Advertising can be exciting, glamorous and very creative. In fact, creativity may be more critical for international accounts than domestic-based advertising. Developing culturally appropriate ways to communicate with consumers in other countries is critical to success, and it is not always easy.
Here are some tips for launching an advertising career on a global track:
Getting in the Door
Many people enter the advertising industry straight from college with bachelor's degrees. Coursework in advertising, marketing and writing are helpful, but internships may be the most important factor in penetrating the marketplace.
Many firms have structured summer internship programs, which can be researched through their Web sites. Also consider volunteering for a nonprofit group or local community organization's public relations or marketing committee. No matter how you acquire it, you need to be able to show a potential employer real experience.
When you're ready to focus on international advertising work, look for an internship or volunteer work with an organization that has an international scope, like a large multinational advertising agency, chamber of commerce, NGO or an international company's communications department.
Flexibility, a commitment to hard work and sometimes long hours are key characteristics for success in advertising. This may be especially true in a global business with different time zones and clients around the world.
"Keeping current on industry trends and trying to think about what your client will need not only today, but tomorrow, [is always important]," says Bob Carleton, an executive recruiter who specializes in advertising.
Individuals hoping to enter international advertising mid-career may have a more difficult time. "Salaries of those not experienced in the ad industry are not comparable with the entry-level salaries for which they qualify," says Jill Fristoe, executive recruiter at Fristoe and Carleton, an advertising search firm. "A step or two backward is the hurdle most executives are not willing to accept."
In Fristoe's experience, traditional agencies are least likely to risk hiring a mid-career professional without relevant experience.
Before you decide if the industry is right for you, consider that advertising professionals complain of long hours and the stress of working in a client-driven business where you serve the whims of clients who may want something now or yesterday. Advertising is a competitive industry, and this can mean job insecurity -- if an account is lost, agency jobs are often cut.
Where Are the Jobs?
New York is still the advertising capital of the US (and arguably, the world), though Chicago, Los Angeles, Detroit and San Francisco are also competitive markets. Many agencies have offices worldwide, though they are usually staffed with nationals from that particular country and have only a few expatriates in senior positions.
It makes sense to target large agencies with global networks, as this increases the likelihood that you will get overseas, either for business travel or an expatriate assignment. Fristoe and Carleton advise letting management know when you begin your career that you are interested in a position with global responsibilities.
"Web-related experience is increasingly valued and required from the design and creative realm as well as on the account side," says Fristoe. She also notes a positive trend in the work/life balance at many agencies, as they become more open to "virtual office opportunities, telecommuting and allowing valued staffers to cut back to part-time to accommodate changing lifestyles."