Students: How To Stand Out In A Crowd Of Many

For someone who’s not what we consider to be a traditional “creative,” it goes something like this. You go to journalism school, get your advertising degree and then become one of thousands of young professionals in the United States looking for a job at an advertising agency. You become one of many. Getting your degree in advertising isn’t enough to distinguish you from the rest. In addition, traditional journalism schools are struggling to provide students with the education needed to survive in our world of emerging media and technology. So not only are you one of many; you are one of many who may not be qualified to take on the new responsibilities that come with creating modern marketing strategies.

A soon-to-be graduate from the University of Minnesota’s School of Journalism and Mass Communication may be overwhelmed knowing how many other people are vying to do the exact same thing they want to do. This person doesn’t see the opportunity differentiate, they see themselves as one of many in a sea of sameness. These thoughts manifest into action as this person submits their resume to every agency in town. As they’re doing this, they think less about if the agency would be a good fit for them and more about how they just want to get their foot in the door.

A recent graduate from the University of St. Thomas’ Communication and Journalism program takes a different approach. They, of course, have received their undergraduate degree. But they also went above-and-beyond by leading the winning team’s efforts in the National Student Advertising Competition (NSAC). This person even managed to complete an internship their senior year while finishing up school. Impressive. This person’s resume would probably make it further upstream at an advertising agency.

A hiring manager at an advertising agency may be more interested in meeting the recent graduate from the University of St. Thomas versus the soon-to-be graduate from the University of Minnesota. This candidate has demonstrated their ability to make a difference outside of their expected curriculum by participating in NSAC and completing an internship. The hiring manager knows this person is intelligent, motivated and passionate about what they do. This candidate has the edge because he’s able to demonstrate his problem solving skills by sharing a presentation he created during his internship. The hiring manager is intrigued, but there’s one more candidate to consider.

A recent Communication Studies graduate from Gustavus Adolphus College has invested the time and effort necessary to stand out in the highly competitive talent pool of aspiring advertising professionals. Her senior year, she spent a considerable amount of time exploring her passions and establishing her own perspective as a marketer. The website she created and her participation in social media reflect these philosophies. She’s managed to make a few blog posts per month and closely follows the blogs of individuals that inspire her in advertising industry. Due to her online contributions, she’s generated awareness for her brand and has been able to leverage this to make connections to advertising professionals in the Twin Cities. She carries her social tendencies to the offline world by attending regular MIMA events and the Ad Fed mentorship circle. This allows her to meet people face-to-face, shake hands and have more relevant conversations with people she’s previously connected with online.

By taking the time to identify her passions and interests, she has an easier time identifying which agencies she’s most interested in. More importantly, this allows her to better articulate why she’s interested in an agency as she takes a more customized approach to submitting her credentials when applying for internships. Not surprisingly, these internships require the person to take on a significant amount of digital responsibilities. This is something she’s comfortable with given the time she’s spent experimenting over the past year with her own online initiatives. And not only is she able to identify which agencies she’s interested in, she’s able to explain why she’s interested in a specific job opening. She’s focused, buttoned-up, passionate and motivated. She’s qualified take on the new responsibilities that come with creating modern marketing strategies. She stands out as one of a few in a crowd of many.

Getting your undergraduate degree is a must. But it’s not enough. Going outside of your expected curriculum (e.g., committees, internships) helps, but these accomplishments are becoming more common due to supply (recent advertising graduates) outweighing demand (jobs at agencies). Don’t depend on these extra-curricular activities to stand out as one of a few in a crowd of many. To stand out as one of a few in a crowd of many, you first need to identify what you’re passionate about and find ways to let people know how you think and show them what you’ve created. Once you’ve done this, do the research necessary to figure out which agencies line up best with your personal philosophies. Take the wheel. If you don’t find a job opening that doesn’t align with your philosophies, keep looking. There’s certainly a job out there for you. It’s just not going to show up in your school’s career board or on an agency’s website at your convenience. But if you’re in a position where you know what you want, what your good at and how you can make a difference – you’ll know which job is right for you when you see it.