Shari Saidiner tried just about everything. She sent out dozens of resumes. She made repeated phone calls. She even kept a computerized file on every advertising agency executive who sent her so much as a form rejection letter.
But no job offers came her way. And when Saidiner--who graduated from USC in May--went to her high school reunion, she was so embarrassed about not having a job at an ad agency that she lied and told her former classmates that she did.
Well, she does now. Saidiner was recently hired by the Los Angeles office of the ad firm Hal Riney & Partners. But it didn't happen by accident. The lucky break came when Saidiner got the idea of attending one of the monthly lunch meetings of the Advertising Club of Los Angeles at the Beverly Hilton.
Saidiner bought a ticket at the door and arrived armed with a handful of resumes. But she sat there for 90 minutes, afraid to look at anyone or anything besides the chicken bone on her plate. When the speeches ended, however, she noticed that one of the speakers, Jay Chiat, chairman of the Venice ad firm Chiat/Day, was standing at the end of a very long line of executives waiting for taxis. She approached him--timidly, at first--but before he stepped into his cab, she placed a resume in his hand.
That well-placed resume got her an immediate interview at Chiat/Day. Although she wasn't qualified for that agency's openings, an executive there knew that the recently opened Los Angeles office of the ad firm Hal Riney & Partners was hiring. And that referral quickly helped her land a job as account group secretary, followed by a promotion to office manager.
"I never thought that the work would all pay off," said Saidiner. "But it did." Saidiner, who was previously an advertising research intern at the Los Angeles office of the ad firm HDM, hopes to some day become an agency creative director--the person in charge of creating advertisements.
Advertising agency executives agree that Saidiner's way--persistence--is probably the best way to land a job in the tight Los Angeles advertising market. "The secret is to demonstrate passion," said Peter Stranger, president of the Los Angeles office of the ad firm Della Femina, McNamee WCRS. "That means not just writing letters and making one phone call, but things like calling and calling and calling, and even making friends with people who answer the phones."
And what will this determination get you? Well, executives say that $17,000-$18,500 a year goes to secretaries at Los Angeles advertising firms; $20,000-$35,000 to account executives (who work directly with clients on ad planning); $40,000-$70,000 to account supervisors (who oversee account executives), and more than $70,000 to management representatives (who shoulder overall responsibility for clients).
Of course there are other agency jobs, too. Like the mail room. Just ask Miles G. Turpin, who started out 10 years ago as a clerk in Della Femina's mail room in Los Angeles. His father happens to be Miles J. Turpin, president of Grey Advertising's Los Angeles office. But Miles G. says he didn't get the job because of his father. "I got it because I knocked on 20 doors," said Turpin, now associate creative director at the agency. "Besides, I was willing to take a job in the mail room."
From there, it was a long road to his current post. Within six months, he became a paste-up artist--basically, a person who glues ads onto story boards. And within a year he was promoted to junior art director when the woman who previously held the post took a maternity leave.
But to become a full-fledged art director, he says he had to go to another agency. "Everyone knew me as the mail boy," he explained. "And who wants an ex-mail boy as art director?" The Los Angeles office of Foote, Cone & Belding named him art director, and after four years there he spent one year with Chiat/Day. Then, five months ago, Della Femina rehired him as an associate creative director.
Sometimes, however, a career in advertising can require even more sacrifice. That includes a willingness to work for nothing. At the ad firm Rubin Postaer & Associates, for example, the four summer interns weren't paid a nickel.
"When someone asks you if you're willing to work for nothing, you should raise your hand," said Gerrold R. Rubin, president of the agency. "It's a real character-tester. If you want something bad enough, that's the kind of commitment you have to be willing to make to get it. "
What's more, Rubin said, he isn't interested in hiring account executives who have spent their summers traveling abroad. "I want to see that they have done real work. They should know what it is to make a sale," he said. "These are people who sold shoes over the summer at Nordstrom. They weren't traveling by charter from one foreign city to another."
And if you want to get into the creative end of the advertising business, that too will require some time, some skill and some brutal honesty.
"If you open up an issue of the New Yorker and don't immediately envision yourself making those kinds of ads," said Leonard Pearlstein, president of the ad agency, Keye/Donna/Pearlstein, "chances are you won't make it in this business."