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Turn your placement into a job

Creative Director Simon Mannion on optimising your opportunities when on a placement or internship

Simon Mannion, Creative Director at Iris, has a wealth of experience in the creative industry and shares his top tips for young creatives on the ways to get the most from your internship, what agencies look for when they hire, and how to turn your work experience into a full time job. If you are a young creative making your first steps in the creative industry, read on for Simon's thoughts.

So you’ve managed to bag yourself a placement in an agency. Well, that’s the easy part. The hard part is staying there. Having trawled the placement trail myself and witnessed countless teams come through our doors, there are a few tricks I’ve gleaned over the years that may help turn your placement stint into something more substantial. Of course, there’s no substitute for great work, but the following should help.

Work the floor

I’m continually amazed by students who sit in the corner hiding away for their entire placement. From day one you need everyone to know you exist. Make a point of walking around the creative dept, introducing yourself to every single team. You’ll discover far more about what’s happening at the agency this way than staying at your desk.
The most important person is not the ECD
ECDs are busy people. They’re concerned with the welfare of the creative product, not the welfare of placement students. Every single brief the agency works on goes through the Head of Resource. If there’s a whiff of a potentially award-winning brief coming in, they’ll know about it. So smile, laugh at their jokes and keep talking to them. 
Be greedy
Hopefully you’ll be given a brief to get your teeth into but don’t stop there. If you hear of another opportunity, grab it. This will not only improve your chance of getting work made but also prove you’re hungry. Just don’t forget about the brief you were originally given. 
Become best mates with the best team
Before you start at an agency, do your homework. Find out who does the best work and make friends with them from day one. As a rule, creatives are nice folk. If you ask nicely they should reward you with something very precious; their time. So before any reviews, get your work sense-checked by the team to give your ideas the strongest chance.
Get your hands dirty
When I started out, many nights were spent cutting out and boarding up ads ready for a pitch the following day. I didn’t write the ads but I knew someone had to do it and I wanted to prove I’d do anything to stay there. I’ve noticed many students nowadays don’t offer their services, which is a little sad and a little short-sighted. When things go awry, people at the top need to know they have people around them that will roll up their sleeves and help out at a moment’s notice. 
Be heard
All going well you’ll eventually find yourself in a big fancy meeting. This could be a briefing or a review of your work. You may feel intimidated or unsure what’s being said but let me reassure you, I’ve been doing this job for twenty years and still find myself in meetings where I don’t understand what someone’s banging on about. No one knows everything. The only way to understand is to ask. Don’t be shy, no one’s going to snigger. On the contrary, it’ll show you’re keen and I guarantee it will improve your work.
Be nice
When agencies hire, they not only look for ability but also personality. If you’re going to be stuck in a room for days on end pitching or working several months on a big campaign, you need to know you’re going to get on. You’ll hear the word ‘culture’ a lot at agencies. It’s not just about creating a culture that produces great work but also a culture that’s great to work in. 
Good luck.

Take a look at more tips and inspiration to help you kick start your creative career or with your New Bloods entry.

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