For many new graduates looking to get into client-facing roles, the biggest question is, “Where do I even start?” This may seem like pretty standard fare for any college grad, but it’s a particularly vexing question when it comes to account management. So, let’s see if we can provide a few nuggets of information to lead you to success.
First, take some time to reflect and dig into what your strong points are. What are your special powers? What do you bring to the table? And don’t just say communication skills — there’s way more to it than simply knowing how to clearly express yourself. No matter what tricks you’ve got in your bag, it’s important to build on every element of interpersonal communication. Having emotional intelligence, empathy, and active listening skills will not only help you talk to clients, but understand how people absorb information as well. Analyzing a situation and figuring out the best approach to how and when to relay information will come in handy every day of the job.
One way to better prepare yourself while still in college is to get involved with any advertising or marketing organizations your university may offer. Programs like DECA (Distributive Education Clubs of America) will provide opportunities to practice pitches and work on developing full advertising campaigns to help you decide on your future career. Also, if your university does not require you to have an internship, you should look into one anyway because it will provide a great real-life experience that you otherwise might not be exposed to.
Side Note: A rewarding, pre-career method to sharpen these skills is to bartend or serve at restaurants. If you break it down, these positions are the client engagement roles of the restaurant industry. Every customer you interact with gives you the opportunity to work on your sales pitch. They are already there to make a purchase, like your established clients would be, but you have the chance to upsell them — or in agency terms, offer them a new service. This is exactly like what you would be doing in your potential new role.
A key aspect for anyone trying to get their foot in the door is research. Since client-facing roles vary a lot depending on the organization, you must first look into what piques your interest. After all, you will essentially be the face of the business, so it should be in line with what you care about. Another thing to consider is the size of the company you want to join. In most cases, a smaller agency will give you the opportunity to have your hands in multiple pots, giving you a wider breadth of experience. On the other hand, a larger corporation will give you the chance to hone your skills and become an expert on a singular path. Once you’ve narrowed down your choices, it’s time to start applying.
I can’t stress this enough — the research step is essential when interviewing for your potential position. That’s because your interview isn’t just a chance for a company to learn about you, it’s an opportunity for you to learn about the company. The whole point of an interview is to help both sides determine if the arrangement will be a good fit for everyone involved, so don’t be afraid to ask questions. For example, you could ask your potential employer a question like, “I am always looking to learn more and do all that I can to advance in my career – so what kind of mentorship I will have in this role?” This will show your potential employer that you want to grow not only as an individual, but also with the company.
There is no shame in writing down your questions in a notebook and bringing them with you. That will also make it easier to document their answers and take notes on what they are saying throughout the interview. If all of your questions are answered before you get the chance to ask them, it’s always a good idea to recap your understanding so everyone is on the same page, and it shows you are actively listening.
Need help preparing for an interview? Just think of it as a sales pitch with you being the product or service that will benefit them. Throughout the interview, be sure to mention your experience that is relevant to the job, whether that be an internship you loved or participation in one of those ad organizations in college. This is your time to shine and show off those communication skills you worked so hard to perfect.
I’m sure you’ve heard this one a million times, but it’s true. Networking never stops! And it all starts in college when you’re surrounded by people that will be entering the same industry as you. You’ll want to tidy up your LinkedIn so it expresses your interests and intentions for your career. And be sure to keep in touch with all of those college acquaintances – you never know when you might need each other.
Some colleges offer networking events for graduates. Check ‘em out, especially if you’re new in town. They’re a great chance to meet new people with all levels of experience. And of course, once you’ve landed a position, connect with your coworkers and clients. Clients are especially good to connect with because if they move on to a different company and they’ve had nothing but pleasant interactions with you they might try to take you or your agency with them!
Finding the perfect position in your field is one of the hardest things to do and may seem daunting as a new graduate, but hopefully these tips better equip you for the challenge. Now, once you’ve snagged your dream job, you’ve got to remember to leave a positive impact on everyone in the office (virtual or not) and to choose kindness above all. Check out another one of our blogs “Choosing Kindness” to see how a little act of kindness can go a long way.