PLANNING THE CREATIVE JOB SEARCH kelsey harris & hannah tabor university of oregon, 2013
Over the course of two months, we interviewed current and former University of Oregon advertising students. Our criteria: High-achieving and self-motivated students who are well-recognized by faculty, as well as alumni who are working in the industry.
What we wanted to know from the students
1. post-graduate views on the advertising program 2. perceptions on what is necessary to be ready for the job market
We also interviewed 5 Portland ad professionals. Agencies represented: Mutt Industries, Yonder, Uncorked Studios, and NORTH.
What we wanted to know from five Portland ad professionals
1. impressions of entrylevel creative applicants 2. what our program does well 3. how our students can better prepare themselves to be competitive in the job market
The professionals we interviewed came from different agency cultures, ranging from longestablished to cutting-edge. While these professionals each provided a unique perspective on the industry, they voiced a similar opinion. This was concurrent with feedback we got from UO advertising students.
Strengths of the UO advertising program 1. The extensive professional network and support system it provides 2. The competitive atmosphere, which fosters self-motivation to create a portfolio 3. Development of creative problem-solving skills 4. Flexibility to explore numerous facets of the advertising profession 7
However, while the generalist nature of the program has its benefits, it seems to make students feel lost and unable to hone in on their professional area of focus. This affects how they pick classes and approach projects. What follows are excerpts from our qualititative research that contributed to this insight.
THE T-SHAPED DILEMMA
The T-shaped model, which encourages versatility across a multitude of media platforms while honing in on one area of expertise, has been embraced by our program in the past few years. While it allows an acquisition of many skills, it seems to be making it difficult for some students to find their focus.
â€œI do think there should be a T-shaped person but I think there has been a confusion about what the top of the T should be. There should be a focus...there are some assumptive things, like strategy, that should be at the top of your T whereas there are some things that fall outside the T because they are just too far outside.â€? Dave Ewald Uncorked Studios
“It’s good to have an unconventional approach and really get behind crossing the genres of titles and being multifaceted, but as a professional school we still have to acknowledge that you have to put yourself in some kind of role if you want to get a job.”
“There are very few jack of all trades that achieve greatness. You have to be great at something in order to succeed in any industry... I’m not saying it’s not good to know other things. I think an account guy [planner] should be a creative motherfucker but he doesn’t need to be a writer or an art director.”
Current UO ad student Jason Ehrlich Yonder
COURSE CONFUSION â€œThere are some redundancies in the beginning coursework of the program, I wish I had a year to go back and develop things more.â€? Current UO ad student
With the emphasis on versatility, some students seem to have issues when approaching projects and choosing classes. Students are required to take three advertising classes before taking a capstone campaign class. Due to the accelerated pace of the curriculum, some students do not always feel they choose the classes that would best help develop their portfolio.
FOCUS YOUR TALENTS Prior to participating in our focus group, the agency representatives attended final project presentations from students in the Winter 2013 Writing Design Concepts class. The following insights refer to their experience in that capacity.
“[During presentations] I looked at what the presentation was about and felt, ‘It’s ok,’ but then I asked them what they wanted to be and it was not what they were presenting.” Dave Allen NORTH
“I thought overall everyone had pretty slick presentations and I was like ‘Wow, everybody knows how to design and use Photoshop,’ even if they come to the table and they are like, ‘I’m a writer’...I’m like ‘Wait, back up. You said you were a writer, convince me you are a writer. Tell me a story, prove to me that you can write something. Don’t show me beautiful typography with smoke and stuff. You didn’t tell me a story.” Mike McCommon Mutt Industries 16
“I asked a professor, ‘Well does everyone have to design the work that they are showing?’ and the answer was yes and I kind of thought, ‘well, why?’ I don’t understand that, it’s just breeding mediocrity. If you are a designer or you are a planner, then go hook up with two other people [that write or design] and take that planning that you did and let it play out and actually do something with it. That’s where development happens.” Jason Ehrlich Yonder
find your brilliance 18
“You have to pick something, they aren’t going to hire a swiss army knife. They want someone who has one strong skill set.” Current UO ad student
“Find what you are brilliant at and then maybe there is a title for that and maybe there is not.” Dave Ewald Uncorked Studios
“We’re too stressed out all the time. We’re like, ‘we need to do this in order to get to the next step, higher up the corporate ladder.’ If we figured out what we like in this mess of ad smorgasbord and made stuff—actually created stuff, which none of us do enough—that would get us in the right direction. What came out of that would help you find your job title.” Current UO ad student 19
Both students and agency professionals reminded us that finding a focus is important before entering the industry. Finding a focus is more than choosing a title because it is also about finding what you excel at and enjoy doing.