Finding the Right Job Fit: Large vs. Small

Julie Cottineau gives her top tips from her 25+ years at great companies such as Grey, Interbrand and Virgin in this post, “Finding the Right Job Fit: Large vs. Small” from our series providing insight and action steps for those seeking a career in branding. You can read more entries in this Career series HERE

A question I often get from job-seekers is, “What are the trade-offs of working for a big vs. small company or agency?”

“Does size really matter?”

When deciding between a boutique ad agency, a global one, a major mass-marketer client or a small start up, there are definite pros and cons of each you should consider.

For example, if you have wanderlust, like I did a few years out of college, the bigger the better. I was fortunate enough to spend 3 of my 10-year tenure at Grey Global in the Paris office. This was an amazing, life-changing experience (I met my husband, who is French, while living there). Grey had a fairly established program of sending people around the globe. So while I did have to press to be one of the lucky ones chosen for an international assignment, the program was already well-oiled and very much in place.

I’ve also worked at small agencies when I was first starting out and have found several benefits in the boutique model as well.

These include: 1) access to senior mentors, 2) fewer layers often means more responsibility for juniors and, 3) participation in new business.

On our pitches the entire agency got involved instead of just a small select new business team, and I learned a ton.

But my wisest piece of advice to help alleviate some of the worry over the debate of small vs. large is to prioritize these two more important factors: 1) What account am I working on, and 2) Who am I working for?

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These two factors are more important then the number of employees listed in the directory. A dynamic brand- one that you are really passionate about, even at a relatively small, up and coming Agency or a start up, can teach you a lot and you will invest more time and energy into it – and this will shine through in interviews and your resume as your move on after a while to look for your next opportunity.

Also the right boss – someone who will invest in you, share their wisdom, give you tools, feedback and responsibility- in my opinion trumps any factors of big vs. small. It also doesn’t hurt if he/she also has had experience with both big and small Agencies – so you can benefit from both sides of the coin.

Brand School, our highly effective, premier branding program, gives you the strategies and tools you need to create a  personal and professional brand that’s a fit in any sized company. Receive more information about Brand School’s next session and get free brand-building tools and tips when you join our mailing list.

Please also join us on Twitter and Facebook for more insight and discussion on branding.

“It was great pulling everything together from touch points, to pillars. I would recommend Brand School to any small biz owner or entrepreneur.” – Sarah W., Entrepreneur

Agency vs. Client: What’s the Best Fit For You?

This post, Agency vs. Client: What’s the Best Fit For You? is another in our series providing insight and action steps for those seeking a career in branding. Julie Cottineau gives her top tips and shares insights from her 25+ years at great companies such as Grey, Interbrand and Virgin. You can read more entries in this Career series HERE

Here’a a question I get a lot:

Should I work for an Agency or a Brand?

This is a tough one. There is no one right answer. I’ve been lucky enough to work on both sides of the branding aisle and I think like most career paths, there is no right or wrong path. Just the path you choose.

But I can tell you that from my perspective, if you are interested in an agency role, it’s good to pursue this at the beginning of your career.

Agency jobs can be tough. The pay (especially at the beginning) is low and the hours are long. But, at the right Agency, you will learn a lot. So if you are interested in trying the Agency side, it’s often best to invest this time early in your career when normally you have less obligations (mortgage, spouse, kids) and can put in the long hours and be less concerned about the pay.

In contrast, the relatively shorter and more predictable hours of a client-side job can often fit your lifestyle better when kids enter the picture.

I also believe one benefit of working on the Agency side is that by being accountable to a client, you can learn a great deal about program management and meeting management skills. As an Assistant Account Executive at Grey, I learned how to be very buttoned-up. I had to make sure everyone was prepared for meetings and we weren’t wasting the client’s time. Agendas went out with meeting invites, materials were prepared and next steps were clearly outlined in meeting reports. This kind of discipline, learned early on, stayed with me and was helpful as I advanced through my career.

You can also learn this on the Client side, but often meetings are a bit more casual. At least this was my experience at Virgin- but also at many Clients that I worked for as an Agency partner.
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The other aspect that I loved about working on the Agency side was the exposure to different accounts and business challenges. You don’t always get that when you sign on early with a client that works in one category.

So there are a  lot of plusses about the Agency side, but here’s one tick in favor of a Client job…if you are really interested in the business side of marketing you will likely learn more about this if you are on the Client side. This isn’t to say that Agency people don’t do a good job of learning about their Client’s businesses. They do. But in my experience, no matter how close an Agency partner is, its still not the same as being on the inside and hearing first hand all of the business and financial conversations – and being truly held accountable for business results.

My 5 + years at Virgin was like getting my MBA. I became much more comfortable and familiar with different business terms and business models. I saw first hand the impact of different marketing decisions. From a much closer perspective than I ever had on the Agency side. I also learned how to be more accountable for my creative ideas. I couldn’t propose solutions that were going to cost a lot without thinking about how we would make the cost up in additional revenue. This might sound like a constraint, but it actually made me make sure my creative ideas were more sound, and in turn, they had a better chance of being implemented.

So what’s the right fit for you? It’s hard to say. One way to make the choice is to think about where you see yourself in 5-10 years. If you have any ambitions of someday starting your own business, then I would say it’s really important to get some experience on the Client side. Even if you have an MBA from a top school – there’s really no substitute for in market experience.

And if you are thinking of becoming an entrepreneur or are already building a business, our highly effective, premier branding program, Brand will give you the insight and tools you need to get the job done. Receive more information about Brand School’s next session and get free brand-building tools and tips when you join our mailing list.

Please also check us out on Twitter and Facebook for more insight and discussion on branding.

“Brand School was helped us set structure to our process, define our target and recognize our customer’s motivations. We were able to create timely taglines and better define our branding campaigns”.  – Randi Curhan, Development Coordinator for Redwood High School Foundation

How Not to Dress for Success

This post, How Not to Dress for Success, is another in our series providing insight and action steps for those seeking a career in branding. Julie Cottineau gives her top tips and shares insights from her 25+ years at great companies such as Grey, Interbrand and Virgin. You can read more entries in this Career series HERE

It may be summer, but this is still a job. Even if you see senior partners dressing in casual clothes – remember they’ve already gotten the job. If you are an intern or junior employee,  you are still auditioning. The casual air in a creative environment like an agency can be misleading, but if you have any doubt whatsoever, err on the more professional side.

This means:

No flip flops (for men or women) ever- save them for the beach!

No midriff baring.

Gals: No super micro-mini skirts or hotpants.

Guys: Depending on your company, you may not need to wear a jacket or tie – but no shorts or scruffy t-shirts, and no pants hanging so low they’re falling off.

Pay attention to how the men and women in the office are dressing when they go to see clients.

When in doubt: ask!

Dress for the job you want, not for the job you have. This doesn’t mean you need to spend a lot of money, but it doesn’t mean you need to look frumpy either. Just be clean, neat and professional.  Don’t go for the the Devil Wears Prada Anne Hathaway before look.

If you are in the branding business, you do need to pay a little attention to your own brand. This is a great time to start cultivating your unique personal style, and style can be expressed in many ways.

If you do want to show some personality through your clothing, accessorize. This can be statement jewelry, cool bags, belts, shoes, hats, scarfs or ties; all applicable for both men and women.

Perhaps there is a certain color, pattern or cool style of specs that you are passionate about. Don’t be afraid to wear them continually and start to develop a signature look. As long as it’s genuinely connected to who you are – don’t play dress up.

One place where shorts are totally appropriate—the company softball team. Joining in is a great way to show your unique personality, demonstrate that you are team player and get to know your future colleagues and bosses.

When I was at Virgin we had a great college intern who came to every game. He wasn’t the best batter or fielder but he had such a great attitude. He was always cheering his teammates on and offering to buy the first round at the pub after the game. This definitely made a positive and memorable impression, gave us great insight into his personality and showed that he was someone who could fit in with the corporate culture.

Have you observed a fashion faux pas in the office? We’d love to hear about your own experience… maybe it was your own internship or a story from one of your friends.

Also, if you are looking to boost your resume, why not become a guest blogger for BrandTwist? Reach out to jamie@herculiz.com with your blog idea or any questions about guest blogging.

Brand School, our highly effective, premier branding program, will give you the insight and tools you need to express your personal brand for greater recognition in your career field. Receive more information about Brand School’s next session and get free brand-building tools and tips when you join our mailing list.

Please also connect with us out on Twitter and Facebook for more insight and discussion on branding.

“I highly recommend tis class to anybody; it will put your business on a different level.” – Dr. Marina Kostina, Distance Learning Specialist, CEO of  wired@heart

Land the Job: Bring Your Experience Off the Page!

This post, Land the Job: Bring Your Experience Off the Page! is another in our series providing insight and action steps for those seeking a career in branding. Julie Cottineau gives her top tips and shares insights from her 25+ years at great companies such as Grey, Interbrand and Virgin. You can read more entries in this Career series HERE

One of the most important challenges to landing a job in branding is knowing how to make sure you stand out. Chances are there are more than a few candidates vying for the same internship or full time job that you’ve got your eye on.

Having been on the hiring side many times, I can tell you that after a while the stream of candidates becomes a blur. One thing that helps a candidate stand out is to have a presentation of his or her experience. I call this a “visual resume.” By that I simply mean: a well-designed, clean PDF that brings some of the examples in your resume to life. For example:

  • Spent a summer as an intern at a local agency? Put a screen grab of that agency’s logo and some of the key projects/brands you were involved with on a page. Make sure you don’t show anything that the Agency or their clients would consider confidential (when in doubt ask).

Help your prospective employer visualize your experience.

  • Ran the marketing for one of your school’s events? Show pictures from the day and include stats about how many people you reached etc.

Unless you’ve worked on mega brands like Coke and Nike, it’s going to take your interviewer a few minutes to really understand what you are talking about and determine if the experience is relevant to what he or she is looking for. Help them make the leap more quickly by brining the examples to life. To that end, make sure you are taking pictures at any school events, and scanning the covers and key pages of any relevant projects (like a marketing class project where you had to come up with ideas for a new brand).

Another effective thing that you can do which shows your interest in the job is do an informal customer experience audit before the interview and bring your findings with you.

When I was interviewing to be the VP of Brand at Virgin, I did my own desktop audit of the Virgin brand – I looked at the websites of each of the individual brands in the Virgin family and I did an informal survey about what the brand stood for among people in what I perceived to be their target market. I presented these “findings” along with some initial suggestions on how to address the brand’s challenges as part of my interview. I didn’t present it as in-depth research, just a conversation starter. But it did show that I wasn’t just saying I was interested in working there; I was proving it through a bit of extra research. And the rest is history…

Think about putting in a little extra work prior to your interview and be prepared to share a point of view. You don’t have to be “right” in your learning, just as long as you can demonstrate a solid thought process. It will also help you gauge how open your potential employer is to suggestions. Receive more tips and techniques on how to do this in our post HERE.

Brand School, our highly effective, premier branding program, gives you the tools and techniques you need to keep your brand shining through and standing out. Receive more information about Brand School’s next session and get free brand-building tools and tips when you join our mailing list.

Please also check us out on Twitter and Facebook for more insight and discussion on branding.

“Brand School had great examples of real companies. I was able to dig even deeper, think of things in a new way, and get new ideas for my brand.It was well worth the fee.” – Brenda Dillion Cavette, Founder Fashionista Tea