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Work experience in advertising – getting your foot in the door

4 min, 30 sec read
15:31 PM | 23 March 2011
by Adam Oldfield
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Everyone at school has to do a two week work experience placement, my subject of geekness and study was film so I instinctively went looking for a two week adventure in film. Luckily, I had family in London who I could live with so began calling around studios every other day for nearly three weeks. Eventually they one of them gave in - maybe it was down to my persistence, maybe they understood I was passionate about film or maybe they just couldn’t handle me calling anymore! This happened to be one of the biggest film production companies out there – Ealing Studios.

This is my second post in a series of three about getting creating a career in advertising and today I’ll focus on work experience. Hopefully the ideas below can be applied to help you get an internship or full-time job in any industry.

The benefits of work experience are to get your foot in the door, to see which things you enjoy and don’t, provide you an idea of work processes in place at the agency. Importantly you can show off why you’d be a great asset to the agency. But before you get there some research needs to be done.


First your role, what are your talents? Maybe it’s a degree in history, geography, computer engineering, design or cookery?... Every talent can be applied to a career in advertising it’s so diverse. You could be great at organising people, creating things on computer or with your hands or simply leading people.

Once you’ve outlined your talents take a look at the current jobs available across advertising, you’ll find a list at the IAB and IPA. You might want to work in the creation of the idea behind the advert, planning of where the adverts will be placed (online, outdoor, print), manage the relationship between the brand and agency…But if none of these suit your ability and you know you have talent that any agency couldn’t be without tell them.


Research, research and more research – everyone says you should, but people often don’t. Researching your prospective employer will give you the edge over other people looking for a career in advertising and will give you confidence when talking to them, as well as spark a few questions to ask!

Places to look include agency websites, maybe you can remember an advert you loved – find out who produced it). What’s their philosophy? When was it established? Who runs the agency? How many people work there (you might be suited small agency rather than big corporate agency)? Who works in which department? Right down to the smallest detail. And remember to look past the first page of Google, look at news stories, in the forums, across the blogs – keep adjusting your search to find out more.

Don’t just keep your search to one agency either, pick a handful of agencies that you respect the work for and research them to death. You’ll be better equipped which ever place you get work experience and know what the competitors are up to.


By this point you should have a good idea of where your abilities lie and what’s happening across a few agencies. The next stage is making first contact, where you impress.

If there are no other ways except getting in touch directly, your first port of call is HR (Human Resources) or the department head (creative, planning, production, accounts team…) you’d like to work for. If their website doesn’t give up this information call the main line and ask politely who looks after work experience or the appropriate department you’re after. Don’t forget you can also use LinkedIn and twitter to track people down if you know they’re name.

If you’re lucky enough to know someone who works at a particular agency, perhaps a friend of the family or any old connection then make use of them - it’s the easiest way in.

Once you have their details, give them a call instead of an email. A phone calls show initiative, keenness and confidence. Tell them briefly about yourself, why you’ve sort that agency out over others, and why you would like to have work experience with them. Then ask if you could get their email address to explain in a little more detail.

The email should be concise, short to read and with an action for who you’ve emailed. Give them a few days to reply, if you here nothing, give a nudge in another call just confirming they got your email. Everybody’s time is precious so don’t be knocked back if they just simply haven’t had time. In essence just get out there and start looking. The whole point of work experience is testing the waters, it doesn’t matter if you do something for two weeks then absolutely hate it, you can cross it off and then figure out what didn’t work and what you did like. Like my phone calling to Ealing Studios, persistence helps and if you get knocked back? Learn from it and go again.

If you have any thoughts, you’ve got work experience yourself and if I’ve missed something out or know any examples leave them below. It’s all about sharing.

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