As an assignment in an Advertising Business class I teach, I asked the students to write an essay titled, "Why You?" Simple enough, right. Turns out it was not easy for them to identify what made them a unique hire over their neighbor.
I kept telling them they will all graduate with the same degree in hand, a relatively similar portfolio of spec work and a resume that lists jobs at a pizza joint or the local coffeehouse. Very similar and very vanilla every one of them.
So I asked, "Why them?" Why would one of them be more interesting, more passionate and, ultimately, more creative than the next? They could not decently answer the question. I did get a whole slew of essays that spouted typical cover letter words: hardworking, dedicated, team player. Not one could muster one sharp insight into their own unique offerings.
Coming out of school, everyone pretty much looks identical to the person hiring. Now I know there are always exceptions to this. Some kids come out of a top-notch ads school and have phenomenal books. (A current favorite of mine). I'm not trying to reach kids like this. It's those students who are generally decent at concepting, have a good command of art direction or copywriting, but in every other sense do not stand out.
Here is the lesson: You MUST stand out! Think about what besides the work in your book makes you unique. Are you a practicing buddhist? Did you do stand-up comedy in college? Do you spend summers volunteering with Habitat for Humanity? ANYTHING that may seem irrelevant to you as you search for your first job, but in fact is. You see, all your life experiences outside of formal advertising classes make up who you are as a unique creative individual. Who you are, how you think, what experiences you draw from. . . All of that is so very, very important.
And that is what I care about. What anyone who is hiring cares about. That you, as a unique individual, have something vastly different to offer our creative department and can ultimately impact the creative work we produce. Again, why you?