I have seen many resumes over my 15 years at Love Advertising. Working for an ad agency is perceived as exciting and fun (and lets face facts, it really is) so we get more than our fair share of applicants. After the recession in 2008, that number increased exponentially as people found themselves out of work or looking to make a change in their career. I talked to many friends who were journalists, looking to break into the ad biz, and counseled even more college graduates looking for their big shot. Their attitudes and circumstances varied but my advice to them remained constant. Volunteer.
Volunteer to gain experience – College students are often surprised that having a degree is not always enough for an entry-level job at an agency. Getting an internship paid or not is key to gaining experience valuable to a firm and also allows you to see first hand if your chosen path is really what you want to do. Internships allow you to have practical knowledge of the concepts and theories you learned during your time at university and offer a great transition from the classroom to a business environment.
Volunteer to cover the gap – After the recession, being laid off and having a gap in your resume is not the stigma that it used to be but it can’t hurt to fill that gap with meaningful experience relevant to your field. Volunteering your expertise to a nonprofit can help you gain experience and remain in practice, which always looks good to potential employers. Organizations are always looking for help with everything from design to PR, and offering your services can keep you in the game, add depth to your resume and make you feel great while doing it.
Volunteer to learn new things – So many interns that work for us come in wanting to specialize in just one area (hint; not everyone can be a creative director!) and are amazed when they find out that they really enjoy working in another area like account services. Volunteering for different jobs within your organization can help you to find out what you are really good at and at the very least, give you a better understanding of how other departments work, making you a more well rounded team member.
Brenda Love is always fond of saying that you can teach people about marketing and advertising but you can’t teach passion. Volunteering to help a nonprofit or fellow co-worker shows passion for your career, a love for what you do and in today’s job market that can be what sets you apart in a sea of resumes.