At this time of year, we’re normally inundated with requests for work experience. We’ve had a few this week and it’s made us realise how hard getting a foot in the door is going to be for people just starting out- quite literally with social distancing in place- and the fact that a lot of companies might be focusing 100% on projects at the moment.
Here’s 10 top tips from one of our founders, Jon Bird:
I left university and began to look for work pretty much as we were coming out of the 2008 recession, so I know how it feels to some degree.
1. Your CV has GOT to stand out
You are in the same boat as so many others. Marketing is very much about getting people to engage and be enthusiastic about things, and your CV has got to do the same. It’s virtually impossible to do that with a boring piece of paper. Most will end up… in the bin unfortunately.
Make your CV look visual awesome. And if you don’t think you can design it or make it look good, spend a bit of time working out how, or use a template. It doesn’t matter that it’s a template, it will at least show that you were willing to give it a go.
This goes without saying but when it comes to spelling and grammar… make sure it’s flawless.
2. Make an amazing portfolio
It doesn’t matter what kind of marketing or creative job you want to get into, you’ve got to show that you can do it. And I know what you might think – it’s a chicken and egg scenario – HOW do you get the experience if you haven’t had a job. It can feel like a bit of a paradox.
Thankfully, unless you’re going for a senior job, it doesn’t matter if the portfolio is of real client work or not.
Search for sample creative briefs online, make one up yourself or ask someone to create one for you. It could be something like… “Nike are looking to launch a new shoe for runners – this is how I would market it…” or “Nando’s are coming up with a new sauce, this is how I would photograph it”.
It really doesn’t matter that it’s not real. It’ll put you head and shoulders above all the others who have nothing to show.
AND, if it’s an awkward company to apply to like public sector, where they’re sometimes not allowed to accept portfolios, upload it to Linkedin and connect with the interviewers.
3. Get on the phone
Sending an email is not good enough. When I left university (I know this because I looked back the other day) I applied for over 200 jobs via email and I got 5 responses. I got really down about it. It didn’t occur to me that this was almost the least amount of effort I could possibly be putting in.
Pick up the phone. I think people of my generation, and certainly those that are younger, shy away from the phone. We’re not used to it. We’ve grown up asking Amazon where our parcel is on a chat box – but in reality, life is the opposite for directors of firms… they’re a bit older, they often hate the digital communication that’s interrupted their lives. That’s a generalisation, but it’s what I experience a lot.
So pick-up-the-phone – try and talk to the person who is in charge of hiring for that specific role. If they’re busy, don’t say ‘ok bye’ – ask when you can call back. Being keen is not a bad thing whatsoever.
When you do get to speak to them, ask a few things you genuinely want to know the application process or what it’s like to work there. Chances are, they’ll remember you and it’ll put you in better stead before you’ve even interviewed.
Finally – smile and dial. It’s a simple, cheesy trick that helps to boost your confidence, makes you sound more upbeat and in my opinion, always gets better results.
4. Keep knocking on the door
Once you’ve had the phone conversation and you’ve sent your CV in, keep in touch with that decision maker. Not loads, like, don’t turn up to their house or anything. Just ask if they could confirm that they received it, and when you can expect to hear from them. If you don’t hear back – Chase. It. Up.
If your CV doesn’t progress, ask them to keep your CV on file and to let you know if something suitable comes up.
Whether it’s a Director or someone who works in HR, they’re bound to notice that getting a job with them really means something to you.
5. Use your network
Tell anyone and everyone who will listen that you’re looking for work, and the type of work you’re looking for. If they won’t listen, tell them anyway! You never know what they might see on social media or who they might know or bump into.
6. Be specific
Do not send out the same CV, cover letter or portfolio. Every agency or organisation is different, so they’ll want to see different things from you. You need to make them feel special.
What clients do they work with? What does the job involve? Have you got any experience or interests that are applicable? If so, don’t leave it as a footnote to the CV or portfolio. Put it front and centre so that it screams “THIS is how I can add value” or “I’m the one you’ve been looking for”.
You might say ‘that seems like a lot of effort’ – but then do you really want it? If you did, they you’ll surely be willing to venture an hour or two customising your CV portfolio for that role.
You might also think ‘but there’s 200 jobs I want to apply for and I want to go for them all’ – to be honest, you could apply for them all, but you won’t be applying for any of them very well.
I know it seems like a lot of effort, and I didn’t do these things, but trust me it’s much harder with the scatter gun approach.
7. Learn the tools and apply them!
My advice would be to learn as much as you can using the tools that are most applicable to the part of the marketing industry you’re most interested in, alongside professional qualifications. For example, if you’re interested in social media management, getting to know Facebook for Business, TweetDeck, Instagram TV etc would be valuable.
The qualifications will help you to get interviews, but it will be your skills and abilities that will make the difference in getting selected for the role.
In terms of learning more skills and achieving qualifications, University or college courses can be time consuming and expensive, but thankfully there’s lots of alternatives like YouTube, where there are SO many resources.
There are also more formal qualifications; check out online learning sites like Udemy, where you can learn some seriously valuable skills for just a few quid per lesson.
8. Lower your short term expectations
Yes, there’s probably fewer jobs out there right now, and certainly for the next few months, so you might need to lower your short-term expectations. Amazing apprenticeships, graduate jobs or the next step in your career might not be available in many places right now. But do everything you can to keep your foot in the door.
Unless you’ve got a load of cash lying around, you’re probably going to need to work. I’d recommend taking whatever you can that allows you to work alongside something in the creative industry. It doesn’t matter what both of those things are, if you’re working 4 days a week as a cleaner and 1 day per week on some creative work, freelance or just for your own development, building your portfolio, it’ll put your in the best position to show off your experience for when those real juicy opportunities do arise.
Let’s not forget that some industries are BOOMING at the moment. Takeaway food, online fashion, streaming services, gaming, fitness, cycling. Find those companies and tailor your CVs to them.
9. Check yourself before you wreck yourself
This could be the most important one of all – take a step back and look at your own social media accounts and what you’ve posted online over the years. Have you got some cringey old Twitter account you don’t use anymore? Or posted some stupid YouTube videos?
They might not admit it, but checking you out online is one of the first things a potential employer will do if you have applied for a job in digital marketing or social media. If you’ve got a Facebook, Instagram, TikTok account of you being sick everywhere at a party from 3 years ago, or worse, hide it, delete it, whatever, but make sure it’s locked down. Wait until they hire you so you can show them later when your friends with everyone and you can all laugh about it.
But in all seriousness, Google yourself – what’s coming up, where is that content – is it really what you want your prospective employer to see? The creative and marketing industry can be quite laid back, but you’ll still be applying to people who are going to decide whether you’re the one to introduce to their clients.
10. Get feedback
Get feedback and use it to inform your approach for the next one. But always take it with a pinch of salt – you might not have got hired for all kinds of reasons or politics.
I was genuinely told that I didn’t get a job once because I wasn’t a very smiley person. I’m the sort of loser who laughs at their own jokes, so I find that pretty hard to believe… I think the guy hiring fancied my girlfriend who worked there at the time to be honest!
So that’s it. I guarantee to you that you won’t regret taking these steps. They will benefit you in so many ways – you might not get the job you’re going for, but that person might pass you on to someone else or something better in the future.
It happens – good people are hard to find, and referring a good person to someone else creates value for someone else.
Standing out from the crowd is more important than ever.