- Andy Deaza
I can vividly recall my initial encounter with advertising. It was 2004, I was 17 and, by fluke, discovered a program called Torch after spying a classmate at Washington Irving High School in New York filling out an application. I learned that Torch gives underserved New York students their first glimpse into careers in advertising and communications, and decided to apply. I was accepted and eventually entered an office filled with a diverse group of high-school sophomores.
Our assignments were varied. A good example of one was the Wunderman Project, where we created the marketing strategy for a clothing line, including the ads, and then did a mock presentation for the agency.
I wasn’t even aware of advertising as a career choice until high school and Torch. It’s my belief that the advertising industry’s issues with diversity and inclusion are rooted in a lack of awareness on the part of diverse students looking to choose a career. Too many simply don’t know that advertising can be a lucrative and fulfilling career path. The sooner advertising professionals get the word out, the sooner we can begin to make significant progress as an industry in the area of diversity.
But even more important than breaking into advertising is achieving career longevity. I strongly recommend that young creatives utilize the power of mentorship. You’ll find the community of diverse professionals are ready and eager to usher in and guide young talent. I’ve been fortunate to come under the mentorship of Tiffany R. Warren, founder of Adcolor (the membership organization focusing on strengthening diversity throughout the marketing industry).
Along with mentorship, I can’t stress enough the importance of networking among peers. It has played a very large part in my journey through advertising and is a surefire way of getting doors opened. Also, know what your peers are doing within the industry. Their work can be inspirational, and reaching out to them is an incredible way to build a rapport with other young and talented individuals.
Also, because of the small number of diverse colleagues, there’s a strong sense of community, which must be nurtured. Knowing that I have had the support and encouragement of like-minded professionals has made my growth within the industry a truly great experience.
There’s also something we all need to keep in mind when it comes to diversity. There is much international competition entering the market, coming from places like the Miami Ad School’s different international locations. This means there’s lots of young, diverse talent coming from other parts of the world to work in the U.S. This makes it even more of an imperative that we inform diverse domestic students early on in their academic careers about this industry and all it has to offer.
Everyone may not attend a portfolio school as I did, and to those students I’d say do not underestimate the power of internships. (I’m what I like to call a “professional intern.”) It’s common knowledge that internships are an amazing way to break into an industry. Well, in advertising, an internship can make or break your career. It’s a small industry and word gets around fast. Internships are ultimately filters through which you can run all of your ideas and work, and where you’ll meet amazing people on route to your next internship and, eventually, your first job.
I should note that I have yet to find employment, so it remains to be seen if doors will open up for me due to early inroads. Regardless, I find this industry to be special for many reasons. The one that stands out is it’s the only industry where minorities could potentially have such a large impact on consumers. We would be doing the industry as well as ourselves a major disservice to not broaden our talent pool, and expand our reach as advertisers.
Andy Deaza is a recent graduate of the Miami Ad School. He can be reached at email@example.com.