Ask Esther // 16

Hi there Esther,

I’m fresh out of high school and decided a long time ago that advertising is the industry for me. I’ve done a couple of bouts of work experience in good agencies and won some national film, writing and design awards for high school students. I have a portfolio which I am constantly updating and bettering, but I don’t know what to do with it. I’d rather learn from within the industry than an institution, however I don’t know how to get that rare and elusive first opportunity without any kind of degree.

I think that my ideas are good and that with a lot of experience I could become a great copywriter, I’m willing to work for an opportunity but I’m worried that I won’t be taken seriously. Is it even worth trying to make it in the big, scary world of advertising at my age, or even at any age, without any qualifications? And if it isn’t, which is the answer I’m expecting, would I be better off doing several short courses such as diplomas in creative writing, film production and design, to broaden my skillset or focusing my time on one writing degree?

Many thanks.

Well I’d be a bit of a hypocrite if I insisted that you go to Uni. I got a job as a despatch kid while I was still at school and started at Ogilvy the day after my final exam. I’d only just turned 17.

But getting into a creative department is much, much harder. You’re competing against other juniors who are a little older and have probably completed some studies.

You need to give yourself every edge you can.

And I don’t know that a teenager has developed enough empathy/life experience to write copy for incontinence pads or life insurance. Empathy for whomever the message is directed towards is one of your biggest hurdles.

Finally, if you plan on working overseas one day, you will find it much harder to qualify for a visa without tertiary qualifications. And impossible without having won some internationally recognised awards.

Are you so keen to get cracking that the older you won’t mind if you limit your options so early?

There are some great full time courses you can do – from RMIT, Swinburne, Curtin, Bathurst, UTS, etc etc. You’ll not only hone your writing, but you’ll develop a higher level of computer skills in filming, editing, production, photoshop, InDesign etc that will be useful every day as an agency creative.

Short, relevant courses are available from the highly recognised AWARD School (2013 class is several months from induction), to AFTRS short courses and the brand new and super-expensive Miami Ad School. As a general rule of thumb, avoid any courses that call themselves “creative writing” and stick to the ones recognised by the industry.

If I were your Mum I’d want you to keep studying and give yourself every advantage to increase your skills and qualifications. But if you’re really determined to have a crack, at least make sure you have the computer and general office skills to get your foot in the door.

Good luck!

P.S. David Droga, the founder of Droga5, didn’t go to Uni and he’s done okay.

You can ask Esther Clerehan anything about putting your book together, getting a job, what salary to ask for or what to do when someone steals your ideas. Go on, Ask Esther. There is no other creative recruiter with more experience to educate us on the art of the job hunt. You can email her here at junior at (wtf null@null lifeatthebottom

Written by Junior
Originally posted on: 02/08/2012
Category: Ask Esther
Tagged: .