Finding myself freelancing and looking for the next big gig has brought back some interesting memories. In fact, it was right after college that I experienced my first tough economic situation. Like so many of the new grads today, the job market (Texas in the mid-80s) was anything but friendly.
After completing my B.A. in Public Relations, I couldn’t imagine myself sitting behind a typewriter (yeah, I am that old) churning out press releases. But as a recent grad, I couldn’t find an entry-level job no matter how hard I tried. Seems the oil market had bottomed out, and I was competing against people with 3-5 years experience for the entry-level pay. So I did what I had to. And spent a few more years in the restaurant business.
Granted, looking for a job back then was completely different. Instead of perusing the umpteen different job boards that are specifically targeting the ad biz (and I’m not even really including the ones like monster.com), I was forced to employ cold calls, cold letters, and listening to the once-a-week recorded message listing all the new PR jobs that had opened up in the DFW area as my only source of employment opportunities.
But looking back, it was exactly this pesky job market that led me to my career in advertising. First, through the alumni association, I met a CD working for a big agency in Big D. He was kind enough to meet with me, share some of his insight, and help me start to build “a book.” (I had no clue what a book/portfolio was, nor did I understand that it was necessary to help get a job in advertising.)
I also had the good fortune of meeting a gal who worked part-time at the restaurant where I made my daily tips. Seems she worked full-time for one of the big agencies in Dallas, and was able to get me in the door to meet the CD there. He was not quite as helpful as the other CD, but did mention that there are schools out there to help you put a portfolio together, including one in Atlanta.
Coincidentally, my oldest sister and her family had just relo’d there. So, that meant I had a place to stay initially. Applied, admitted, and funded, off I went. Finishing up in less than 2 years, armed with a slick (and laminated) portfolio, I hit the streets. Only to make some poor decisions early on in my career. But I’ve done well for myself since. I’ve had good jobs (and some not-so-good ones, too). And I have experience that people seem to want if for nothing more than freelance.
And now, even though I find myself sending out cold e-mails and introductory mailings to see who’ll bite, at least I’m starting to get some nibbles.
And I continue doing what I have to do to survive. Only now I do it behind a computer monitor instead of a Smith Corona.