Considered pursuing a career in advertising? This interview takes you through the ups and downs you can expect, what it takes to land the job, what you can expect to earn and more. This is a true career story as told to DiversityJobs, and is one of many interviews with marketing professionals and media executives.
Why Full Time Work For College Students Is A Good Idea
For this 25 year veteran of the newspaper business, going into advertising was a natural extension of what he always wanted to do.
“I’ve always been a writer, as far back as I can remember,” Ben Baker said. “I got to college and decided to go into journalism. While working on the college newspaper, I found out the college paper’s reporters worked for free, but the ad sales staff got paid commissions. Connecting the dots between my wallet and ad sales was pretty easy to do.”
Soon, Mr. Baker was the top salesman for the paper. In his junior year, he was a hired to be the newspaper’s business manager. He led the newspaper and the staff to record-breaking ad sales that year.
“Sales for the college paper were pretty easy,” said Baker. “All I had to do was go visit them each week, present a newspaper, and get copy for the next edition. With some clients, I had to convince them that advertising in my paper was good for their business. I was willing to get out there and do that. It paid off.”
The college paper came out on Wednesday morning. It was produced mainly on Monday and Tuesday mornings and printed Tuesday night. Often the staff would work late into the night Monday to get the paper ready for Tuesday’s deadline.
“Once the paper was sent to the press plant, everyone collapsed. I went back to the dorm and slept,” he said with a chuckle. “Wednesday, I got up and delivered the paper to the racks. After class, I picked up my sales copies and visited advertisers. That took a lot of Wednesday and Thursday afternoons. Friday was devoted to building ads.”
The college newspaper taught him the basics of good advertising. “It’s more than building a good looking ad,” he said. “It’s about building a relationship with the ad client and helping the advertiser build a relationship with a customer base. “
Furthermore, the newspaper taught Baker the whole process of advertising from sales to production to accounting. He said this was not something that could be learned in class.
“I never made a cold-call sitting in a classroom. I had to join the newspaper staff to see how to do that effectively,” he said. “While the college did offer some graphic design classes, that was nothing compared to building real ads every week for real customers. Work on the college paper did more to prepare me for my career than the classes.”
Mr. Baker describes himself as very lucky. Upon graduation he had two jobs waiting, one in Southwest Georgia and one in Nevada. He took the Nevada job.
“In both cases, the men who offered me jobs came and spoke at the college. I talked with them and pitched my request for a job,” he said. “They must have liked what they saw because both offered me a job after graduation. I was only a junior at the time.”
What probably helped is the sheer volume of copy he was able to show prospective employers. The college newspaper was published weekly during fall, winter, and spring quarters. In his four years, he generated nearly 1,000 clips for a portfolio. Those examples of his work were about equally divided between ads and editorial.
“Moving from college into a job was not exactly a breeze for me, but it was not really hard either. I was just doing the same things I’d been doing for four years, except I was getting paid a lot more and a lot more was expected of me. Some of the people I graduated with had a hard time adapting because they never spent time actually selling ads, they just took classes on it.”
Mr. Baker said he’d change a few things if he could. He would take more classes in law for one thing. He said he would also take more business and economics courses.
“Part of my job in ad sales is to explain to a business owner how advertising affects their business. To do that, I’ve had to learn how small businesses operate,” he said, leaning forward as if to emphasize his point. “My customers look to me for advice as well as advertising. I’m a consultant as much as I am an ad salesman.”
Work on a college newspaper prepared Ben Baker enter the world of advertising without a sharp learning curve. Building on that experience has allowed him to work in his dream job for the past 18 years.
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