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How do I get a job out of college as an account manager? What makes a successful advertising account manager?

I am graduating in December 2018 with a degree in Advertising from San Jose State University. I want to work in account management/client services in an advertising agency after graduation. I have a bit of familiarity with what this role entails and what the advertising industry is like. However, I would love to hear first hand from professionals. I want to start honing in on skills that will make me a competitive candidate as I enter the job market. Any advice is appreciated. Thank you!

#advertising #marketing-and-advertising #sales #business #business-development

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Stefania’s Answer

Hi Ben,

I have a soft spot for advertising because it's where my career started! It's a fun industry full of energy, creativity and great people. It's a lot of work and many hours, but if you love being part of something great and creative, you'll enjoy yourself immensely. A great part of account management is understanding that you are ultimately responsible for the final product and that you are the middle man between both the client and your in-house creative people. Therefore, there's a lot of running around to make sure it all happens and all happens on time. You have to set timelines and adhere to them strictly. You also have to make sure both parties -- clients -- and in house creatives are happy.

Important skills to have apart from the know-how are communication, time management, detail orientation (you'll be the last person signing off on ads so they need to be perfect) and problem solving. You'll be juggling many things at once so it's important to be organized. Before you set your sights on becoming an account manager, traditionally you would start as an account executive, work your way up to supervisor and then managerial levels. So my best recommendation would be to sift through the ad agencies that interest you, depending on your location. Choose your top contenders and then dig around their Career section to see the job description and requirements they are asking for in an entry level position like an account executive or assistant. See how you fit and where your development areas are. This will also help you get a feel for their company mission and culture, which is important when you interview. You can also look into LinkedIn or job search engines like Indeed.com to see what agencies are looking for in a candidate. If you have the opportunity to Intern anywhere, I would highly recommend looking into it. It's a fantastic way to get a little experience and exposure under your belt.

I'd also recommend reading up on the recent news trends and ongoings in the ad world (AdWeek and Advertising Age are great resources). Pick a few campaigns you really love and be prepared to talk about why you think they hit the mark with audiences in case you are asked.

Hope that helps, good luck to you!

Stefania recommends the following next steps:

Narrow down your top agencies and research job descriptions for the role you are going for and how you stack up against requirements
Get informed by reading trade magazines or joining professional associations and following the recent trends in the space
Key soft skills: communication, problem solving, creativity, collaboration, initiative, time management, detail orientation

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Angela’s Answer

Hello! I've been in software sales for 6+ years and any opportunity you have to shadow professionals or get an internship can be a fantastic stepping stone. You should have some experiences ready to discuss on where you had to work with a team on group projects and discuss how you overcame obstacles, how you met deadlines, how you have provided exceptional customer service, etc. Of course the more internships you have the bigger your network and the more opportunities you have! I don't know much about the advertising space but teh components of sales are still the same, make sure you understand the why behind the involvement with your company and be able to demonstrate the how the value of your solution/service aligns to that company's mission. Sales is simply a transference of one's beliefs to another. If you are passionate about your product/service, that will shine to you customers!

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Jeff’s Answer

My number one piece of advice is that you need to secure at least one professional internship in an ad agency or a corporate marketing department prior to graduation. Not only will you gain real world experience it will be an almost essential step in your journey toward becoming an advertising professional. Also to be an account manager it is important that you have a well rounded education to include a mix of business, marketing and communications courses and experiences. Get involved in on campus ad club and or a like organization.

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Charles’s Answer

Let me say this. If you want to do this you have a thirst for sales. You have to be able to keep pushing all the people saying no in the hopes you find that one customer.

when you say Account Manager it’s usually called Account Executive. Managers are people who put their time in as AE’s, and are more about setting goals, pricing, and managing a sales staff. The higher up you go the more pressure there is for upur team to meet your quota.

Next always remember to listen to your customers. It’s not about a slick sales pitch but forming a relationship with customers. You want to establish yourself as an expert in your field and a trusted advisor who can make their business grow. It takes a person who’s a self starter and a entrepreneur of sorts. I can tell you the guys I deal with need someone who they can trust. Sometimes it’s about putting in a little time on a client meeting. Sometimes it’s about valuing their time and cutting through it all. A good salesperson is a little bit of psychologist. Identifying quickly the personality type and figuring out the best way to relay your information to them.

I’ve worked with a range of sales people. Some were seasoned and had their contacts they built up over time through working relationships. Some were fresh out of college and cold calling mom and pops, scrapping for any business leads.

In any sales career you will lean months and fat months. When you do well, don’t spend it, save it! Because when you hit a lean month, that savings may mean the difference between hamburgers or ramen for dinner.

Charles recommends the following next steps:

So intern in different sales jobs
Find mentors to learn from. Be careful as not everyone has integrity.
Look for sales jobs.
Get a thorough understanding of marketing, ratings, and demographics. AE’s daily have to identify what shows and sales programs will best deliver results to their clients.
Learn social media and web marketing.

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Lindsey’s Answer

I graduated this past May (2020) and just started as a Customer Account Manager at a technology company. My biggest piece of advice to someone looking for a similar career trajectory is to network while you're in college! I'm sure that your alumni center has a catalog of graduates who are account managers. I recommend reaching out to them. Set up informational interviews and learn about the things that they did to get where they are now in their careers. Attend networking events at your college and join clubs that pertain to your career interests. If you're interested in sales, try sales competitions if they are available. Often times, these competitions have career fairs and networking events as well. I know several new graduates who found jobs as account managers this way.

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Allie’s Answer

The best way to start in sales in as an Sales Development Rep (SDR) or a Business Development Rep (BDR). These roles will teach you the fundamentals of sales techniques. These roles lead to internal promotions and if you find you don't want to be in sales companies will usually help you move to a different department internally.

Some of the best advice I can give someone who wants to start a career in sales is get use to hearing "No"- don't let it stop you, know your products or services inside and out, learn how to ask open ended questions, battle objections before they get brought up, and always keep learning- read sales books, take online courses, and don't be afraid to ask for help.

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Megan’s Answer

Hi there,

I would recommend getting a sales internship at university as a great starting point. Post university, a lot of tech organisations have roles called SDRs (also sales development representatives, BDR, business development representative, ADR, account development representative, etc.). Here is an example: https://adobe.wd5.myworkdayjobs.com/en-US/external_experienced/job/San-Mateo/Sales-Development-Representative_76586. You can find roles like this in advertising technology companies, as well as agencies.

This is a very good entry level role to pivot to a successful career in account management, sales, customer success, management, or marketing!

Megan recommends the following next steps:

Look into what requirements would be relevant and try to align your internships with these!

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Jason’s Answer

I'd recommend to start reaching out to people on linkedin immediately. The more contacts you have while you are still in school the easier it will be to get a foot in the door or even an internship.

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Robert’s Answer

HI Ben,

I studied advertising in school, and began my career in the field. I was fortunate to get a couple internships prior to graduating- that helped me make contacts in the industry. So when I graduated, I was a step ahead and was able to land a position fairly quickly.

Some thoughts below.

Hope this helps.

Best of luck.


Robert recommends the following next steps:

Cozy up to your instructors and see if they have contacts at agencies... that is how I got my internships. (I imagine also if your school has a focused advertising program, the placement office there can help too).
Scour the trade mags classified ads- and reach out to them and let them know you are graduating end of the year- see if there are any local internships that you could perhaps get now while you finish up school. Otherwise- just reach out to them, and let them know when you are graduating and see if they will consider now for when you complete your degree. It's rare, but it happens. :)
You may also want to expand your search to consider advertising/marketing roles on the client side vs the agency side. There are tons of these hidden positions available and is a great way to get into the workforce. From my experience, companies like to hire graduates, since they can train you the way they want you to perform these roles.

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Andrew’s Answer

Get experience selling. When I graduated college and interviewed for sales / account management jobs, that was the number one thing employers were looking for. They want to know that you understand selling is hard work and that only the most tenacious succeed.

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Frank’s Answer

Make sure you are comfortable selling because that is what most account managers have to do.

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Scott’s Answer

Read a book a week from this list: