Entries tagged with “portfolio”.

    (As a public service, the following is the distillation of many job hunts and my surfing of wild economic times. Read and share with anyone you know hunting for a job. “The Lint Screen” is working hard to get this economy running full blast.)

    Your boss asks you if “you have a minute”, and the pit of your stomach jumps into your heart and goes all Ricky Ricardo banging the congas and sending an alarm to your spinal highway dispersing anxiety on all major interstates and blue highways of your central nervous system. The message: your number’s up, you’re about to be whacked, laid-off, let-go, fired.

Do you have a minute?

"Do you have a minute?"

    Or, if you prefer sunshine with your dark clouds, you’re about to be “made available for exciting new opportunities.”

    Yes, it sucks.
    Yes, you were screwed.
    Yes, others deserve it more than you.
    Yes, your ego is bruised and bleeding and feeling immense pain.
    None of that matters now. The decision’s been made, you’ve been cast to the sea, and now you’re going to have to find a new land to call home.

    Allow me to help.

    In my checkered ad career pinging across the country, I’ve been ‘made available’ three times. Each was painful, but necessary to temper the steel of my resolve and give me the energy to prove those firing bastards wrong.

    The fact is, I’m too stubborn and headstrong a man to have ever been happy working for someone else. Clients, I understood– but the Shakespearean characters I met at ad agencies, not so much. I was too entrepreneurial and lousy at playing agency politics. It took me a long while to realize this and some painful lessons, but eventually I learned. Fate has a way of nudging one into course corrections.

    There is no getting around the pain of rejection because that’s what being fired is: flat-out rejection. Some live, some die.

    You? You’re a casualty. With this economy, companies are dropping bodies like the Mafia hitting the mattresses. It’s not personal (even if your ego says it is).

    It doesn’t matter, what’s done is done. Mourn, grieve, wallow in self despair, throw your ego a pity party, vent your spleen, spew venom, ooze bitterness and exhaust your frustrations and quell your rage. There, there, yes, you deserved better, you poor dear. You deserved much, much better!

    Now, put on your big boy or girl pants, take an adult pill and get on with it. Chances are you weren’t ecstatic in your job anyway (were you?). Maybe deep down you always knew it wasn’t the right place for you, a good place for you. Well congratulations, chum, you just got another lottery ticket. Let’s do better this time, shall we?

    Where to start your job hunt? Let’s make a checklist to keep things organized (20 seems a good number).

    1. File for unemployment. It’s depressing, humbling, ego-shattering and terribly humiliating–– but the pay is worth it.

    2. Look inside before looking outside. Before you start a job hunt, start with yourself. Spend some time and really think about what you want. What makes you happy? What frustrates you? What conditions help you excel? What conditions force you to you fail? What excites you, energizes you, gives you a feeling of accomplishment? What erodes your soul and saddens your heart? Let’s avoid those, shall we?

    There is much to think about, and now is the time to think about it. It’s time to rearrange the furniture in your head– those notions that you always bump into, those past behavioral patterns that constantly trip you—now is the time for you to think about product YOU.

Remember your glory days. Celebrate them.

Remember your glory days and celebrate them.

    3 Recount your successes. Write them down in a burst of words, don’t edit, just flow. This isn’t for publication; this is for your subconscious to give your consciousness a wake-up call. Give yourself some pats on the back. Perch yourself on the ledge of the convertible and do a parade wave as you recall past accomplishments. Let your ego drive slowly, avoid book depository buildings and enjoy the ride.

    4. Now that you’re feeling better, more confident, start working on your resume. Make it interesting. Pepper it with action verbs, attach numbers (if possible) to your accomplishments. Make it sound human, engaging, vital. Imagine the type of boss you want to work for. Imagine what type of person that person would want to hire (you’ve have thought about this, haven’t you?). Be that person (your future boss) and write to that person.

    5. If you’re a creative person, pull together your best samples. Show the work that you love, the work that reflects your talent, sensibilities, creativity, humanity and personality. Don’t be afraid to show unproduced work if it’s better than much of your produced stuff. Great ideas trump all. Show your best and let it be your litmus test for your job hunt. If you love it and the person you’re interviewing with hates it, you have a good barometer that you may not enjoy working together. A wise CD once told me it’s a lot easier to find people who share your tastes rather than trying to fight people into sharing your vision. Your work is a reflection of you, use it to protect yourself from a bad fit.

    6. Avoid the stench of ‘misunderstood genius.’ Creative people go through a natural maturation process. Many of us believe everything we do is brilliant and if it does not get produced it’s because of idiot creative directors or lousy clients or stupid focus groups. These people are misunderstood geniuses who somehow are being rejected by an imbecilic world. While most good creative people grow out of this phase, some unfortunately never do. They stew in bitterness and resentment and frankly are a complete drag to have around. You’re not one of them, are you?

    7. Don’t carry a portfolio of excuses. There is nothing sadder than someone presenting work that needs justification for why it isn’t very good. No one wants to hear “my hack creative director watered the idea down” or “the client took the heart out of the concept” or “the director really didn’t get the idea.” Frankly, no one cares. It’s your work and you control what you show–– if you don’t like the finished product don’t show it. Or better yet, show unproduced work that you love that has not been tainted by the outside world. Don’t have any of that either? Hmm, maybe it’s time you considered another career. Seriously.

    8. Think geography. Although it sounds basic, many people begin a job hunt without answering a very simple question: Where would you like to live and work? What places are deal breakers? Narrow your search by narrowing your geographical search. If a city interests you, learn all bout the places there you’d like to work, write letters and make calls and arrange a city visit, on your nickel. It’s an investment in your career that shows determination, interest, grit, passion and all those good things potential employers eat up.

Network. We're all connected, baby

Network-- because we're all connected, baby

    9. Network like mad. Don’t think that want ads and Monster and Talent Zoo are the only portals to finding a job. Most jobs never get listed at all. Let people know you’re looking and see where it takes you. Call, write, Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, Plaxo the world. Plants seeds for success.

    10. Talk to headhunters, but don’t think they work for you. Headhunters are paid by employers (if you want to know how business works, always follow the money and it will predict behavior). If a headhunter can make a buck on you, you’re golden– they’ll get your work seen. At that point, your work represents you. If it’s liked, you should get an interview. But headhunters are not in the business of trying to sell candidates. If your work is summarily and continually rejected, headhunters will not be enamored with you. It’s just like realtors selling property. Some properties are hot, some are not. The best way to think of headhunters is like a hunting guide. They can turn you onto something you may not have found otherwise. Headhunters should be a prong of your job hunting attack plan, but not your sole weapon. It’s easy to be lazy about your job hunt, and laziness will ensure you’ll be hunting a long, long time.

    11. Research the places you’d love to work. Chances are you have a list of dream places you’d love to call home. Are they hiring? Who knows and who cares? You’re job is to get an interview. Even if they’re not hiring, you want to be known by them because things change fast and they may need you some day. The more people you know, the better your chances. Get to know as many people as possible and ask them for referrals to other people. Nothing is better than being able to drop a name and open another door. Networking is a beautiful thing and it really works.

    12. Act like an ad pro and treat yourself like a product that is desirable, essential and must be bought. This sounds so basic but it is a tragic mistake way too many people (who should know better) make: be interesting, engaging and compelling in all your communications. All that stuff you’ve learned about advertising, guess what– it applies to you when you’re job hunting. A boring letter for yourself is like a boring product ad. A chest-thumping tirade for yourself is a self-serving ad for a product. THINK: what is this person looking for, how can I help them? Be creative, charming, intriguing and persuasive. Write like a human not a thesaurus. Focus your communications on them, and for God’s sake, be smart about it. Research the company, the person, the clients. Be a sleuth. Know their business, learn as much as you can about the people with hiring power, read everything you can about their market situation, competition, challenges, everything. Then use all those great ad skills you’ve mastered and write some great ads (letters, e-mails, voicemails, etc.) for your terrific product–– you.

    13. Follow up. Give a time when you’ll follow up with a call to arrange an interview. Presumptuous? Sure, but you want to show eagerness, enthusiasm and interest. Then CALL at the appointed hour. Follow through with your follow up. To quote Hunter S. Thompson, “Chase them like rats across the tundra.” Yes, you will meet resistance and rejection–but you will also open a few doors. Remember: nothing happens until you knock.

    14. Freelance. You have skills that are worth money, so try your hand at freelancing. This is a Trojan Horse strategy to job hunting. People are often much more likely to talk to a freelancer than a job hunter because they are buying chunks of time for talent, not the whole  person. So try and get your work seen as a freelancer and let it be known you could be interested in a full time gig for the right company (the soldiers sit quietly in the horse’s belly). The beautiful part about freelancing is it gives you a chance to test drive an agency (it works the same way for them testing you), and you make money while you’re doing it.

Rejection happens. Get over it and keep going.

Rejection happens. Get over it and keep going.

 15. Gird your loins and put yourself out there. Most people hate job hunting for one simple reason: rejection. And rejection sucks big time. Well, there’s no getting around it, you cannot win the lottery without a ticket and you won’t find a job without effort, so get over it and play the game. Many people want to play defense on a job hunt, leave it to the headhunter to act as their agent. If your work’s that good and you’re that fortunate to make it work, you’re lucky. Most people have to do more work. So write the letters, make the calls, augment and alter your attack plans and messaging. Remember, this is a campaign, for you. It’s organic; reflect and change as needed but for goodness sake, keep at it. Persistence and perseverance will win, eventually.

    16. Interview when you interview. Too many job hunters act like a guest on David Letterman when they go on an interview. They wait for the questions and give their answers. They play defense. The silly fools. Yes, you will be asked questions, but that doesn’t mean you can’t ask questions, too. Prepare some smart questions (you have done a ton of research on the company, client and person you’re interviewing with, I hope). Be interested and curious. Rather than a job interrogation, have a conversation. Learn about working styles, interests, passions, ambitions, direction, whatever you’d like to know more about. Be genuinely interested because this is someone you will be a spending a lot of time with (if you get hired). This is someone who can make your life better or worse. The person deserves some notice, don’t you think?

    17. Be honest. Really honest. Don’t B.S. whoever you’re interviewing with. Smart people can spot it and less-than-smart people may take you at your word, only to be disappointed later when they find out whatever you said wasn’t true. Besides, why lie about something this important? Be true to yourself in what you like, what you don’t like and want from a working environment. Honesty is your best protection against getting into a bad fit or a hunk o’ hell. Honestly.

    18. Be positive. Talk, be open, caring, empathetic, curious, inquisitive, genuine, cordial and pleasant. No need to torch bridges or spew angry bile about where you worked or the numbskulls you worked with. Try to look forward, not dwell on the angry past (it’s like trying to drive a car while looking only in the rear view mirror). You’ll have plenty of time to wallow in your sorrowful past later (should you choose to, hopefully you won’t). For now, you want to get hired. No one, and I do mean no one, wants to be around a miserable bitter bastard. Imagine that.

    19. Niceness counts. Someone took some time out of his/her busy day to spend time and talk with you. Do the right thing and thank that special person for the courtesy. In an age where everyone is overworked and over-scheduled you should be genuinely appreciative to those who made time for you. Besides, good manners mean a lot and will score you brownie points. There’s nothing wrong with that if it results in gainful employment, right?

    20. Be a shark. Sharks pretty much have to be in constant motion to live. Think like a shark in your job hunt. Be organized, methodical, systematic, creative and persistent. You’ve got to keep at it, digging deeper and experimenting to get yourself out there, known, loved and hired. This crappy economy will thin the herd of weaklings. Step up, sharkie, and keep hunting until you get your fill.

     And for goodness sake, try and enjoy yourself. I used to work with a talented art director who’d say, “If it were easy, it’d be easy.” True enough. Job hunting isn’t easy. Learn, improvise and enjoy the ride.

      If you’re like me, you’re married to my wife and have two sons. You are also earning your daily bread by toiling in the mine shafts of advertising creativity. And if there’s a wilder, more woolly boolly, hurly-burly business, well I’d sure like to know about it!

      This ad game is chock full o’ interesting people with fascinating stories. Here are some of the true snapshots of this business known in the industrial waste management industry as “advertising.”

      An account guy and a copywriter were on their way to a client meeting in New York. The writer was carrying a portfolio case stuffed with fourteen campaigns; the fruits of six months hard labor. The writer stopped at the entrance to the plane and said, “No, I can’t go! This plane is going to crash unexpectedly and everyone in it is going to die, die, die, I tells ya–– die ’til they’re dead!”

       The account supervisor tried to reason with him. “Come on, this flight’ll be perfectly safe, and the little bag of nuts will be fresh and delicious.”

You're not going to believe this story...

You're not going to believe this story...

      “No,” said the trembling writer, “I have a premonition of impending doom! Feel my spine, it’s chilly! And look, my goosebumps are breaking out in hives. Let’s take a later flight.”

       “Don’t be preposterous,” the account man said as he wrestled the portfolio from the writer’s hands, “We have exit row seats.” He dashed on board as the writer nervously watched the plane back away from the gate. The writer had tears streaming down his face as he shouted, “Does anyone have a Kleenex?! I’m drowning here! Kleenex, please!”

      As you probably guessed, the flight did not crash. In fact, the plane arrived twenty minutes early (tragically, the little bag of nuts were stale). The writer who had the premonition was fired for insubordination, and stealing computers. Thus, his vision of impending doom had indeed come true!

      There was a happy side to this story, however. The client hated all fourteen campaigns in the portfolio case, but he and the account guy came up with some ads and had a pool of art directors “jiffy-them-up!” The account man was promoted and well-moneyed for his efforts.

      There’s the famous story of the movie theatre owner who spliced subliminal ads for soft drinks and popcorn into a feature film. The audience watched the entire film and felt the subliminal scenes added little to the plot, although they considered popcorn a good character and wished the soft drink could have had an action scene.

      Oh, and what about the tale of the writer who had writer’s block for 31 years– he didn’t produce one single good idea for over three decades! He invested well, however, and eventually retired to a small mansion in the south of France. Talk about embarrassment…

       What about the short lived campaign featuring “Harry the Happy Hemorrhoid”? Maybe he wasn’t the best spokes-creation for Ritz crackers, but he was a spunky little fellow!

       There’s the legendary story of the agency that tried to buy the rights to the Beatles’ classic song  “Yesterday” and change the lyrics for a Pick ‘n Pay Shoes campaign. “Pick ‘n Pay… all the shoes I want and where my socks will stay/ how I love that place in a podiatry sort of way/ oh, I believe in Pick ‘n Pay… why, she paid re-tail/ I don’t know/ she wouldn’t say/ I said, ‘save-on-a-terrific-selection-of-the-latest-styles-and-colors- in-quality-footwear-including-sensible-yet-fashionable-pumps’/ oh, how I believe in Pick ‘n Pa-a-a-a-a-y!/ Pick ‘n Pay…”

      At the eleventh hour, the negotiation for the song rights were called off when it was discovered the entire production budget was $4,100. 

       Then there’s the famous story about the art director who worked simultaneously at two large Chicago ad agencies, without either knowing about the other. The wiseacre was discovered eventually, however, after 39 years. It seems both his retirement parties were scheduled for the same night. 

      Finally, there’s the incredible story of the creative director interviewing a young writer and discovering samples of his (the CD’s) work in the guy’s book! “Hey,” said the irate creative director, “this is my resume… these are my ads… and this bottle appears to contain my urine samples!”

       The embarrassed writer quickly gathered his materials, stuffed them into his portfolio, produced a trombone and blasted “Wah Wah Wahhhhhh!”  as he dashed out the office.

       It’s a wacky business, this ad game, but it’s safer than catching knives dropped from buildings.

Job hunting is not for the timid.

Job hunting is not for the timid.


     (Why spend a fortune going to some university, beauty college or ad school? Here’s everything you need to know about getting a great job in advertising. Kindly make your tuition checks payable to Patrick Scullin.)

     Next to dying a slow, painful, miserable death while “MacArthur Park” is playing on the radio, hunting for a job has to be one of the most traumatic events we humans ever face.

      Because changing jobs is always frightening, let’s discuss the stages of job hunting in as intellectual a fashion as we can muster on short notice.

      Stage one: “I’ve got to get out of this hellhole.”

      How can you tell you’re in a go-nowhere job? Be on the lookout for little signals, like a boss who continually tells you, “You’re in a go-nowhere job, pal, and as long as I’m in charge, I’ll see to it your genius is squashed like a fat mosquito hitting a ‘67 Buick going 120 mph!”

      Or, a representative from local Lumberjack’s Union who pleads with you to stop generating ideas. “For God’s sake, man,” he says with tears welling-up in his eyes, “how many more Foamcore trees must we senselessly slaughter before you’ll quit this madness? Can’t you see, you numbskull, you’re in a go-nowhere job?”

      Whatever drives you to the conclusion it’s time to go, it’s time to get on to stage two of the job hunt: “Getting the ol’ book out and about.”

      When it’s all said and done, it doesn’t matter if you’re Lee Clow or Joe Blow, we all live and die by our work. Of course, Clow’s got the better reel, but he can’t touch Blow’s print or flash banners work, no sir.

Yours? Mine? Ours.

Yours? Mine? Ours.

 The best way to put together a terrific portfolio is to collect samples of the very best work. Conservative people believe the work should be restricted only to those pieces that you yourself actually created, while the more liberal approach embraces the idea that anything created by one of your own species is fair game for inclusion into your book. Whatever. The main thing is to put together items that can fit into a portfolio case (which generally restricts the inclusion of actual-size billboard samples).

      Many job hunters wonder if they should have headhunters working on their behalf? Yes, by all means! How else can you find out about those incredible opportunities with “the next Fallon” (which happens to be in Texarkana of all places) or “the great creative revolution happening over at Lackluster, Mediocrity & Snores.”

      Do whatever it takes to get your book seen by whomever, whenever in wherever. As they say in the penguin exhibit at Hank’s Appliance Repair Shop, ‘You can’t win the lottery if you don’t have a ticket–– preferably the winning ticket.’

     Once the potential agency has seen your book, they’ll want to see the person who owns it. Which brings us to stage three of snagging the big job: “The Meet & Greet.”

     Most creative people despise interviewing because it generally involves answering tough questions like: “Where do you see yourself in 10 years, and if you are a time traveller, please also give me the name of the winning horse in the Kentucky Derby and the Super Bowl and World Series Champs.” 

Who was known as ‘The Perky President’, and what was the name of his Secretary of Defense?”

“If two trains leave Chicago, one going 45 miles per hour and the other getting 2.45 miles per gallon of diesel fuel, which one will have the higher trade-in value?”

“What is your creative philosophy, and how does it mesh with the notion of existentialism?”

“You want coffee, a Coke, or something? Remember, there is only one right answer.”

      The secret to successful interviewing is to interview right back at them. When they ask a question, it’s no time to play defense–– fire one back. Here’s a sample from an interview I had back in ‘95:

     HE: So, Patrick, tell me about yourself.

     ME: Hey, where you’d get the cool picture of the ugly lady with the dorky kids? That’s hilarious, man!

     HE: This picture? That’s, uh, that’s a picture of my family.

     ME: Oh, uh, really? Well, aren’t they the handsome bunch! I don’t suppose you work many late nights, no, sirree––not with a great gaggle of good lookers like that to get home to…

      For some reason, I didn’t get that particular job. They were looking for someone with more package goods experience or something.

      Another interviewing secret is not to tell them about those voices that only you can hear. Because in a funny way, many people find it hard to believe pets and inanimate objects have chosen you as their primary communication vehicle. These people may be jealous and may not want to hear about the upcoming swift sword of justice you will soon be delivering at their command. Evil doers must pay!

      Providing they love you and your work, you’re on to stage four of scoring your dream ad job: “Negotiating the Package.”

     Me, I’m old fashioned, so I generally think paychecks are a nice perk. With a little clever negotiating on your part, maybe you can swing one of these “my time for your money” arrangements, meaning you’ll get paychecks on a fairly regular basis. Pretty sweet, eh?

     Some other niceties to negotiate are free electricity, Christmas day off, four tons of gold bouillon and an 18 pack of Knox Beef Bullion (it’s like drinking a steer). Usually you’ll get three out of the four; most employers are sticklers about working on Christmas day. Go ahead and take the job because even if it does turn out to be another hellhole, soon enough a headhunter will call telling you about nirvana in Texarkana.

      Happy hunting, and remember pets and inanimate objects are watching so be good.