Monday, November 5, 2007

Experience Necessary

A talented young recent ad school graduate I’d met with (but didn’t have a job for) a while back sent me an e-mail last week. She’s been looking for a job, but with no experience, it’s tough. “ Everyone seems to be hung up about the fact I have no internship or experience. It's incredibly frustrating, since I'll never have any experience until someone gives me some. I've looked for internships, but most of them require that you are still enrolled in undergrad classes.” Obviously, she’s not eligible.

How do you get experience without a job and how do you get a job without experience? Everybody should be able to identify with this particular dilemma.

We worked something out with her, but it made me start thinking. Like most people in my position, I see a lot of people with student books and no experience trying to break in. Most are willing to do any damn thing just to get their foot in the door. But not everybody has an entry-level position open – at least not one they can devote any real money to. And the reality of the situation is that people need paying jobs, so a lot of these kids wind up taking jobs as waiters or temps or whatever to make ends meet. Which further hampers the job search.

So here’s an idea for the DC Ad Club. Find a way to fund small subsidies (and I mean small) for relatively short periods of time (maybe 3-4 months) that will let people right out of school be able to afford to take part-time or full-time internships with agencies. And then agencies won’t have to be able to find available payroll dollars to take them on.

I’m not talking about bringing someone on board to answer phones or file or run errands, but I mean let them do some work under the guidance of working writers, art directors, AE’s, media buyers and designers and get some real experience under their belts.

Obviously I don’t have it all worked out, and there would obviously have to be some sort of application process, but it does seem to me like it’s the kind of thing that can benefit the entire community – present and future. Not only would it help agencies and studios find some short-term, low-cost help, but also – and more importantly – nurture the next generation to help keep Washington alive with talent.

I have no idea what the Washington Ad Club Foundation does. Nobody’s keeping secrets from me; I just don’t know for sure. But near as I can tell from the Ad Club’s web site, a lot of it seems to center around scholarships and internship programs and such for current students. Well, maybe there’s a way to stretch that assistance a bit and help recent graduates and agencies at the same time? Might be a real direct benefit in there somewhere for everybody.

Just a thought.

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