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Advertising account executive: Entry requirements

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Although this area of work is open to all graduates, a degree or HND in the following subjects may increase your chances, especially as advertising is an increasingly competitive sector to enter:

  • advertising;
  • marketing;
  • communications;
  • English;
  • business/management.

A degree or HND is usually required, especially in large agencies. Entry without a degree or HND but with a proven track record of relevant work experience may be considered, more typically in smaller or specialist agencies. However, graduates are often preferred, so candidates without a degree may have to consider starting at a more junior level.

Pre-entry work experience is extremely desirable and an excellent way to gain an understanding of how an agency works. Work experience also enables you to make some valuable contacts to use when you are looking for a permanent role as an account executive. It can be undertaken via vacation work, placements or job shadowing. Some larger agencies offer formal work experience/internship programmes, often in the form of summer schools. More details on work experience can be found at the Institute of Practitioners in Advertising (IPA) .

As advertising is so competitive, work experience may sometimes prove difficult to get, but any other work experience in a commercial context may be helpful. Undertaking a period of voluntary work is also an alternative way of gaining valuable experience.

Potential candidates need to show evidence of the following:

  • excellent communication and interpersonal skills;
  • a proactive attitude, with the ability to use initiative;
  • excellent organisational skills;
  • the ability to work under pressure and assimilate large quantities of information quickly, whilst paying attention to detail;
  • drive;
  • flexibility;
  • experience of effective teamworking skills;
  • influencing and negotiation skills;
  • oral and written communication skills;
  • commercial awareness;
  • a passion for advertising and an understanding of what makes a good advertisement;
  • a willingness to learn;
  • resilience, to enable you to deal with problems and constructive criticism;
  • IT literacy and an awareness of how the industry is developing in the light of new communication technologies.

Larger agencies, which have graduate training schemes, invite applications through their websites. These are usually made early in the autumn term of your final year. Smaller and specialist agencies recruit as vacancies arise, often using specialised websites or recruitment consultancies.

A speculative, targeted application using a focused, attention-grabbing CV and covering letter can also be an effective approach. Try to learn as much as possible about advertising, the role of account executives and about the organisation you wish to work for, and then apply directly.

It is helpful to read job adverts in the trade press and request vacancy details to help you get a feel for the combination of skills and industry knowledge that an advertising account executive needs. Consider related posts, e.g. in sales, marketing or public relations, for work experience, as employers often find the skills and experience gained in related roles transferable to advertising.

Networking may also be beneficial in helping you to secure a marketing position. Your university careers service may host events giving you the opportunity to gain contacts and meet industry representatives.

Social networking sites offer an increasingly effective way to network with advertising professionals. The Institute of Practitioners in Advertising (IPA)  has further details about social networking and blogs on its website.

For more information, see work experience and internships and search postgraduate courses.

Written by AGCAS editors
October 2013

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