Questions for Esther – switching careers: do I have to start from scratch?

 In a regular feature for EncoreEsther Clerehan answers agency and career questions.
Esther Clerehan

Hi Esther,

I’m a senior designer (motion graphics/TV/film) looking to switch sides into agency land – in a senior role there too. I have a lot of experience directing teams of designers, coming up with pitches, directing TVCs and creating motion graphics. I’ve won awards. I’ve also done AWARD School. But it seems that none of my experience counts with agency HR. Because most of my portfolio focuses on work done for an agency, rather than work done in an agency, HR only seem interested in hiring me as a junior AD (when they’re interested at all). I feel that with my experience providing award-winning solutions to clients (and not just graphic solutions, but solutions that tell a story), I can easily switch into a senior art director role (with a senior AD salary). How can a senior in design/TV move across to the other side of the fence without having to start from scratch again?


Designer Guy

Dear Designer Guy,

You’re not going to get a senior art director job in an agency.

The work you have was done for an agency, rather than in an agency, which means another creative team was responsible for the ideas and overall direction. The senior art director has cracked briefs from toothpaste to tomato sauce across every medium.

And they have a portfolio/website of high quality, produced ad campaigns that they conceived.

You have a combination of absolutely relevant skills and could package them up to combine ideas and craft.

Although you won’t get in at a senior level initially, if you do get in as a junior/mid, and adapt and develop those agency skills quickly, then your salary and title will quickly catch up. Good luck.

Esther Clerehan is a creative recruiter for the advertising industry. This column first appeared on lifeatthebottom.com

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