Before I started at working for a media buying agency, I was a graduating Marketing Communications student who applied to multiple internship roles at Media Experts, Vizeum, Cossette, OMD, The&Partnership, DDB, Rethink, and a few local agencies based in Vancouver, BC. I am dedicating my first blog post to Marketing Communications students who are actively seeking an agency work experience at a challenging time.
In a Facebook networking group, I commented on a thread to offer my help on anything related to marketing agencies. Due to an overwhelming amount of requests from students, I am going to answer a commonly asked question about internships.
I am not an agency expert or a hiring manager, but I want to share a few valuable tips on how you can improve your chances of getting your foot in the door at an agency on your own terms.
A year ago, I was in your position. I was desperately looking for an internship at a marketing agency, but I didn't know where to start. After reaching out to several media professionals and friends for advice, I re-evaluated my prospecting strategy.
As a result of their guidance, I got scheduled for seven interviews at several agencies and received a media internship offer from OMD Canada. Ultimately, I landed a full-time role and got the best of both worlds in learning about traditional and digital paid media strategies.
To find your next agency opportunity, here are five tips:
Understand what you want to learn next for your internship. Is it digital marketing or public relations? Ask yourself what skills you are hoping to grow and prioritize them based on what you want to learn most. Once you create a to-learn list, add agency names to where you would be able to learn those skills. This exercise is useful to help you narrow down a list of prospecting agencies for your application process and to assess where your interest lies. With your to-learn list, you will be able to find your purpose and discover new agencies that you didn't know before. For a list of the different types of marketing agencies, take a look at the chart below (you may need to zoom in). Keep in mind that there are other local agencies that are not on this list.
The 2019 Agency Family Tree
Spend time on your branding. You want to leave a good impression on your future employer. Agencies receive many applicants for entry-level positions, so you will need to pay attention to how you present your LinkedIn profile, resume, and cover letter. I recommend sticking to one design that's consistent with all application materials. For more details on personal branding, here are some excellent resources.
Understand why you're applying to an agency instead of client-side marketing roles. Almost every interview I attended asked, "why do you want to work for an agency?" or "why media buying specifically?". Agencies want to make sure you're the right fit for the culture and the environment. Be aware that the agencies’ lifestyles are not for everyone because of high-pressure deadlines and long working hours. You must be confident in knowing why you are pursuing a career at an agency. Be prepared to conquer the "why" questions.
Reach out to agency professionals who are experts in the skills you want to learn. Due to the quarantine, your chances of getting a response on LinkedIn are high. If you have mutual connections to the professional, ask your contact to provide you with a referral. Take this opportunity to schedule 30-minute phone calls or video conferencing to ask questions. I strongly advise you not to ask questions about internship positions but to get to know the professional as a person. Ask them how they got started in their agency career and what aspects of their role they enjoy. You want to build a genuine connection with a professional who is offering their time to help you. When you take the time to learn about someone’s career journey, you will gain insights into the culture and types of responsibilities at their agency. Spend more time actively listening than talking.
Find a mentor. I cannot stress how valuable it is to have a mentor who can offer you career advice and support that’s not limited to job searching. I was fortunate to have several mentors who have been in the media industry for more than ten years. They provided me with insights on expected interview questions and the challenges that I will face in my career, such as burnout, layoffs, and negotiating for a raise. I understand that seeking mentorship may seem scary at first, but I got a few pointers on how to get started in another article that I’ll be writing soon.
If there's one thing I have learned from looking back on my agency prospecting journey, it's about having persistence. Please remember that you are much more than a resume and cover letter. To land a position at a well-known agency is going to be challenging, but I encourage you to stay positive and do not give up. Good luck with your agency hunt!