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Practical Career Tips From a College Grad (Who Has a Dream Job in LA)

Less than two years after graduating from the University of Texas at Austin, Julianne Perry is happily working in Los Angeles as an advertising copywriter at SapientRazorfish while some of her friends are still struggling to find work. Julianne – Forté’s first ever intern – took some smart steps as an Advertising/English undergrad that helped position her for post-college success. Here she shares what made the difference between working at a job and launching a dream career.

When did your ideas about your career start to really develop? What do you do in your current job? How did you land it?

I always knew I wanted to do something creative that had people interaction. I have always been interested in words, journalism and writing. I thought about law, but advertising for now is the best place for me. I get to adapt the tone and voice for lots of clients. I am the sole writer on the Honda account, and I used to work for consumer goods in the food industry. Before that, I focused on technology and entertainment brands, the NFL and Western Digital. I enjoy the diversity of learning about different brands.

I applied to jobs in every major city on the east and west coasts, and the offer in Los Angeles was the best option.

What were some activities you did as an undergrad to help you stand out when it came time to look for a job?

While I was an undergrad, I was very active in two organizations at UT: the Liberal Arts Council and Texas Spirit. I took on public relations and marketing roles for both of these organizations – for example, web site development, social media, event promotion, and content creation. I wanted my resume to show people that I had practical experience. I learned how to get things done with fewer resources because both organizations were scrappy. In addition to interning at Forté from 2013 – 2016, I had other marketing internships in the summers – at a school district and at Texas Monthly magazine. It was good experience to learn to write in a specific voice. I also interned at CNBC in New Jersey – it was an amazing experience learning to do promotions for TV shows.

What was your immediate post-college experience like? For example, did you go to work right away? Take time off?

The way advertising works post-college is you have a three-month internship and move into a permanent role. Throughout my senior fall and spring, I was in a special portfolio program. We had a final review in April, which helped me get a job at R/GA in Los Angeles. Another agency in LA I worked with hired me as a freelancer at Edelman. While doing that, I kept applying for jobs and landed at SapientRazorfish, where I now work full-time.

What practical advice do you have for undergrads who are unsure about their career paths?

College is the perfect place to explore as much as you can. I fully support people exploring different classes, clubs or organizations that you have interest in.  When you start your career post-college, there is time to explore career paths. In the real world, I can still meet people, ask questions, and take classes. There is not one set career path for the rest of your life.

What advice do you have for recent graduates who are applying for jobs and feeling frustrated?

Some practical tips that helped me:

  • Be prepared and customize – I had a “toolkit” when applying for jobs – a cover letter, a marketing resume template and an advertising resume template. Make sure everything is updated and tailored to the company and the position they are hiring for. A lot of people do not customize their resumes or cover letters, and it helps your chances to do research beforehand.
  • Reach out to your professional network – Do not be afraid to ask questions or reach out to people, whether you know them or not. People are very helpful if you show an interest in what they are doing, and you can learn about the field or role you’re interested in.
  • Talk to anyone about their career experiences – Talk to people about what they did post-college – even friends of your parents or parents of your friends. What is the day-to-day of what they do? Ask for personal stories or how they got somewhere.
  • Find mentors – If I had to do college over again, I would stress to my younger self to find powerful women mentors through professional student organizations, internships or family members. In advertising, most of the powerful women work in accounts, but there is a growing number who work in creative. It is important to start networking early.

Opportunities will eventually come your way as long as you keep pursuing and exploring.

What do you like about your chosen career?

Advertising is a very people driven experience. I like working with incredibly creative people, jumping to new brands and accounts, and writing for different media about varied content.

What has surprised you most about post-college life?

When I got a job, my dad said, “You are on your own now, your company provides benefits.” You are always learning. You are learning how to pay rent and income tax, vote on local issues, and how to meet new people in an environment not like college. Learning how to do these things is gradual, and I still call my parents for things like “How do I replace a flat tire?”

Do you have thoughts on your future – other things you would like to accomplish or paths you might take?

I want to explore as many cities as possible. Whether abroad or in the US, I see myself moving around and gaining new experiences. I always thought I would like to take on a leadership role, and I have started managing other people. I didn’t think it would happen so soon. I would love to be a creative director in an ad agency. We need more women as creative directors, and I would love to be one of them. I would also like to explore the business and marketing side of advertising – whether through post-grad education or gaining experience.

What would you tell a young woman who asked you: how can Forté help me?

Forté is a career driver. It is also a really good place to meet other women who have a drive to succeed in business or another career. With its depth of resources, Forté is also a way to gain new perspectives and experiences.

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