When we prepare to leave college and begin to search for a job, unless you're destined for the family business, most of us have to make our own way - and that means making our own luck. We have to rely on our college classes and all that we've learned to point us in a direction we believe we want to go. Most students start with a resume, listing their graduation date and GPA (if it was high), and any honors they received. They add in their work experience, mostly part-time jobs at restaurants and bars and maybe a student job on campus. They list the clubs and organizations they belong to and they describe their volunteer activities. They talk about their skills, their ability to be quick learners and multi-taskers and their attention to detail.
And while this is necessary, it's only the beginning, and it doesn't set you apart from the masses. The critical part of one's job search, that can't be addressed with a resume, is the ability to network to make connections. Personal relationships may not seem important when you leave school. One may think that fellow students can't help because, after all, they're looking for a job too. And while there will always be competition, the guy down the hall in the dorm may be the next Mark Zuckerberg and be in a position to give you a job someday, so you better stay in touch. Don't underestimate the impact that connections have on your career. Attending industry events, asking for informational interviews, meeting new people, asking for advice, and seeking mentors are all ways to gain unpaid yet invaluable experience in a tight job market. In this month's online Harvard Business Review, professional blogger Kathryn Minshew says, "NYFO - Network Your Face Off" - http://blogs.hbr.org/cs/2012/10/the_serendipitous_entrepreneur.html. Her advice is to ask for and go to as many meetings and events as you can, even if it's not completely clear what may come of it.
At RT, we know how hard it can be to make that phone call or send that email asking for an informational interview. It's intimidating, and that's why we created the Fall Forum 6 years ago. We saw an opportunity to share our work and vision with kids who had no idea what it was like to be inside an advertising and marketing firm. We knew that if we could just get them here, they would see what it's like and they could begin to make those oh-so-important connections that might one day lead to a job, or better yet, a successful career in the business. And not to boast, but we were right. We have seen the light bulb go off for kids as they sat and listened to an art director review their portfolio, or heard Tim Rodgers describe his beliefs about merit, or took a tour of the agency and thought "yeah, I belong in a place like this." And the smart kids are the ones who follow up afterward with a thank you note, or a call to say how much they got out of the event, or even a quick email. They understand the value of the connections they made that day. They know that the experience at the Fall Forum gave them a new perspective, a new set of professional contacts, and a leg up on ol' Zuckerberg down the hall.
Interested in attending the #RTFallForum on November 16? RSVP at facebook.com/rodgerstownsend and click on our Event page.
Click here to join our Students Exploring Advertising Careers group on LinkedIn for questions and discussion about life in the advertising business.