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HOW NOT TO GET A JOB AFTER MIAMI AD SCHOOL ACCOUNT PLANNING BOOT CAMP
How Not to Get a Job After Miami Ad School
Get Your Story Straight
Frame a Routine
Learn Each Day // Spend Days Un-Learning
Dream Big // Think Short and Long Term
Be Social // Stay Alone
Keep Moving // Stay Still
Save Money / Spend Money
Network / Don’t Stalk
Have a Plan but Be Okay to Ditch It
Shoo the Flies Away
Miami Ad School was the greatest experience of my life. After working in account management for
a few years, I started to look up the ladder. Though I did fully admire my mentors step above
me on said ladder, I questioned whether or not I wanted to be them in the coming years. Their
communications skills were flawless, their intelligence indefinable and their passion
unmatched. Those were the attributes I still strive to get close to but I wanted to learn more
about strategy and the applicability of the craft even outside of advertising.
For those of you not in advertising (get into it, I promise it’s great) account management is
often times labeled as the face of the agency. He or she manages strategy and production on the
creative side of the agency and of course works with the client on a daily basis. As an account
person you’re fortunately able to touch all areas of the business and see projects throughout
from start to finish. It’s a key role in the agency and allows you to fully understand the way
the business is run. It’s fascinating and a good life. I wouldn’t have traded those years for
Like many account folks, strategists have a curiosity in and out of office walls, they are
forced (in a good way) to understand the world and help navigate brands based on human and
cultural truths. This skill set is necessary when moving brands to people or vice versa and a
set of skills that is applicable across other industries too. In the next ten years I predict
we’ll see a high demand for people with a background in strategy in advertising outside the ad
Miami Ad School provides all of the content, connections, culture and time for students to use
at their own pace and extent. It won’t spoon feed you so it’s up to the students to make the
most of there experience both intellectually and experientially. I can’t put to words what this
experience has done for me personally and professionally but I will tell you this:
I left everything behind to do it and I graduated unemployed and still felt the most fulfilled
I’ve been in my twenty-five years of existence. It provided me confidence, lifetime
relationships, a broad perspective on life and of course a strategic skill set.
It’s about getting thrown into unfamiliar territory of uncertainty with people from all
backgrounds from around the world. It was about being introduced to and learning from
weaknesses and strengths. It was about late night coffee shop brainstorm sessions and long
walks to Trader Joe’s for inexpensive wine and wrapped sandwiches. It was about getting lost in
a space we wanted to learn while comfortably understanding we weren’t going to learn it all in
three months. It was coping with the reality of never knowing everything and what we learned
yesterday may not be the appropriate solution tomorrow.
Miami Ad School brings the best and brightest teachers who genuinely care about student growth
and the work. I worked in advertising for three years before going to the program and Miami Ad
gave me a new appreciation for the process and the output. It also taught me that it’s more
about the impact than the output. It was about working with Rodrigo from Brazil, who spoke
little to no English at the beginning, who taught me how to fully listen, understand and best
articulate my thoughts. Over 50% of the students were from outside the USA and this
international exposure pulls you deeply into new cultures exemplifying the importance, and
beauty, of understanding the world and people.
Each week we had a new professor teach us a segment of strategy. For example we started with an
overview, got into what qualitative and quantitative research was about, and eventually learned
about measuring effectiveness. We were given an assignment and a team and presented at the end
of each week until the sixth week where we were given about five weeks for our final assignment
with a new team. We also took a design class and improvisation, which were extremely helpful in
getting to better know ourselves.
Leaving everything behind in New York City was quite possibly the riskiest decision I’ve made.
It’s taught me the guaranteed value that accompanies intuition and chance. It’s left me with a
goal to always go for what I want. And sometimes, I fail. I failed to get a job following the
program. I failed to lower my standards and take the first opportunity I was offered. I failed
to always hold the inspiration in my heart that I felt during the program. But this last part,
I work on.
I applied seeking knowledge of strategic planning, a diversified experience and of course
some creative confidence. The industry teachers and guest speakers exceeded this expectation.
But outside the classroom was just as rewarding. I learned the importance of understanding
the world. I found the feeling of friendship that I’ve lost in the midst of this life. A
spark was lit within me to see the world and live each day like it’s my last. New York City
never felt so small.
This experience has given me personal growth as the students made the journey to finding
myself comfortable. We laughed, we cried, we shared culture and intelligence and as corny as
it may read, we let everyone into our hearts. We are forever changed! This same group helped
me unite the local community to fundraise a volunteer trip to Costa Rica for Thanksgiving
week. The camaraderie and support was unmatched. And it’s not because I’m from New York
I figured collecting my thoughts and experiences on paper may impact one person on this
Earth, or encourage them to apply to the program, and if so, it was worth putting energy
towards. It took me a long time to get a job, but sometimes good things happen to people who
work and wait.
Get Your Story Straight
The beauty of stories is that we all have our unique one. Sometimes reality and role models
make us want to formulate our stories a specific way but the reality is that you always come
back to the truth of what makes you who you are.
Specifically with planning, people look for different. People with diverse backgrounds are
appreciated for that experience they bring to the table. It’s important to get to know who
you are, why you do what you do, how you do it and what you’re trying for in the future.
Some say get an elevator pitch while others say don’t be too scripted. From my experience do
what feels right with the right person at that time and be open to shifting your story as
time goes on. For me, I learned a lot about myself while not working, like about what I
wanted out of what kind of agency and what I could bring to them, so my story shifted.
I come full circle to say I think it’s important to be happy and confident with getting to
know your truthful story because once that unfolds there are many interesting and amazing
people who are going to want to hear it.
Frame A Routine
Time is of the essence. You don’t want to freak out and take the first opportunity just
because it comes your way and at the same time you don’t want to be unemployed for 365
days and have to explain to potential employers why it’s taken you so long to get a job.
It’s important to develop some sort of routine during the week. Sure a great quality of a
planner is the ability to take a step away from consistency and break routine but while
unemployed sanity needs to be secured.
Try setting an alarm. Sleeping until noon every day may sound great but getting yourself
in the mindset of determination is important during this time.
Get a good breakfast. This is 101 talk but it’s crucial to get a primary meal in
especially if you’re going to be coffee shop hunting all afternoon.
Many people sign up for the boot camp expecting to be placed within an agency immediately
following graduation. This is not the case and my fellow graduates can attest to my
words. Miami Ad does an impeccable job serving up the proper network but it’s up to you
to take advantage of the contacts.
If every day you make sure you learn, grow, have fun and meet someone in any capacity
you’ll be just fine.
Learn Each Day // Spend Days Un-Learning
It’s imperative to learn each day. Potential employers will want to know what you’ve been up
to. If they don’t ask you want to be able to set yourself apart from the rest of the
candidates and tell people what you’ve been up to since graduation.
Miami Ad teachers are basically throwing their deepest planning secrets at your via their
deck presentations. It’s important to save these and consistently refer back to them as
Sure planning will evolve over time but the content you’ve been given will become extremely
useful while prepping for an interview, if you need to reference something while you’re
working and simply as a mental refresher so you’re always up to par.
There are many mentors and web sites out there that are also helpful. PSFK seems to be the
go-to for all things planning so feel free to begin there.
It’s important to keep in touch with classmates and continuing to learn from them. Learn
about what they’ve taken out of interviews. Learn where they have been consuming content.
Share tips and tools and make sure you know what they know or at least as much as they will
Learning surely comes from progress too so feel open to keeping a journal. I found this
extremely helpful during Miami Ad but also after as a documentation and reflection tool for
progress. This one time I went back to one of my first entries and was able to compare the
agencies I want to work for now versus where I said I wanted to work then. Sounds cheesy and
common but often goes overlooked.
I went to the New York City Public Library once and just to make sure, I asked an employee
there if people could just sit there and read books without cost or without being a
member. The answer was surely yes and gives you all the reason and encouragement to spend
hours at the library, for free, learning and reading.
Skillshare, General Assembly start-up weekends and museums are all great sources of
learning too. There are hundreds of people just like you ready to network so be open to
trying new things especially alone.
Learn stuff outside advertising too. I’m sure you remember teachers telling you to read
books about other cultures or businesses, write stuff, take photographs, doodle, watch
movies. They’re spot on since consuming and storing abstract content in your subconscious
often comes in handy when finding insights or making stories relevant.
Dream Big // Thing Short and Long Term
Keep inspiration and dreams alive. Time and reality often come in the way of keeping
inspiration and dreams alive. It did for me. It’s important to continuously remind
yourself of what you’re capable of, what you wanted during the program and why.
Take note of why you felt the way you did while in the program and try to apply that to
your life following it. Did you feel inspired during the program? If so, being around what
sort of people brought this out in you? What environment did your strengths shine in? What
about your weaknesses?
These are a few examples of figuring out how you can reach your full potential following
the program. I remember how inspired I was towards the end of the program. But moving back
to New York City, routine, people and time all tried to wash this away. It’s crucial to
keep this alive forever. Even if the feelings fade and it’s still on paper.
Think short-term. What do you want out of your next role? Where will this next role take
me? Things like that. This unique skill set you’ve acquired can be applied outside of
strategy departments within advertising agencies. You can work at any company helping with
human behavioral insights and brand communications strategy. You can work with a start-up.
You can work with many start-ups. You can freelance. You can wash dishes. So keep the
Think long-term. What next job will take you where you want to be down the road? Do you
want to be a Chief Strategy Officer? Things like this. Miami Ad teaches a lot but it’s not
in a real-life working environment. It’s extremely close but be aware of the differences
between what you did during the program and what your practical roles will be. Ask many
questions even to yourself.
Alessandra from Miami Ad School’s account planning boot camp from December 2013 sheds
some light on this topic.
“We are planners but most of us only know how to plan for clients, but not for us. And
there is nothing wrong about it. Being the one who doesn’t have a plan and don’t need
one can be super cool, but not when it comes to finding a job. For sure you want (and
should) choose where you want to spend most of your days. Don’t let money speak louder
(I know its hard, specially because you just spent it all in these 3 months), but
really think about opportunities and mainly about happiness. Where do you imagine
yourself working? Where do you want to be? And most of all, what is your dream job? Set
up a plan for achieving your dream and face it like if it was a ladder that you have to
climb (super cheesy, I know, but it works). Lastly, don’t you ever forget that this
is only a job”. – Alessandra Cavendish
Be Social // Stay Alone
Try to keep talking to people even if it’s by phone or Skype. It’s healthy to get
inspiration from people and get outside of your inner thoughts from time to time.
And it’s also important to have time for reflection as well. Make sure you have time to
kick back, watch a movie or sit in silence and let all digested outside content sit with
If you don’t have people to talk to it’s fine. Go to the park and watch other people.
Hey, a planner should be a great eavesdropper.
Keep Moving // Stay Still
You’ve got to exercise the mind. Keep the blood and juices flowing since looking good leads
to feeling good which leads to great planner jobs. Sort of.
You’ve got to exercise the brain. It’s important to keep the creative juices flowing. As is
the case with many school programs it’s easy to walk away from learning and never look back
so make sure to keep your brain moving. Write down ideas, take notes on observations, think
of insights and run them by people if you have the chance.
Save Money // Spend Money
If you’re like me, money is often a thought. Fortunately I noticed other classmates from
Miami Ad were in the same boat as me. After the program though, that’s when the sacrificing
and penny counting comes into play. That’s how it happened for me at least.
You’ll spend many days in coffee shops. A tip for when you ask someone to get coffee with
you to pick their brain: buy it for them. People remember it and after all they’re the ones
helping you. They don’t need your help. My move is I ask them for coffee, I arrive early, I
contact them letting them know and ask them what I can get for them. That way they arrive,
sit down, coffee is there and we can get down to business. Waste no time my friend. Ha,
this one time I asked someone for coffee and he ordered the wildest drink I’ve ever heard.
It was $5. I felt like Will Smith in the movie Hitch where he didn’t have much money but
just had to spare money for a senior manager’s cab. It paid off for Will. The $5 spend paid
off for me. It’ll pay off for you too.
Few tips on saving money:
• Refill at Starbucks is 54 cents
• If you have legs you can walk everywhere and listen to planner YouTube videos while
walking. Subways add up
• Opening a line of credit may be the way to go if you are money conscious. I know Chase
has no interest
• Internet, Internet, Internet. There is valuable content all over the web for free
• Make meals. No need to buy out all the time. I used Trader Joes on the regular
• Stay with friends or loved ones. No need to toss money in the john and pay for rent
if you don’t need to
You get my point. It can be a fun process developing habits on saving cash anyway. It
was for me.
But…spend when you have to. Keep up on birthdays, buy mentors coffee and don’t refrain
from joy so hang with people socially whenever you want. Doesn’t mean you have to have
a $200 bar tab though.
Network // Don’t Stalk
This is my favorite content compartment by far.
Keep in touch with everyone. When you’re working and keep in touch with people it doesn’t
look like you just need them for something when you contact them while you’re unemployed.
It’s alright to blindly reach out to people. With privacy being at a mind-blowing low these
days it’s not absurd to receive an email form someone you haven’t met before. This one time I
reached out to someone I admire twice. He never responded so I hand-wrote him a letter.
Know when to back off. You have intuition so use it. Make sure you’re persistent but of
course don’t go overboard. It all depends on the situation. One friend of mine followed up
with someone every Monday for months and it was well received. Whereas I emailed someone a
few times with no response and just felt it was time to back off.
Some people show up places. I’ve heard very positive things and this one time heard a very
bad story. So again use your gut and know that there’s no formula and everyone receives
LinkedIn is free and at your service. Connect with people, send them personal introductions
and be kind and professional. If someone shuns you off, it probably wouldn’t have been a good
For the most important part:
Throw away your ego and know that everyone is doing you a favor by talking to you. Ask for
their advice, to “pick their brain” and know they are your superiors both intellectually and
For me it was helpful to talk to a breadth of agencies and people with different
backgrounds. This allowed me to gain different perspectives and receive advice from those
perspectives. What’s done with those opinions is of course another story as no one is
forcing you to implement what they think.
Have a Plan but Be Okay to Ditch It
It’s common to have a plan and work as hard as possible to make it fit, but don’t be afraid
to ditch the plan if something grand unexpectedly presents itself.
For example if you’re gunning for give traditional advertising agencies for full-time
positions but randomly decide one day that approaching for a non-traditional advertising
agency for a freelance opportunity, it’s not a bad thing.
For a long time I was adamant about the big named agencies and a part of me still thinks
that way. But after meeting dozens of different people and agencies I have found that the
happiest and most interesting people don’t necessarily come from the places everyone knows.
As someone leading strategy at a non-traditional agency once told me, there’s a difference
between practicing specific skills at an agency versus working at an agency that does
Planners and creative will tell you how important it is to “make stuff”. Write blogs, draw
pictures, post interesting articles, make short films, write music, formulate coffee shop
planner hangout sessions, write books, draw comics, develop product designs and get patents
on them, make creative videos and have local publications pick them up. Anything. Make sure
you make stuff. They’ll either make you more interesting or get you a job.
The students a part of the creative program at Miami Ad School were instrumental in showing
everyone how fun and important it is to create side projects. Many times students who soon
become employees are not given as much freedom as expected while they are junior pups. This
of course isn’t a bad thing. But the work done outside the typical workday and agency often
times allows people to stretch the creativity limits.
The production-guru from the group, Erik Frydenlund, offered to share his two cents on the
topic. Thanks Erik!
Making stuff is probably the most important thing you can do after you graduate from Miami
Ad. Why? Because making stuff will show more to people about you as both a person and as a
planner than anything else you can do. And there are a number of side benefits as well. Let’s
take a look at all of the wonderful things that making things does:
It reveals how you think. I have met with loads of planners on my hunt for a job after
graduation, and one of the most commonly mentioned things is the importance of the way a
candidate thinks. No one is going to hire you because you did some internships in marketing
or worked for a couple years as an account executive before making the transition to
planning. What they care about is what you bring to the table intellectually.
How do you solve problems? Are you a specialist or a generalist? What approach do you
take when turning raw data into usable data?
Remember, ultimately planning departments exist because planners ask the questions
everyone else forgets, and find the answers that no one else can see. If you can’t do
that, you serve no purpose to the agency. But then again, that’s what makes the job so
awesome. You can develop an opinion piece on motorcycles based on synthesis of a US
Government provided market data, a Top Gear episode you watched once, a recent trip to
Italy, and a conversation you had with a friend over their commuting habits. Whether you
write, make videos, record a podcast, or something totally different, you will have you
stamped all over it, showing both your personality and how you think.
It illustrates your passions. Only make stuff that you are excited to make. Do not start
making stuff just to open doors in your career. If the work excites you, you will do it
more often, the quality of the stuff made will be higher, and, most importantly, you will
be showing people what matters to you. Personality is an important part of the hiring
process. People want to work with people they think they will get along with, and in an
industry where weirdness is treasured rather than rejected, people want to work with
people who are interesting. Let your content show off your personality. Do it in obvious
ways, like picking topics that fit with your passions outside of work, and do it in
subtle ways, like drawing connections to your other fields of interest when they are
relevant to the topic. Don’t be afraid to explore areas that aren’t marketing; focus on
being interesting and genuine.
It gives you something to reference when you need to prove yourself. You come across a
listing that asks for candidates who are familiar with the agricultural business since
the department they are looking to expand works with the National Corn Growers
Association. You grew up on a farm and feature that upbringing heavily in the stuff you
make. Now, when you apply, you don’t have to just tell them that you come from a farm
family, you can show it. This works for any skills you have that don’t appear in your
work history, as well. Nothing on your resume shows off your incredible facility
with big data? Make something that demonstrates it, and then find an organic way to include it
in your application materials. Let your content act as published proof that you are not just
It keeps your skills fresh. If you make stuff that is at all related to the work you want to
do, each project you work on is an opportunity to keep your sense for planning and strategy
sharp. It could be many months before you finally land the job you want. If you don’t work on
it, you will begin to forget what you learned at school. I write a blog and purposely select
topics that will flex those planning muscles, so as long as I’m publishing regularly, I’m
engaging that part of my brain and exercising my ability to think strategically.
It breaks up the monotony. Let’s be honest, the unemployed life is a grind. Every day you
write some cover letters, reach out for some networking opportunities, put your blood, sweat,
and tears into the work, and, more often than not, get nothing back. Rinse, repeat. Day after
day. Making stuff gives you something extra to do to shake up the pattern, and can keep you
from losing your mind. Unlike the application/rejection cycle, it gives you a tangible product
at the end that you can show the world, in a way you wouldn’t with a cover letter. That
instant gratification is good for your psyche.
It is something surprisingly few people do. You’d think with all the cheap and/or free tools
out there to make stuff, and to publish it to the web, that more people would take the time do
it. Especially in such a competitive labor market, given the benefits I’ve noted so far in
doing so. And yet, making stuff that impresses potential employers remains an excellent way
to differentiate you from the pack. Of course, getting those employers to actually read your
blog, listen to your podcast, watch your videos, or engage with whatever content you are
making, can be very difficult. Still, if you make it, and can get people to see it, they will
You don’t have to write about marketing either. Just be creative, and keep making stuff. Let’s
say you write a blog on fashion. Even though it’s not about planning, it can still show how
you think by revealing how your critical eye identifies trends. The very choice of topic
reveals something about your passions. That critical eye will lead you to topics that can
prove your value to employers, and topics that will keep your skills sharp. No matter what
you make, the act of making breaks the monotony and gives you the joy of creation that doesn’t
exist in your millionth letter of inquiry to that local agency your interested in. And of
course, content remains something people rarely do, so you’re covered there too.
Finally, don’t forget about putting all that creative energy towards making sure the best
pitch material you have is for the brand of you. Put some of that creative energy towards
making your resume amazing, your cover letters tight, and your website and/or portfolio
beautiful. Basically, make it easy for you to pitch yourself to prospective agencies, and
make it easier for them to say yes.
Shoo the Flies Away
Don’t listen to the people telling you no.
Don’t let “reality” take precedence of your dreams.
If you can, don’t settle for anything you don’t want.
Set your goals and share them.
People don’t get you. They don’t get me. They don’t get most of people in advertising.
The only one who gets us, is us. So let your wildest ambitions triumph over the tips and
advice you hear from loved ones. In a few years they’ll tell you that you were right.
If you share an experience relatively similar to mine you’ll hear every piece of advice
imaginable. One thing I learned is that most of it comes from a good heart that wants to
help. I forgot that a few times along the way and luckily had someone close to me remind
me how lucky I was to actually have people that wanted to give the advice.
Peace, love and strategy your gosh-darn hearts out. Life is too short to not live.
To me, this is the most invigorating and important part of the journey. Growing up we have
this idea that people are on our side. Many are lucky enough to have a support system of
family and friends that encourage us to do the right thing, to try our best and to be
As this support group grows older together, priorities often times shift and we are not
always the focus of everyone else’s attention. We have to make it on our own in a way
through getting to know ourselves and what we want as individuals in this one life we
It’s important to realize that no one knows yourself better than you do so only you can be
the end decision maker for where you decide to take your life. In less philosophical
speech, take advice with a grain of salt because it’s up to you what job you take.
Time, media, social media posts of peer’s successes, pressure and finances are all factors
in diluting your inspiration. It’s hard to sit in front of a computer six months after
Miami Ad School’s graduation and still have the heart and intention to email people to
meet. It’s so easy to cave and take whatever is conveniently in front of you that day.
It’s so difficult to remain inspired. But you have two choices, which are to be inspired
or to not be inspired.
Some continuously write down their goals, others journal and some stick to those close to
them that continuously restore faith and motivation within them. It’s important to take
note of what you wanted at the beginning, surely be open to other opportunities that come
your way, but remember how badly you wanted what you did and continue to take all
appropriate measures in order to make it fucking happen.
Hope this helps in some way!