INTERVIEW WITH JUNIOR. KRISTI LIRA. FCB, CHICAGO

Hey everyone! She dreamed to get to advertising business since childhood. Today she works at one of the most creative agencies of the world. And she has a lot of important advices for you. Who knows maybe one day you will send her your portfolio. Read about starting career of junior copywriter at FCB Chicago, Kristi Lira

FCB

How did you become a junior copywriter at FCB Global? 

I loved writing as a kid and wanted to go into a creative field, so I majored in Advertising and PR. I started helping with in-house advertising for a hotel I bartended at, took an unpaid internship at a small multicultural agency and eventually landed a paid internship at Havas Chicago. My paid internship turned into freelance and then a full-time gig. I’d applied with FCB while I was still freelancing and a position opened up a few months later.

What did you think about FCB before you got a job? 

I was involved with Off the Street Club (Chicago’s oldest boys and girls club) and attended the annual banquet where FCB was the main sponsor and the agency went above and beyond in terms of creativity and fundraising for the nonprofit. FCB created an amazing song and music video for it—the proceeds of which went to the club. The agency’s energy and heart shone through. On top of that, FCB consistently kills it and produces award-winning work and is one of the top agencies in Chicago.

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How do you start every project? 

Typically projects begin with research and brainstorming. Sometimes we’re asked to create work for products we’re not familiar with, so it’s our responsibility to educate ourselves and work with the account team to get answers to our questions. Then we brainstorm. During a brainstorm there’s no bad ideas—don’t be shy. Something you think is a bad idea could be a good one, or it may spark something in someone else.
What do you like at FCB the most? 

I really like my team. People get along well and are supportive of each other. I like working with people who are always down to go the extra mile on assignments. There’s also pranks, shenanigans and Nerf gun battles that go down on a regular basis around here. Plus, we have free beer for late nights.

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How do senior colleagues support juniors at FCB? 

Seniors give creative feedback and oversee projects. They’re helpful and serve as a second set of eyes before the work goes to Associate Creative Directors, Creative Directors and the account team. I like that most of the seniors try not to change your ideas too much. They’ll just point you in the right direction and let you work on a solve, instead of tearing through your work and changing the message (I hear that happens other places).

In your opinion which singer could make a career in advertising? 

I KNOW Pharrell would have an amazing advertising career. A lot of artists need to be good at advertising because they’re a brand. The better artists write their own music and/or collaborate with others to do so. Pharrell excels at different musical styles. He’s not afraid to switch it up and explore new territories and play with different genres (R&B, funk-rock, hip hop and alternative). He’s super creative and he has no problem working behind the scenes and getting less of the glory as well (producing and/or writing music for Clipse, Madonna, Beyoncé, Britney Spears, Frank Ocean, Justin Timberlake, Jennifer Lopez and more). He’s an excellent writer, well spoken, has a great eye for art/fashion and most importantly he has an amazing attitude and work ethic. He’d be CCO in no time

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Last year FCB made a lot of awesome works. What does an agency do to create original ideas? 

In a word—collaboration. Great agencies tend to pool talent. A lot of FCB’s great work comes from well-oiled, dedicated teams, but game-changing work can also come from fresh eyes and new combinations. Collaboration is what both of these approaches have in common.

How much time do you spend on social networks or talking with colleagues during the work day? 

One agency I worked at urged us to spend 20% of our time on social networks. I think that’s brilliant and necessary to remain familiar with different platforms and trends. I personally spend about 20-30 minutes at work on social networks (typically during lunch), but much more in my free time. It’s important to stay on top of things like cultural trends and emerging social apps—you never know what you’ll find that could be implemented in your next campaign.

It’s common to chat during the day with colleagues. We’ll give each other a heads up about what’s trending or new technology, etc. A lot of our conversations come back around to advertising eventually, but there’s something to be said about being a well-rounded person with different interests. That’s important for creativity.

What could you advise juniors to do to get a job at agency of their dreams? 

Find the Right Fit

Get an internship. Get two. The worst advice I ever received was that I didn’t need an internship to get a job in advertising. While that might be true, it’s certainly hard. Find the agency you think is doing awesome work you’d like to do. Familiarize yourself with their work and clients. Find a way to stand out. You’ll have to do some research to find out what the culture is like. I visited Havas in a shark costume and announced I was “sharking a job” through the #iamheretotakeyourjob internship challenge on Instagram. Some agencies are a little more buttoned-up and less likely to a) let a sharkgirl (or boy) in and b) take your approach seriously.

Get Your Book Together

Have a website that showcases your work and personality well. Proofread your résumé and cover letters (and ask a friend to do so as well). Show a range of work. If you’re an Art Director, don’t just have packaging examples if you’re trying to land a gig on an integrated team. If you’re a Copywriter, don’t use the same quirky or colloquial tone for everything.

Venture to Gain

It’s smart to take risks in ways to stand out, but don’t go too crazy with it and know that it could be turn-off to some people. I did something similar at another agency in Chicago and never made it past reception (and I’m not sure my book did either) and that’s fine. Not every agency is going to be the right fit for you—that’s a good thing! If you’re a square peg you’re not going to dig that round hole anyway, it’s better not to force it. There are plenty of places that welcome that kind of boldness and fearlessness of failure.

Be Brave, Not Annoying

You don’t want to get blacklisted by an agency, so don’t be too aggressive. If one agency isn’t feeling you, move on to another you think would be a good fit. Try reaching out in a respectful way to the agency for an informational interview. Or, ask a recruiter or someone who’s in a position you’d want to coffee. Reach out. Do you know anyone at the agency? Or someone who knows someone? Network. Join young professional networking groups.

Find a Mentor

I’ve been so blessed to come across really great mentors. These people have helped guide more than just my campaigns—they’ve been critical in helping me make career decisions. My mentors range from a beloved college professor to an Associate Director and a Group Creative Director. Some networking groups have mentee programs, which I highly recommend getting involved in. I was part of the MAFA Mentee program in 2014 and loved it. I met a lot of talented people across all disciplines and learned a lot. Now I go to their Mixers to continue networking and try to help others who are seeking new job opportunities. Remember to help others realize their career aspirations as well. I’ve only been in advertising for a couple of years, but if I can offer insight or help someone else land a gig, that’s what I want to do, because it wasn’t so long ago I was in their shoes and I’d hope they’d pay it forward.

Keep at It

Everyone has a unique path. A lot of my peers went to portfolio school for a year. I chose to take an unpaid internship after applying to many paid internships and apprentice programs. Don’t give up. I had a lot of people tell me to try ad sales or other marketing positions. If that’s the right fit for you, awesome, go do that—they sound like fun and pay well. It wasn’t what I was looking for. Some people have called me “lucky.” I’m really grateful to get paid to do something that I love, but there was a lot more hard work, late nights and making time to do speculative work than luck involved. In a world where sometimes it really is about who you know, you need to work twice as hard if you don’t have those connections. Fair? No. But that’s life. You need talent, for sure, but hard work and persistence win you coveted positions and promotions. There’s a quote I find to be so true (it’s attributed to a couple of people) “Hard work beats talent when talent fails to work hard.” Stay sharp and make sure you’re capitalizing on opportunities—don’t take them for granted.

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