, How To Get An Advertising Job Without The Connections

How To Get An Advertising Job Without The Connections

By Kara Gonchar, Copywriter, MRM//McCann

Put simply—job searching is a pain in the ass. But the advertising industry has a particularly bad rep: it’s a struggle to break in, get employed after layoffs, or find a new job. I was lucky to have a mom who worked in the industry, but even after 40 years she couldn’t get me a foot in the door. Plus, I didn’t go to art school or have a portfolio coming out of college, so that didn’t help me much. Editor’s note: I eventually found my way.

, How To Get An Advertising Job Without The Connections

Over a year ago at my last agency, my art partner found a new job. I had hoped to be paired with someone new, but was getting stir crazy waiting. It was getting harder over time to get put on projects without a partner, so I thought it might be time to start looking. After all, it can take a year or longer to find a new role, and not just any new role, but a good one. As RuPaul would say, “Can I get an amen?” So, I went to the one place I’ve always gone to when it came to advertising world advice—Fishbowl.

If you’re not familiar, you’re about to be. Fishbowl is a social networking app for various industries (consulting, finance, law, teachers, accounting) created for professionals. My favorite part? Everything can be anonymous. Fishbowl facilitates transparent conversations to help move industries forward. Pretty cool, huh?

I joined Fishbowl two and a half years ago. Since then, I’ve turned to the app for guidance every day. But I’m not alone. People spend 15 minutes a day on average using Fishbowl (compared to 15 minutes a month on LinkedIn). The app gave me access to thousands of professionals from different backgrounds, all armed and ready to help me approach situations. At times, it was beyond advice: it was pep talks during bouts of imposter syndrome, DMs that turned to coffee dates, free reviews of my work, and the sharing of horror stories.

, How To Get An Advertising Job Without The Connections

So when it really came time for me to leave my last agency, I knew I could put my career in the hands of those I’d been trusting this whole time…complete strangers.

I couldn’t keep applying for jobs thinking that my info would go into the never-ending abyss. My cold emails to recruiters were becoming desperate…at least it felt that way. My coffee dates with CDs I’d met through Fishbowl, though constructive, didn’t lead to any leads. When it came to getting a new role, I was clearly floundering. Why couldn’t I get an agency to take the bait? Was I fishing in the wrong pond? Should I stop using fish puns already??

Then it hit me—if I had someone already at an agency pass along my book WITH my application, that might boost my chances of being noticed. Plus, even if I reached out to a complete stranger, at least my portfolio would make it into an inbox and not into a boundless void of ignored applications. And that’s exactly what I did.

, How To Get An Advertising Job Without The Connections

With each role that I applied to, I posted on Fishbowl asking if someone working there would pass along my book to the right person. The anonymous part worked in my favor because I was able to say, “I can DM you my work” rather than posting my link outright and thus outing my search to my current agency.

A lot of the time, I got nothin’—no bites, no comments. Sometimes, people would jump on the bandwagon asking for the same thing I did, and I can’t blame them for that.

But eventually, someone commented on one of my posts and willingly volunteered to share my work with their agency’s recruiter. I thanked them profusely and didn’t expect much out of it. But this was the first time the approach showed promise and for that I was grateful.

Two days later, I got an email from the recruiter at that agency.

Here’s the best part—I got an email from another recruiter that same week about a position at another agency. Turns out I was meeting with a GCD that I’d connected with on Fishbowl a few months prior.

I received offers from both agencies (let me humble brag just a little) and I chose my current agency where I’ve been the past nine months. 

, How To Get An Advertising Job Without The Connections


To top it all off, I was invited to become a Community Leader for Fishbowl just last month. I’m providing direction for online ad community conversation. We’ve come full circle, folks.

But I can’t just leave you with an anecdote about how Fishbowl helped me. In the spirit of community, I wanted to give my top six tips for using the app to find your next gig:


1. Join the Job Board bowl

People are constantly posting leads there. And if you’re not looking for a job, but know of an open role, give a little back! It’ll feel pretty good.


2. Network beyond the app

Update: it’s not weird to network with people in your field in-person. It can be intimidating at first BUT it’s worth it. Even if it doesn’t result in a new job, you can get a fresh set of eyes on your work with a side of unbiased advice.


3. If you dare:  join the Book Review bowl

This bowl is for those who like it given to ‘em straight. Post your book and get some feedback on your work. It’s especially useful before you start applying because you can better your book before sending it out.


4. For support: join the Women in Advertising bowl

For when you’re feeling crazy frustrated with the job search process. Join it. Thank me later.


5. Don’t be afraid to DM

When someone posts about a job opening, DM them. If you want a new project for your book, team up with someone over DM to work on a Young Lions submission or spec work.


6. Turn on networking mode

This is a pretty rad feature where bowl members can see you and you can see them. If you go to the specific bowl’s settings and turn it on, it allows people to DM you and see that you’re part of that community.

The app was made for working professionals, all of whom are willing to lend a hand when you need it most. So I leave you with some parting words that will make you cringe but are still very valid—download the app, cast out a line, and see if you get hooked on a new role.

Kara Gonchar, Copywriter, MRM//McCann


👉 Get on Fishbowl

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