Is Advertising Still Attractive to College Graduates?

Staying Close to Campus Can Keep Industry Brand Alive and Well

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Marc Brownstein Marc Brownstein
I was in a meeting of agency executives recently, when one of the CEOs said, "I worry that working in an advertising/public relations agency isn't appealing to young people anymore." Several of the other CEOs quickly agreed that young talent is going elsewhere for careers. I found that consensus alarming, as our industry has long been considered sexy by the (naive) youth entering the business. I say "naive" because agency life always appears more glamorous than it really is.

If the executives are correct, imagine what recruiting talent will be like.

My perspective, however, differs from theirs. It's been my experience that 18- to 22-year-olds really do still have a passion for this business. In fact, I've been inundated with requests from friends, clients, friends-of-friends and old acquaintances (who remembered what I do for a living) for internships, job-shadowing and job interviews. I even have people reaching out to me on LinkedIn and Pulse, seeking entry-level employment or just an internship. And my teenage daughter tells me that her friends spend "hours on the Brownstein Group website." Hours? I didn't think that was possible!

But you get the point. Despite what some markets are experiencing, there is still demand for jobs as digital designers, public-relations account executives, copywriters and brand planners.

The disparity between what those CEOs are experiencing and what I am may be a reflection of the markets in which our agencies operate. Our shop is in Philly and Seattle, and those cities are still managing to grow in this slow economy. So agencies remain attractive as career options. Philly, specifically, never took off in the dot-com boom, and therefore, never laid off a generation of young people when the digital dam broke. In some markets, like New York and San Francisco, many young people who received pink slips never returned to our industry.

In addition here are three things we do consistently to connect with college students:
  • Speak on campus. We make it a point to visit colleges several times a year to speak on a variety of topics. It's our way of giving back, while recruiting. Each year, I teach an MBA and undergraduate class at Wharton. Our creative director recently gave the keynote commencement speech at Rowan University, which has an excellent marketing program. And I accompanied one of our younger account executives back to her alma mater, St. Joseph's University, for a talk to a marketing class.

  • Host an open house. It's tough to interview every worthy entry-level job applicant, so twice a year we host an open house for all those who send us resumes. Our managers lead the event with an interactive presentation of our agency, followed by a Q&A. Students and recent grads love it.

  • Connect to a career-placement office. We establish close relationships with colleges that have strong marketing curriculums, so that we stay top-of-mind with career counselors, professors and students alike.
If we all make an effort to remain appealing as an industry brand to the next generation of agency talent, then I see no reason why we all can't be inundated with entry-level resumes.
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