The skills required in advertising are as varied as the industry itself. The advertising industry needs people who are interested in consumer markets and fascinated by advertising and the media. Agencies look for individuals who can relate to their clients and help them achieve their business objectives. Certain skills are broadly common to all advertising work but some will depend on the role in question:
- Ability to link a creative solution to a business problem.
- Understanding and love of brands.
- Ability to work under pressure as part of a team.
- Ability to communicate articulately with people at all levels.
- A rigorous and creative approach to problem solving.
- Strong lateral and logical thinking skills.
- An open and enquiring mind.
- Entrepreneurial mindset.
- Persuasive and diplomatic.
- Well-organised with an eye for detail.
- Digital media insight.
- Creative design skills/qualifications (for creative roles)
As an Account Manager, you need to thrive on deadlines and pressure. This role (similar to a Business Consultant) is responsible for co-ordinating the resources of the agency to meet the needs of the client and requires excellent interpersonal skills. The ability to persuade and convince are vital when you are making a pitch to a new client. In Account Planning and Media Planning, analysis and research skills are central; whilst Media Buyers – those who purchase air time on television or space online – must be quick thinkers, organised and strong negotiators. Art Directors have usually come from an art school background. For Copywriting, the craft of writing is still important, especially now in the development of websites, virals, Twitter and other online media. A copywriter needs to be able to produce a clear, persuasive and original copy.
To check out if your skills set lend themselves towards a career in the advertising sector try the Institute of Practitioners in Advertising (IPA) online self-assessment Diagonal Thinking Test. It is free and will help you understand which kind of roles your skills and personality are likely to fit best. A number of the agencies also offer tests to help you to work out which type of role might suit your skills and interests. for example Mindshare
Employers will want evidence of your interest, and work experience is central to this. It is also an effective way of finding out whether the advertising sector is right for you. A number of agencies do offer work experience programmes throughout the year, or summer internships. A list is provided on the AdMission website. Take part in the Oxford Strategy Challenge or The Agency to help students gain practical experience working within an environment similar to a traditional creative agency working on a strategic campaign – with real clients comprised by local businesses, charities and community organisations.
Search CareerConnect for current and archived opportunities. If you are not able to secure a competitive work experience position, consider speculative applications, perhaps just for work shadowing or informal work experience. This is a very common route in! Unpaid work experience or work shadowing is not easy to get but is invaluable even if it is for a day or two. If you search the archived vacancies on CareerConnect you should find over 200 opportunities advertised for this sector: a great start for sending speculative approaches.
Use the IPA’s agency directory to draw up a list of companies you’d be interested to work for. The listing includes client details, size and focus of the agencies, awards and names of people in the leadership team. Go deeper by taking a look at each firm’s website, their careers pages and seek out an email address, perhaps listed under ‘Contact Us’, ‘About Us’ or ‘Jobs’.
Alternatively, do some online research via LinkedIn or advertising awards websites such as UK Agency Awards or the D&AD awards (global). You can find firms recognised for their work and look for people to contact directly: eg, the relevant head of department, for example the head of planning or executive creative director. You can also contact the head of human resources.
There is often confusion about whether you should be paid to do an internship or work experience. It will depend on your arrangement with the employer and also the status of the employer. You can find out if you are entitled to be paid when undertaking work experience or an internship at the UK Government: National Minimum Wage.