns for glamourous brands. Maybe you even developed a strong desire to visit the Wieden+Kennedy “meeting nest”, courtesy of late-night “Portlandia” marathons. But then…something called “the economy” happened.

It’s no secret that the economic problems of the last few years have been tough on new creatives. Many agencies have lost major clients. This means loss of creative jobs and higher competition from qualified creatives for open positions. Ultimately, a lot of junior designers have found that unless they are willing to work for nothing, the opportunities are very, very limited.

If you are a new ad grad or are a creative-in-limbo, I have a suggestion; consider working in-house. I know you may have had a different idea in mind, and may have been taught that in-house is “selling out.” Don’t believe it. There are many opportunities to working in-house that just might give you a leg up in your career long-term. This is the first part of a two-article series examining why working in-house can be a viable and smart career move for you.

The Opportunity to be “The Creative One”

Entering into a sea of cubicles and suits may be a shock to your artsy, independent system. But instead of seeing your difference as a negative, embrace it. You have a persona to live up to, and it’s ok to be the wacky/artistic/visionary wild card. People will look to you to be different -they will expect it. This gives you an opportunity to express yourself a little more freely without the competition from other image and ego-driven creatives.

[If the company is large] opportunity to influence a national or international brand.

Hey, some designers in agencies don’t have the opportunity to create work for clients this big for years. You may at times feel very limited by the brand standards that are firmly put in place for large, well-known brands. But you know what? When then time comes for you to move up and on, new hiring managers will only notice that they KNOW your brand, and conversely, your work. Never underestimate the power of brand recognition. They don’t need to know that the national print ad campaign you created had six other (better) versions that got rejected by the brand police.

[If the company is small] The opportunity to create a brand from the ground up.

Also, an opportunity many agency junior designers do not have. From start to finish, that new logo, or first brochure, or new website design can be ALL yours. This is a powerful story to put on your resume. Spend your time crafting this new brand, and try to measure the successes (read: “spreadsheets” below) to show how you single-handedly increased brand recognition/consumer engagement/sales for your company.

Check back in September for Part 2. In the mean time, happy job hunting!

Shannon Stull is a principal and Creative Director at WHOISCARRUS, a full-service Orlando advertising agency. She has experience on both agency and in-house teams in various roles, including; copywriting, art direction, and creative direction. 

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