Last week, I attended the “Meet Your Future: Pro Tips from AAF Buffalo” event held at Canisius. I have been trying to get more involved with this organization throughout the year and they put on so many incredible events, especially geared to students wanting to enter the advertising industry. This event was a panel of professionals from several different aspects of the industry. The event was led by AAF President Scott Bartels – HSBC Bank, and featured Tim Bouchard – co-creator of Luminus, April Brown – art director at FARM, Erin Haskell – marketing manager at Great Lakes Orthodontics and Kyle Rogers, corporate relations manager at BlueCross BlueShield of Western New York. Collectively, these professionals have a ton of experience to share, very different backgrounds and a variety of paths that they took to get to where they are. AAF did a great job of structuring this event to appeal to a variety of people’s interests. There was relevant advice from people with experience in web development, design, public relations, marketing, account management, large agency and small agency. This allowed so many people to be engaged with the event and directly take away information to apply to their own careers.

This event was structured as a panel, with each person taking turns telling their stories, answering pre-set general questions and then opening up the floor for students to ask direct questions to the entire panel or specific individuals. The audience consisted of several Canisius communication students but also students from other departments and a few from other colleges. The students were really engaged and receptive to their advice; you could really get the sense of how much everyone cared and appreciated the professional advice. After the event, many people stuck around and waited to take advantage of the networking opportunity and meet the professionals.

Advertising is an incredibly tough industry to break into, there are so many paths to take and so many different approaches to breaking in. Personally, I have gotten a lot of mixed advice that sometimes can be contradictory. It is easy to become overwhelmed by all of this information but it is so important to take it all in and apply the best advice for yourself. Everyone is different, everyone’s skills and backgrounds vary and certain tactics work better for some people than others. I learned a lot from these professionals about the differences in working in-house or at an agency, and beyond that at a large agency or a small agency. I learned that if you want to be an expert in your field and really hone in on your craft, you should aim to start in an agency. Hearing this further solidifies my desire to have a career in the creative department in an agency. It is a great feeling hearing people in the field describe characteristics that you find yourself completely agreeing with; this confirms that you are on the right path.

I learned the importance of presenting your work and being able to explain all of the design choices behind your presentation, going through a bunch of interviews is essential to grow and bombing a few is okay, the importance of networking and realizing that everyone knows how awkward it can be. Finally, a large take away from this event was that it really is okay to not know what you are doing as soon as you graduate. As graduation has been looming, the pressure to have a job has become very overwhelming. These professionals really emphasized that is okay to not know what you are doing just yet and that it may take a few tries to land a job that you are truly happy with, it is just important to learn from every experience that you have along the way.