I Don’t Want to Work in My Major’s Industry

Hi, I’m a Public Relations and Advertising major. I've realized that I find my major interesting to study, but I don’t really see myself actually working in the advertising industry. I came to this conclusion after a recent advertising agency visit. Who knows? Maybe my feelings will change with time, but right now this is how I feel and I have some issues to address.

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During this agency visit, there was a Q&A panel. I’m not here to bash the speakers, they did make some great points, but a few things they said made me realize that advertising isn’t everything it’s cracked up to be.

Portfolio school was discussed, and I felt discouraged. I would love to be a creative director, but most advertising agencies I’ve visited say that it’s only possible if you go to portfolio school. As mentioned in an article by Adweek, not many can afford portfolio school. This limits the diversity of advertising agencies and limits people in even applying for certain positions, like creative director. The advertising industry then seems superficial to me because it claims to be a place for everyone, but it really isn’t. It’s only a place for those who can afford to get the experience that agencies are looking for. Advertisements that have been offensive to certain groups in the past wouldn’t have been offensive if agencies had those groups represented, as the groups would have given feedback on the advertisement and caught the mistake.

Another thing I find weird is that in order to get an internship you have to have experience, and employers look for things in your resume that you can only achieve through an internship. How are you supposed to fulfill these expectations when you’ve never had an internship before? One man’s advice was, “Fake it ‘til you make it.” What is the point of lying your way through to get a job? If jobs didn’t have ridiculous expectations for entry-level positions, then maybe people wouldn’t have to lie. It seems superficial to portray an internship as a learning opportunity for those new to the industry, yet expect experience in the industry.

Something else discussed during this Q&A panel was how to write to employers. They suggested using phrases like, “I would make a great candidate” or “I feel that I am the perfect fit for this internship.” I feel so weird writing those things because it sounds very conceited. I hate talking about myself in general, so having to inflate your ego for employers is daunting. Moreover, when writing to a previous employer to see if they have any job openings, a panelist suggested boosting their ego in the email. Saying “I learned so much under your leadership” and not meaning it just to try and get a position is beyond strange to me. It feels wrong to schmooze just to get what you want, and it’s sad that it’s sort of expected in the industry.

As I research advertising agencies and look on their “Positions” page, I can’t help but notice how many open positions each agency has. It seems like the advertising industry has a high turnover rate, making me come to the conclusion that people get burnt out quickly. During the Q&A, a panelist mentioned how it looks bad to only have worked at one agency, but it also looks bad if you’ve worked at too many. There’s an unspoken industry rule that you have to work at not too many but not too few agencies. What is this magic number? Why is this a thing? If someone is happy with where they are for twenty years but then decides to quit, why is their dedication looked down upon? Yes, they may only have one perspective but people in other industries often work at only one place until they retire, and they’re not looked down upon! All these little, unspoken rules are irritating. How am I supposed to know them? It’s like the unspoken rules of a resume. Should I have an objective statement? Should I not? I have no idea because it’s a stupid unspoken rule. If there was a clearly expressed standard then maybe more people would have a shot at different jobs. But I digress.

After visiting the advertising agency, I’ve come to the conclusion that I want to work for myself. Being a strong, independent woman and owning my own company sounds good to me. I would do things differently because I’m tired of how things are now. Isn’t that how most companies are started? In my experience of listening to NPR’s podcast How I Built This, it seems that way. I have realized that there are so many skills from my major that I can apply to other jobs. Communications, in general, is a broad field, so I want to pursue different things. I’ll still try to get an advertising internship this summer because I want to keep an open mind. However, with the tough expectations, I don’t feel very confident right now. I’m going to continue to learn about advertising, and I will still pursue my major because it’s interesting to learn about. There are so many things about advertising that have given me a new perspective. I feel that it’s okay to enjoy your studies but not work in the same field. At the end of the day, getting a Bachelor’s degree is a privilege that shouldn’t be taken for granted. Getting the degree teaches you skills that you can apply anywhere, and that’s something no one can take away from you.


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