My Accidental Career as a Creative in Advertising
Disclaimer: I have been at this job for all of 90 days so please take what I say with a grain of salt.
Becoming a creative in advertising is one of those things that most people get into by accident. Advertising is not one of those fields that typically has a ton of alumni, and so students interested in the field need to do some independent work to forge connections. I graduated knowing vaguely what I wanted, but without contacts and without knowing what was necessary to break into the field as a creative. A good deal of research led me to the VCU Brandcenter, which, among other portfolio schools, prepares naïve young talent like me (and maybe you) to enter the wonderfully cutthroat field of Don Draper.
Brandcenter is the number one reason I got hired as an associate art director at Disney’s Yellow Shoes. Backing up a step, I am relatively certain that the only reason I got into Brandcenter was because of the comics I made for the Duel Observer. (If you want to see a few of them, here’s a link: http://www.charlottehsimons.com/comics) When I graduated Brandcenter, an executive creative director told me those were the only reason he had wanted to interview me, which could be awkward depending on how you interpret it.
Advertising is an industry where grades don’t matter. It’s all about your portfolio, who you know, and sometimes side projects. It’s one of the few places where you get paid a decent wage to think of stupid ideas and then make them. It’s great. I can’t name another job where people pay you money to think about pranks.
My real piece of “advice” though, is that if you have the ability, go on an adventure after college before you enter the working world. Walk the Appalachian Trail. Do the Tour du Mont Blanc. Be a ski bum. Teach English in South Korea. Definitely apply for an Emerson grant, or the Peace Corps, or Teach for America. Go to the moon. Volunteer. Maybe you’ll meet someone who is doing something that you want to do, and they can help you out. And you know you like doing it because, well, you’re already out there trying.