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Connecting the dots: how I landed my first job in the creative industry at AKQA

4 min, 27 sec read
11:15 AM | 1 May 2015
by Robert Glad
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This is the story of how I landed my first gig in the creative industry through doing extra work, breaking into an agency and using Instagram. So here goes…

To be frank nothing at university prepared me well enough for what was coming the moment I handed over my major project. The only thing I understood was to trust was my gut, aim high and be prepared for disappointments along the way.

"To be frank nothing at university prepared me well enough for what was coming the moment I handed over my major project."

I started my bachelor’s degree in advertising and brand communication in Norway and ended up finishing it at Southampton Solent University. It was a great year, full of hard work, trips to London to visit major agencies, briefs from real clients and brands and events to expand ones network. The environment at university was built to let you set your own limits. We pushed each other, and we loved every minute of it, the companionship and the work it resulted in.

Besides university me and my best friend (Lars Bjørnbakk) founded our own design agency GLAD + BJORNBAKK, doing a placement at a local agency and pushing out resumes to interesting agencies. We wanted to go the extra mile to see how far it would take us.

And before we knew it, the semester had ended. As the final project left my hands a bigger question came to light: What the fuck happens now? I had prepared myself, right? I had notebooks stuffed with tons of ideas on how to get the creative directors attention, email-addresses to agencies and creative directors.

I built a website, published blog posts and I even broke into one of London’s largest agencies (AKQA) just to hand over my resume. Things started to look a bit dark. I got cold feet about advertising and I started to bicker towards design. But I got responses, had a couple of interviews which made it a bit easier to continue pushing upwards.

"One day I got an interesting email from a creative director from advertising agency, AKQA."

I spent the summer working with Lars on projects for own agency. We divided the agency’s responsibilities by our skillset, but we had an agile approach to our process. Lars was more strategic, organised and really good with people so he made an excellent project manager. I was the explosive creative element. Much of my friend’s job was to keep me in line and preventing me from having creative meltdowns. We did business; we had a lot of clients, tonnes of work and deadlines. With it followed experience and most of the time we had so much fun doing it.

On the side of GLAD + BJORNBAKK, I continued my job search. One day I got an interesting email from a creative director from advertising agency, AKQA. An agency I had my eyes on since 2007 because of a interactive campaign for one of my favourite video game-series. The creative director had seen snippets of my work on Instagram and visited my website. And he liked it! He set up the call to simply have a chat.

The day arrived, I really expected more questions and answers but it was more like a conversation between two equal passionate people. I told him about how I broke into his agency, and he liked the passion. I can still remember the wave of excitement after the call ended. AKQA, the company who does radical things with NIKE, Apple, Red Bull, Formula 1, Google - thinks I am a interesting person.

I was put in touch with the person responsible for AKQA’s recruitment in Europe. She made it clear that I had a shot at a design internship at their Amsterdam office. I was set up with Skype interviews over the following months, with different creative directors around the office. Which was absolutely frightening in the beginning but they were really welcoming and I even got a mini-tour around the office through Skype.

I had to stay patient. Being hired by a agency of a large size requires time and patience. I spent the time not waiting but working, freelancing and sharpening my skills in all possible ways. The day arrived; I had an offer from the Amsterdam office as a design intern.

"Being hired by a agency of a large size requires time and patience. I spent the time not waiting but working."

It was a no brainer, there wasn’t a moment of hesitation only a brief second of panic by the calibre of this chance, followed up by overwhelming joy and a huge YES by email. It was tough taking my leave from what me and my best friend had built but we are both aiming to come together in again in the future.

I packed my things, arrived in Amsterdam, found a place to live and a few days after, I took my first step inside of AKQAs office by the canals of Amsterdam.

Looking back I learned a lot of things, which would give me a clear advantage when starting this massive process. So in an effort to save you some hard work and painful experiences I've also written about the 5 key things that helped me land my internship at AKQA.

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