Ad students who act like ad pros, succeed.

Used by permission. © Joel Robison

Used by permission. © Joel Robison

Most academic advertising programs are inadequate in preparing a graduate to enter his or her career. Those who walk across the stage into premiere positions are those who act as an ad professional before they become one.

Know where the best work happens. In an interview, be able to cite the best work and who is doing it. Being aware of the latest trends in marketing and where future trends will arise. Keep up on industry news and comment on it. In other words, engage in the conversation.

Never stop growing. Long-range plans require continual refinement of abilities. You never finish your portfolio. Make it a goal to replace everything in it every two or three years. Take care. New doesn’t mean better. Every addition should be an upgrade. Get objective critiques by those you trust and respect before adding a piece to your book.

Re-educate. Pros know that school is a bubble that doesn’t represent the real industry. They know that a portfolio must demonstrate work that communicates across some communication channels. School assignments built on theory do not offer what is needed. Go beyond your assignment. Add ideas that demonstrate the ability to execute integrated brand campaigns.

Keep things in perspective. They know that being at the top of the class means nothing to the industry. Winning student awards in professional shows can help, but they are no guarantee. Who you are as a pro is as important as the work you do.

Be resilient. If this were an easy business, everyone would be trying to do it. It’s fun, and it has a cachet few other careers possess. But you have to want to be the best more than anything if you are to do it well. Those who get to the top worked hard for many years. Most people drop out of the business because the difficulty. If you want to make it, you must be an optimist that isn’t easily discouraged.

You may meet ad professionals that don’t have the attributes described above. They are not the real pros in our business. Ninety-five percent of advertising is horrible. Only a few people in our industry do the work we all admire. If you want to be one of those few, start being a pro before you are one.

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