The hard-playing, swashbuckling work life seen Sunday nights on “Mad Men” is one that’s easy for people with less glamorous desk jobs to be envious of, and indeed, aspire to.
While the three-martini lunches and cigarette smoke might have gone away, the glitz of working for major brands and the creative thrill of of seeing your work on television remain.
And in speaking with people at several agencies, we’ve learned what to do if you want to ditch your boring office job for a life in advertising.
Those looking for inspiration to make a career shift should look no further than Everette Cooke, a former attorney who quit his boring job drawing up contracts at a production company in 2010 to enter the advertising world. Now, he works at one of the industry’s hippest agencies, Los Angeles-based 72andSunny.
There, he works on the Google account as a liaison between the tech giant and 72andSunny’s creative writers and designers.
“I definitely feel much differently coming in to work now than I ever did as an attorney. I never really liked going to work,” Cooke said. “What’s been great has been the free flow of things here. It’s more like jazz than classical music, where you’re just reading the sheet music.”
Cooke is one of a number of employees at 72andSunny to come from outside the industry. The agency’s roster also includes a former school teacher, a former emergency room nurse, and a former soldier in the Israeli army.
Angela Hannam, group director of recruiting at CP+B, said that the heightened role of technology in the industry had opened up even more opportunities for people from nontraditional backgrounds to join the industry.
Several of the agency’s successful interns hadn’t even realised their design and programming skills could be used in advertising before they came to CP+B.
“I believe anyone can be successful here if you’re willing to put in the time, you’re ambitious, you’re passionate, you have that creative energy, and you can be flexible,” Hannam said. “Some of the people who have come in and really thrived were maybe new to advertising, but they just didn’t give up, and I think that’s the key.”
Jason Harris, president of the digital agency Mekanism, said he prefers new creatives to come from a portfolio school, where students spend either one or two years honing their craft and creating practice ads to show prospective employers.
“You need to have a portfolio to see the thinking and the work,” Harris said. “It doesn’t have to be work that ran, but you have to be able to see the concepts.”
Hannam said that in addition to looking for portfolio school graduates, CP+B also seeks out people in other creative fields, like film directors, who’ve shown the ability to tell stories on film or in print.
She also stressed that CP+B employees are encouraged to involve themselves with all aspects of the business that strike their fancy, meaning their creative ideas could find their way into CP+B’s work regardless of their official roles at the company.
Evin Shutt, 72andSunny’s chief operating who herself worked in education before moving to advertising, said these fresh perspectives can enhance the quality of an agency’s creative work.
“I love that the person who comes from law and is a brand manager might be super passionate about art, and they’re going to look at it in a different way than a creative who is an art director by trade,” she said.
At the very least, it beats writing contracts all day.
“There are nights where you’re working really late, but there’s a really nice feeling that I have because I used to be miserable that I was at my job at 6:15 p.m,” Cooke said. “Now, I can be working longer hours or having a bad day, but I actually like this job. I know that because I’ve had a job I didn’t like.”
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