Carve your Path in Creative Strategy:

Insights from Miami Ad School Toronto students and instructors


December, 2020

Written by Jocelyn Mendez
8 Minute Read

A career in advertising has never been a straight forward journey, ESPECIALLY if you are hoping to land in a strategic role at an agency. So how the heck should you even start? We reached out to a few of our instructors and students from our Creative Strategy Portfolio Program to share their perspective on what you need to do to land yourself a job as a strategist in this industry, tips for your portfolio, and how best to train for the role.

Morgan Hamilton

Creative Strategy Student
Miami Ad School

Sabesh Bala

Creative Strategy Student
Miami Ad School

Jay Fleming

Senior Strategist
No Fixed Address

Brittany Dow

Senior Strategist
john st.

Tip 1: Land a junior strategist internship

Sounds easy enough right? Not so much, these coveted internships are far and few. You really need to bring your A game to land one of these. Our strategy instructor, Jay Fleming, Sr Strategist at No Fixed Address, recounts his experience.

“Getting your foot in the door is the hardest thing, and that sentiment is magnified in strategy. There may be 100 account service internships, and 5 strategy ones.

The competition is fierce for these roles.The type of preparation you need won’t happen overnight. At Miami Ad School Toronto, our students train for a year underneath the mentorship of some of the world’s top strategists, and are placed in internships at award winning agencies for 10 weeks before they graduate.

Tip 2: Resumes are cool but have you considered a portfolio?

We get it, every place is going to ask you to submit a resume. We aren’t saying that it’s not important; What we are saying is that a portfolio will make you stand out from the pile of polished CVs. Another hot tip for Jay Fleming is that a portfolio shows how you think, and a resume doesn’t.

“Strategy is all about the way you think, and it’s hard to demonstrate the way you think and solve problems on a resume. A portfolio gives you an opportunity to show how you think. We don’t expect you to have real work that you’ve worked on, spec work is fine, it’s making sure you can make it unique to you, and making it all about problem solving. We aren’t looking for perfectly art directed stuff.”

If you want to land that internship, make sure you have that portfolio ready. The Creative Strategy program is focused on helping you build portfolio pieces that will get you noticed, and hired. Each quarter, our students will work towards building 4 strong pieces that they feel proud to display.

Let your individuality shine, and don’t be afraid to think differently.

Let your individuality shine, and don’t be afraid to think differently.

Tip 3: Polish those projects, over and over again.

We’ve all done that project of two that could have been better in hindsight. Well now is the time to make it better. It’s never too late to review and re-polish old projects and campaigns. Every strategist has gone back and enhanced their ideas. Morgan Hamilton, Creative Strategy student, tell us

“Sometimes projects don’t go the way you want, but the incredible instructors help give you direction and help you build portfolio pieces that you never imagined you would have.”

At Miami Ad School Toronto, we encourage credits and reviews. Students are given the opportunity to sit with the school dean, Stephen Jurisic, to showcase their thinking and apply their newly learnt skills to older pieces. Some pieces are diamonds in the rough, don’t give up on them. 

Tip 4: You don’t need to think like everyone else!

Imitation might be the sincerest form of flattery but it’s better if you don’t. Advertising needs diverse minds and ways of thinking. Another one of our amazing strategy instructors, Brittany Dow, Sr. Strategist from john st. tells us why it’s not always about the end result, but showing how you got there that matters. 

“Mapping out how you got to a strategy in a clear articulate way helps somebody hiring you understand how you think. So framing up the path to get to that direction is really important to capture, whether it’s how you approached research, the process that you took, the people that you involved, before you get to execution is very important.” 

Strategists looking for their next protege aren’t searching for someone exactly like them; They are looking for someone unique to add to their team. Let your individuality shine, and don’t be afraid to think differently.

Tip 5: Where there is will wifi, there is a way.

A common myth in advertising is that you need to live in a large cosmopolitan city in order to find opportunity and be successful. If you don’t already live there, the cost of making the big move can seem pretty high. Thankfully, the advertising space is shifting to the digital world, where strategists, art directors, and copywriters can create from home, wherever their home may be. Morgan has been studying remotely and enjoying the experience all the way from Nova Scotia.

“I’ve never seen the campus, and never experienced the school in session other than online. Being online has been very helpful. The tools that the school set up made the experience better than I would have expected it to be online coming from another university. Online does work.”

To help enhance the online experience, Miami Ad School Toronto has carefully crafted a digital platform where students can collaborate in real time, be ahead of industry standard and most importantly still achieve those opportunities, all from the comfort of their own homes.

Often the difference between a good presentation and a great presentation is the level of charisma.

Often the difference between a good presentation and a great presentation is the level of charisma

Tip 6: How do you like your coffee?

Not sure if you knew this one, but North America is known for its coffee consumption. Coffee chats are one of the easiest ways to network, and receive career advice from a veteran strategist. It may seem like an intimidating task, but asking people out for coffee will only help you in your journey to becoming a strategist. To help our students, every quarter we bring in diverse minds to work one on one and review student portfolios virtually. As well as keep our class sizes small, so students can get the attention they need. One of our Creative Strategy students, Sabesh Bala, tells us

The smaller class sizes definitely help in getting to know each other and having discussions.  All the instructors have been amazing and really easy to communicate with. The content and learning structure has essentially been the same as if it were in person.“

Networking and mentorship is invaluable in this industry. Miami Ad School Toronto students not only build strong relationships with their instructors, but are able to tap into a global network of mentors, eager to provide insight to the next generation without having to leave home.

Tip 7: Confidence is key.

Ever heard of the phrase “Fake it till you make it”? Pitching a campaign, or nailing that interview is going to require a high degree of confidence. Often the difference between a good presentation and a great presentation is the level of charisma and storytelling shown. Thankfully, our Creative Strategy program not only teaches you kick-ass presentation skills for every medium, but reinforces the notion of captivating storytelling. Learn how to steal the show, and have them talking about you for days. 

Tip 8: Keep trying.

The industry can be difficult to navigate at times and this isn’t a linear career. It’s hard to keep your head up when you receive rejection after rejection. Take risks with your ideas, and be open to feedback. Morgan shares this sentiment about her experience so far at Miami Ad School Toronto.

It’s ok to fail, it’s ok to fail here, and to get feedback and to try again and just start over. My expectation was to get training and real world experience. I wanted to know if I was any good at it. I wanted to know if I could handle it, and I wanted to know if I could be in school and open to failure and advice and start something new. I feel more prepared to step into a team than I did from university.”

Many of the industry’s award winning strategists started somewhere else, and went through a ton of trial and error before finding their groove. If you are unsure of where to start, may we suggest our Creative Strategy program.

Head over to the Creative Strategy Program Page for more information on how to start your own journey.

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