Dear Graduate: We Want To See Your Resume. (But Read This First.)

Blogpost by Jim Copacino, Chief Creative Officer and Co-Founder of Seattle-based ad agency Copacino + Fujikado

You just framed your newly-minted diploma and you are ready to rap your knuckles on every ad agency door you can find. You love the creativity, the energy, and the glamor the industry promises. Yet a little voice in the back of your mind that asks, “Am I really cut out for this?”

Not everyone settles comfortably into their first career move. (A recent Gallup Poll reports that Millennials changed jobs three times more frequently than non-Millennials last year.) Before you start your job search, it may help to consider the seven personality traits that can reliably predict success for an ad agency employee.

The Lifelong Learner

As a baby, one of your first words was “Why?” You want to know how glaciers were formed, how microchips work, and what makes an ad campaign successful. You see life as a giant, joyous classroom. What’s more, you’re adept at taking learning from one area, and applying it to another. (Who knew that a line from Hamlet would be useful in a creative brief for a life insurance company?) Ask yourself: Do you read widely? Are you likely to enroll in classes after graduation for the sheer joy of learning? What new hobbies or interests will you pursue this year?

The Problem Solver

You don’t see an obstacle as a headache or a crisis. You see it as mountain to climb and you revel in every step up the slope. You have an impressive set of tools in your backpack: Rigorous logic, creative imagination, and dogged determination. You look at a problem from every angle and push beyond the expected. What’s more, you’re intellectually and emotionally honest when evaluating your work. Ask yourself: What are two problems have you confronted recently — one that ended in success, and that did not? What did you learn from each?

The Rebounder

You get knocked down, but you get up again. You visualize a goal and rise above the inevitable setbacks. You have the grit that enables you to regard a stumble as merely another step on the way to victory. You persevere when others waver, remaining optimistic and energized. Cynics call you a Pollyanna. We call you One Tough Cookie. Ask yourself: Are there examples of grit and perseverance in your life? How do you handle setbacks and disappointments?

The Collaborator

You had a gym teacher who said, “There’s no I in team” and you took the cliché to heart. You know there’s nothing quite as exhilarating as when a group of people—working with shared purpose and goodwill—achieve something remarkable. Deflecting personal praise, you are quick to credit the team for success. Ask yourself: What was the best team effort you were ever part of? What made it special? Are you energized by team dynamics, or are you more comfortable working solo?

The Responsible One

One of the most dangerous weapons in an organization is the pointed finger. When the stuff hits the fan, it’s easy to blame someone else or deny accountability. But you don’t run from responsibility, you embrace it. You’re willing to work through a thorny problem or champion a bold idea. You’re also willing to take the heat when things don’t work out. Ask Yourself: Do I have a history of taking responsibility for tough problems and difficult situations? Are you willing to stand up and be accountable when things go wrong?

The Steady Hand

David Ogilvy described an ad agency as “an emotional hothouse” with tight deadlines, the pressure to perform, big egos, and demanding clients. It’s not for everyone, but adversity brings out the best in you. Sure, you feel your stomach churning when the pressure mounts. But you don’t show it. Like a surgeon or a relief pitcher, you are cool under fire. As a fringe benefit, your steady demeanor manages to calm everyone else down. Ask Yourself: How do you respond to conflict and pressure? What are your strategies for dealing with challenging situations and personalities?

The Social Animal

Advertising is a team sport almost always performed in concert with colleagues, clients, and vendors. That’s fine with you, because you have the emotional intelligence to read people and situations. You are interested in others’ life stories. Your empathy and humanity puts people at ease.  Ask Yourself: Are you interested in human nature? Can you find a way to understand and relate people who are different from you? Are you truly observant and empathetic of the people you meet?

No one expects you to be exceptional in each of these areas, but these are the composite qualities of the successful agency professional. Take an unflinching self-audit and decide if you have the right stuff. If the answer is yes, then what are you waiting for? Start knocking on those ad agency doors.



 Copacino + Fujikado is a Seattle-based ad agency. Its clients include the Seattle Mariners, Chateau Ste. Michelle Winery, and Holland America Line among others. Jim Copacino‘s resume includes leadership positions at Y&R, Chiat/Day, McCann-Erickson and Cole & Weber. Over the course of his advertising career, he has won dozens of awards, including One Show Pencils, Emmys, Tellys, Radio Mercury Awards, and the coveted Cannes Gold Lion for his work on Alaska Airlines.