Self-Promoting Your Foot in the Door

It’s December and it’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas everywhere you goooo… Sorry, but those pesky songs are in my head already. But, in all honesty, no truer words have been sung because it’s everywhere you look: cards, gifts, special deals, text messages, banner ads, tv spots, and newspapers everywhere! All the messaging really stretches our attention span and patience. We are inundated with so many different things, all to gain a few moments of our attention. It’s amazing we come out remembering Christmas Day at all.

This feeling of being barraged is the same feeling I get year-round with résumés. I honestly can’t count how many résumés I get in a year, let alone in a week. As I receive all of these résumés, I often wonder if those that email them actually expect to get a job out of clicking “send”? It’s so cold. So impersonal. How do you capture your personality or show ingenuity in an email? In all my years I’ve never hired someone or been hired without having some kind of prior relationship. A relationship and a good reputation is still the tried-and-true method. Understandably so, those coming out of college or others trying to break into a creative circle have to do things a little more creatively.

Other than the annoying alternatives like stopping by, mailing and cold calling what else can you do? I’ve seen creatives use eBay, billboards, craigslist, funny cover letters, cool brochure pieces, direct mail—you name it, I/we’ve all seen it. Creatives have been trying to connect with creative directors for as long as there have been advertising agencies. So how was it done in the past?

Now steady on—I don’t go back to the beginning of advertising—but for me it was using a fax machine that got me my first break. Yep, a fax machine. When I first moved to America I didn’t have a clue as to who was who and what was what. I looked up the ad agencies in the Yellow Pages and just faxed my résumé to them all. Through timing (and the fact that nobody had reached out like this in the past) my résumé rose to the top and my first employer called me in. It got me in the door and after that it was up to my winning charm, my amazing book and the fact that I thought 19K a year was a boatload of money to make me a keeper!

Looking back on it, I think faxing a résumé is a terrible idea. It’s impersonal, poor quality, and you get zero control over the end product. But the fact that it hadn’t been done like that before (15 years ago) was so unusual that it caught the eye. It also helped that it was one page and I had actually designed with the fax in mind. Faxing a résumé was so dumb it worked as a one-time trick.

Before I started writing this article I did a cursory online search of suggested ways to get your résume to stand out. Looking at what I saw helped me to understand why I see so much of the same thing. I found quirky emails with clever subject lines, résumés with way too many infographics (don’t get me started on these!), large portfolios being delivered by mail, or worse yet, people showing up at your front door to drop off a résumé or people who show up expecting an appointment. These approaches are annoying and a nuisance, just like holiday radio commercials. We know they are there and we choose to ignore them. Unfortunately the Internet has a way of regurgitating them over and over again, knowing that it’ll increase website traffic and appease their online ad sales. I understand why people do this, but as creatives we aren’t looking for the same old thing; we are looking for that person that we can bring on board to bring more new ideas to our agency.

And so I thought back to examples of when it was done right. The examples below show how a great approach can turn the tables so you aren’t seeking out agencies, agencies are saying, “I want you.” This seldom happens, but sometimes an idea takes on a new life and captures your attention on a deeper level, resulting in, “Damn, I wish I had thought of that!”

Below are two examples to be inspired by.

The Case of Google AdWords

Alec Brownstein is a copywriter who saw an opportunity. At 28, he realized that to become more successful he had to do something unique to stand out. So he approached finding his dream job like he would any creative project. He created his own brief using a simple objective: “I want to work directly with an amazing Creative Director.” Well, who wouldn’t want to do that, right? His brief got him on the right track to stumble upon a gem of an idea. While Googling his favorite creative directors he noticed that there were no sponsored links associated to their names. Many creatives Google themselves; maybe it’s ego, maybe it’s seeing if they are gaining any traction out there. Who knows? But many do.

With a name like John Howard I gave up on that years ago. But Alec thought something a little different. If he was Googling himself, maybe these amazing creative directors are doing the same thing. Bingo. For only $6 Alec got his name and website listed in the top search spots by using this message: “Hey, [creative director’s name]: Googling yourself is a lot of fun. Hiring me is fun, too.” This included a link to his website, A couple months after doing this he was hired by Y&R and yes, by a couple of his favorite creative directors. He understood his audience and with precision marketing he stood out from all the Fa La La La La’s. And he kept control over his destiny—finding employ with specific people he wanted to work with. (Source:

The Case of the QR Talking Resume

Victor Petit from Paris, France must of looked at his résumé and wondered if it made him look two-dimensional. Résumés are mundane for a reason: it’s “just the facts, ma’am.” Victor probably wished he could just talk to the person receiving the résumé and so with that in mind, he took that approach. Explaining what he did is more complicated than just seeing it work. But very simply, Victor placed a QR code over his mouth on a big picture of himself on the back of his résumé. Using a QR reader on an iPhone, the QR code took the iPhone to a YouTube video of his mouth. Between Victor’s mouth talking to you via the iPhone and the large format photo of his face, Victor made a truly interactive experience. What makes him a genius is in how he recognized that the largest group of people who actually use QR codes are those in marketing. This quickly traveled around the world and he was sought out in no time. (Source:

And so the other man with white hair and a white mustache once said, “with every action there’s an equal opposite reaction.” I have no facts to back this up, but when it comes to self-promotion or to the general job-searching effort I believe this holds true. I’ve noticed that those who put little effort into getting their job usually end up with an unfulfilling job. This effort is directly related. I’ve seen friends put every effort into getting the job that they wanted and all that hard work eventually paid off in their careers. The effort will help you find the gem and that might be the difference in people seeking you out. The way you reach out to an ad agency gives them a glimpse into how you approach creative assignments and how your mind works. So what’s the secret in connecting with a creative director? Be original.

John Howard is the Associate Creative Director at Saturday Brand Communications, a strategic advertising agency where everyday is like the best day in the week. Learn more about Saturday at

By John Howard (with help from James Ward)
Published December 10, 2013