Getting your foot in the door

Now you’ve read up on the roles and skills, we hope you have a better understanding of what you want to go for. Now here’s how to get it.

Want a job?

Hustle. The best piece of advice we can give you; don’t wait for a job to be posted. Most agency hiring comes from referrals and you proactively getting yourself in front of people. Hit up contacts, hit up contacts of contacts, and don’t be afraid to message strangers on LinkedIn who head up teams that you want to be on. This is especially true for creative departments – it’s extremely rare to see creative roles publicly advertised.

When you’ve gotten in touch with the right people, heard back and maybe even interviewed you need to keep hustling. Agency heads of departments and HR teams have a lot on their plates, and it’s extremely easy for you to drop off their radar as other priorities take over. So the onus is on you to keep the momentum up.

From the expert: Do’s and Don’ts

Here are some hot tips from Emily Riall, TBWA’s HR lead.


  • Make sure you have no spelling errors in your application
    It makes a massive difference and can be the deciding factor in whether you get to shine in a face-to-face interview. Have someone else read over it if you are not 100%!

  • Find out about the agency
    Do your research. Find out about the agency, their recent work, any awards etc. They are great talking points and the fact that you have done your homework will go a long way toward helping you stand out. It also gives you a great basis for any questions that you may want to ask.

  • Make sure that your social accounts are on private or that you would feel comfortable with a potential employer viewing them. More and more we look at the social media accounts of potential employees. If you love to party – it might be best to switch your profile to private.

  • Know who will be interviewing with
    Have a stalk of the person you are meeting on LinkedIn – it could provide some good talking points.

  • Be the best version of yourself
    First impressions are crucial. Make sure that you are well presented, punctual and prepared.

  • Follow up on your application
    If you haven’t heard back and you think you’re the right fit – follow up!

  • Ask for feedback
    It can suck when you don’t get the role but turn the experience into a positive learning. Ask why and what you could have improved on and put that feedback into practice for your next interview!


  • Apply for roles that are clearly not suited to your skills and experience
    Even if it’s your dream company and you’re convinced you must work there, do not apply for every open position there in the hope that they recognise how keen you are. Not only is this incredibly annoying for the company but it reduces your credibility when you apply for a role that you are qualified for. The hiring manager has already seen your name 10 times and will probably skim right past it. If you are unsure, read the job description carefully and if you need more information, reach out to the recruiter!

  • Don’t have an extremely long CV with irrelevant experience
    Very few employers scroll to a second page of a CV. Keep it short, relevant to the role you are applying for and not word dense – save the detail for a face-to-face meeting.

  • Don’t interrupt in an interview
    In an interview the person interviewing you is the expert. Listen carefully to what they say and don’t interrupt them. It happens all the time that someone wants to appear keen and ends up over-agreeing, this comes across as arrogance not agreeance.

Internship Etiquette: Getting one, and nailing one

“Persist, get your name out there.”
“CDs, MDs…they’re busy, so don’t annoy them”
“Wow them”

There’s so much conflicting advice when it comes to internships. So, how do you master the art of getting one and impress the people that gave you the opportunity?

There are two main ways of landing an internship:

  1. Knowing someone.

  2. This is usually your best way in, but it doesn’t mean you’ve got your whole foot in the door. Maybe a toe. It’s important your application lives up to the standard of your reference.

  3. Not knowing someone.

  4. The ad industry is about being memorable. So it’s a good idea to say something about yourself in an interesting way. Can you send a symbol to them that represents you? Can you find out what clients that they have and do something with that? It could be as simple as a catchy email subject line.

    Note: Avoid gimmicks and have your application link to somewhere online. Paper CVs can sometimes end up as scrap paper / coasters.

How to get the most out of it:

  1. Intern of all trades

  2. At some point, try a day or week in a role different to what you applied for. It’s a great fall back in case what you tried isn’t what you thought it would be. And it shows you are passionate about the industry itself.

  3. Ghost Rider

  4. If there’s not much to do, ask how you can help out in any other departments. It’d be rude not to.

  5. Find Your Jedi

  6. Mentors are so important, no matter the stage of your career. Agencies are filled with potential ones. If you find someone you get along with, don’t be afraid to ask for their advice.

  7. Genius Interns Don’t Exist

  8. And let’s all be grateful they don’t. You won’t be expected to know everything, and they know that. You’re there to learn.

  9. Look good, feel good

  10. Every minute they see of you is how they will perceive you. Remember to always look presentable, be on time and show nothing short of really, really good work ethic.

  11. Passenger Seat

  12. This is where you don’t sit. Because you’re volunteering your time, you should be in control of your internship. If there’s a task you’re interested in, speak up. It shows you have initiative and are smart enough to know how to make the most of your experience.

    Talent aside, being likable is the final link that makes you employable in this industry. So, other than keeping your pinky up when sipping your latte, following this guide is what can help you get your internship and leave a fond memory with your potential future employer.

Grad programs:

These programs are a good start to let you get a taste of agency life in a full-time role. While they all differ, most see you rotate through the different departments so you can decide what you like. Others will have put straight into the account service department, which is the most common place for juniors to start.

All the graduate programs have their own application periods and processes. Here are the most popular:

The only catch with these graduate programs is that it’s next to impossible to get a role in the creative departments. If you’re wanting to nab yourself a role (or even just an internship) as a junior creative, a good place to start is AWARD School. AWARD School is a twelve week course that runs nationally, and you’ll graduate with a portfolio of ads that have been reviewed by the industry’s top guns.

AWARD School: Your guide

What do a bunch of RuPaul’s Drag Race contestants and AWARD school students have in common? Hard challenges, high pressure creativity, critique from judges and a little bit of drama. Every week. For 12 weeks. The show is rich with RuPaul’s nuggets of advice to help them get through these challenges, so it seems fitting to do the same with this Guide to AWARD School.

Getting in.
“You better work”
One of many RuPaul mottos. And it’s fair to say, the hard work starts here. To apply, you’ll need to submit four print ads. It’s not just about coming up with a good idea. It’s about coming up with something ‘memorable’. And these only begin to surface when you’ve attacked briefs in lots of different ways. So look up old AWARD briefs and practice, practice, practice.

Finding a bad ad:

  • Find at least 5 print or static (not animated digital) ads to give you variety.

  • The product should be simple. It shouldn’t require researching.

  • The proposition should be very clear and single minded.

Why do AWARD?
There will be a lot of cheesy reasons as to why you want to do the course. Down a pint and do some soul searching to get to the answer that is most raw, honest and true to you.

Find your drag mom (a.k.a your mentor)
Just to be clear, this cannot be your real mum. Don’t show your mum anything. If you know a creative in the industry (junior/mid-weight/senior) check in with them. Show them your ideas during the application or throughout the course. Ask them what’s good, what’s not, and why not.

How. To. Deal.
Didn’t get in? Neither did Season 5 winner Alaska, the first 4 years she tried. Michael Jordan also didn’t make his high school basketball team. Try, try, try again next year. It’s a badge of honour among those who take a few goes to get in. Makes you want it that much more!

Get the most out of AWARD.
You got in? Congrats! This is where RuPaul would say “you need to step yo p***y up.” This will be the toughest 12 weeks. Not like emotional rollercoaster tough. More like earthquake tough. Approx. 8.9 on the Richter. But here’s how to push past and get the most out of it.

Every week counts.
You wouldn’t turn up to an episode with no costume or act. So even if you’ve been busy, don’t turn up to tutes empty handed. Turning up with written thoughts shows your tutors you care and they may even spot an idea in it.

The shade.
Each week, get prepared to have your ideas critiqued, Michelle Visage style. She’s tough. It ain’t pretty. But apparently, very good for developing a thick skin. So, listen, even take notes whilst you’re getting the feedback (super uncool, but really good if you have a goldfish memory). Take it on board. Fix your work while it’s still fresh.

Ask and you shall receive. Too much.
Stick to four people’s opinions that you trust. Otherwise you will be very very very confused.

Stacks on stacks on stacks.
Of notebooks. Have one for each brief. That’s how much you’ll brainstorm, as well as need to keep each brief’s ideas in one place. Be neat. Be organised. You’ll thank yourself later.

Getting your book together.
You’ll get a lot of conflicting opinions. You won’t be able to please everyone, if you could, you wouldn’t be doing AWARD. Listen to the majority and what you think is right. Or else, submit what your heart is happy to show a bunch of industry greats.

The AWARD finale.
The lead up to graduation night will be nerve racking. Don’t stress, there isn’t much you can do about it. Have low expectations and drink enough to calm the nerves. Jokes. Whatever it takes! And enjoy yourself. Winning isn’t everything. It’s the skills you learn and how you apply them that truly matters.

“Now, good luck! And don't...f*** it up!” - RuPaul