Close-Up: A short memo to creative directors of the next decade

The toughest challenge for graduates eyeing a creative career is standing out from their fellow applicants.

In 2007, a group of friends working in advertising formed the Young Creative Council as a way of encouraging and helping advertising graduates to get into the industry. Today, the YCC boasts more than 1,500 members, runs a series of portfolio and social nights, and is fathered by a collective of creative heads from a range of top UK agencies. Here, Paul Mann, one of the YCC's founders and a creative at Inferno, shares tips on the things that every graduate must bear in mind when leaving university to conquer the advertising world.

- Know what you're up against

After three years on an ad course, you feel ready to take on the baddest of the agency giants. Then you arrive in a city like London and you find that there's a lot of competition. Suddenly there are hundreds of grads (from a wide range of backgrounds) pursuing the exact placements and jobs you thought would be there for the taking.

Some friends of mine were once told "at uni you're a big fish in a small pond, then when you arrive in a big city you become a minuscule fish in a vast lake". Scratch that. You become a tiny fish in a vast lake full of robo-sharks, who are all out to get you. Move quickly, but make sure you do it with manners - you can guarantee a creative director will pick you over similar competition if they like you as a person.

- Don't worry, nobody understands you

Confusion begins early. Like when you bring another guy home and introduce him to your parents as "your partner". Or when you bring your lady creative partner home, only for your mum to speculate about how good you look as a couple. Then during a placement drought you approach a member of staff at the job centre only for them to advise you that a career in leaflet design is your best option. "But where's your CV?" they'll ask quizzically. So make sure you keep yourself focused on the task at hand. Immerse yourself in the industry, identify the right people to approach and go about things in your own way.

- Make your portfolio your own

On the placement circuit, you'll naturally get a mixed bag of opinions but, ultimately, it comes down to what you think is relevant and allows your talent to shine. If you adapt your work solely to accommodate the comments of one creative director, there's a big chance this won't be what the next one is looking for. Don't be afraid to change your book as your interests evolve. The agency that employs you is the one that will be best suited to you and your portfolio.

- Do something different

It seems cliched to say it, but different is always the way to stand out.

If you were to see a clown wade through a sea of suits in the City at 8.15am, he'd be the one thing you'd remember, right? Good practice is to inject creativity into your everyday life, not just in the creation of your ad portfolio.

Today, the best agencies are looking for so much more. Schemes like Wieden & Kennedy's Platform state "we don't do advertising", and then go on to say "join us and help us work out what it is we should be doing in the future".Who wouldn't want to be a part of that?

So know a little bit about a lot; go hiking or try your hand at knitting, whatever. What you're offering an agency today may not be what's traditionally expected but it will be what's needed in the years to come.

- Rules are there to be broken

The 60s saw the idea of "creative teams" come to fruition. In 2010, is it not interesting to note that this is still largely standard practice? Who is going to stand up, challenge conventions and become the next Bill Bernbach, Paul Arden or Sir John Hegarty? As a creative, why not challenge the status quo by going it alone? Or, if you're really brave, you could try a threesome.

Senior industry types constantly observe that there are no longer those people pushing the boundaries "like people did in their day" -that the stories of crazy antics are diminishing. If these people are yearning for a bit of sparkle to be injected back into the industry, then why can't you make a name for yourself and be the one to give it to them?

Now, go forth and steal our jobs. Good times and even better wages depend on it. We live by the motto: "People who do, change the world. Everyone else is just living here." You should too.

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