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Agency career timeline part 1: Getting your foot in the door

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Entry-level positions in creative agencies are highly sought-after, and with a fresh batch of graduates entering the job market this summer, the race is already on to secure that all-important first role. In addition to this intense competition, employers are managing the amount and quality of applications they receive by demanding candidates possess one or two years of work experience. With such factors at play, what can entry-level candidates do to secure their spot on the first rung of the agency ladder?

First of all, know what you want

Many entry-level candidates make the mistake of assuming they need to apply for everything and accept the first offer they get. In fact, this scattergun approach only works to dilute your efforts and you’ll probably end up in a job you don’t want. Instead take the time to think about the factors that are important to you, such as the location, the type of work you want to do, workplace culture etc. This might narrow down your search to a handful of businesses, but that’s a good thing. Research these businesses extensively to find out what they do, who works there, key competitors and, most importantly, whether they’re currently hiring.

Also remember that a lot of agencies use specialist recruiters (like Henry Nicholas, #justsaying) and a quick Google search can help you to identify the recruiter they’re working with. Get in touch with the recruiter, explain you’re looking for your first position with that company and ask if they’ll help you. If all of this sounds like a bit of a long-shot, think again; you’d be surprised how many people get placed, regardless of their experience level, by demonstrating such initiative.

Internships and work experience placements

Recent years have seen more paid internships and work experience placements than ever before. Although some only offer short placements, they are still helpful when it comes to proving to a potential employer that you have the necessary experience needed. If you do land a placement, make sure you live and breath every aspect of the business. Imagine it’s your permanent job and you want the boss to give you a promotion. Although it doesn’t happen every time, you may end up impressing them so much that you get offered something permanent. At the very least you’ll stand out for all of the right reasons, and you never know what opportunities might arise in the future.

The side door

If you’ve got your heart set on a particular organisation, it can be worth considering a position that isn’t in the precise area you’re looking for. While your dream is to be an account executive, the only role they might have on offer is in the post room. An opportunity like this can help you accrue valuable office experience along with the chance to learn more about the business and what everyone does there. As long as you make your intentions clear from the start about your desired career path and your reasons for taking the job, an employer is more than likely to find your passion and commitment to being a part of their business impressive.

Check your attitude

Graduate or not, the chances are that you’ve worked extremely hard to get to this point, and you should be proud of everything you’ve achieved. That being said, try not to let it go to your head. While you’ve just reached your educational peak, you’re only just getting started in the world of work, and although some entry-level tasks may seem easy (and, dare we say, menial), you should remain enthusiastic about the opportunity to embark on your career path. Always remember that if you’re great at the job, you’ll be earmarked for progression from day one. So, when the job spec says you’ll be making teas and coffees for guests, do it with gusto!

Get inventive

Sometimes you’ve got to think outside of the box to get your first agency job. Instead of sending your speculative applications to HR or a general recruitment email address, head to the agency’s LinkedIn page to see who works there. If you want to become a designer, contact the Head of Design. Looking at a social media position? Find out who oversees this area and drop them a message.

And don’t be afraid to get a bit crafty too. Instead of asking if they have any roles, why not see if they’ll meet with you to tell you more about the company or offer advice and feedback on your portfolio. If you get a meeting, use the opportunity to tell them how much you admire the company and the work they do and ask if you can leave your CV for future consideration. Agencies receive A LOT of CVs every day, so an approach like this means you’ll stand out from the crowd.