Graduating in May? Members of AAF-Cleveland Have Some Advice for Ad Students

The phrase “time flies when you’re having fun” couldn’t be any more true. With college behind you and the real world ahead of you, the transition from being a student to a young professional seems frightening. Hunting for a job, settling in the new living space, and “adulting” day by day can be an overwhelming experience — and you’re not the only one who’s been through this stage in life. And AAF-Cleveland is here to guide you through that.

What do you recommend students about getting involved?

  • Club involvement doesn’t stop after college. Whether it’s for professional development, service or fun, there are so many opportunities to continue involvement for new and/or young professionals, especially if the club has a local parent chapter. In fact, AAF-Cleveland’s very own Young Pros committee welcomes young professionals from a variety of MarCom professions. The committee meets on a monthly basis to plan a handful of networking events, charitable fundraisers, and luncheons. Reach out to the Young Pros co-chairs at to introduce yourself and stay up-to-date with the latest happenings.
  • If you weren’t involved in college, and you’re looking to be involved with an organization in the Cleveland area, AAF-Cleveland is a great place to start. The club brings together innovative, imaginative people working – or aspiring to work – in advertising, marketing, digital media, public relations, and sales. AAF-Cleveland provides year-round programming that helps members gain knowledge, build networks, and have fun. This is all thanks to the club’s many committees, which include the Young Pros, Membership, ADDYs, Public Service Media, and Communications, just to name a few.

What are some advice you would give to enhance their college experience and career?

  • “Be open to starting with a paid internship (at an agency for example). That way you can prove your abilities in a low-risk test type of environment. It’s a lot easier to exceed people’s expectations too!” – Tierney Healey, Senior Account Executive at AdCom
  • “The old saying is (mostly) true: It’s not about what you know, it’s about who you know. Take advantage of all the people you met along the way in college – friends, co-workers, people you did clubs with, teachers, friends’ parents, the people you babysat for – everyone! I’ve gotten 90% of my interview and job opportunities through contacts and contacts of contacts. Knowing someone will help get your resume out of the resume black hole BUT after that what you know is key and you’ll have to take it the rest of the way.” – Sandi Hensel, Account Executive at Marcus Thomas LLC
  • “Don’t be stressed out if you don’t have a job before you graduate. In fact, go travel for the summer before you get locked into a job!” – Tierney Healey, Senior Account Executive at AdCom
  • “Let’s be honest, transitioning out of college is kind of sucks. On one side, you have more money and are finally part of the “real world.” On the other side, the real world can be a harsh reality. I struggled the first few years after college adjusting to an ambiguous future. No more grades to reassure me I was doing well. No more just skipping class because I wasn’t feeling well. Completely unsure if I had chosen the right path. If you feel stuck, don’t worry – we all did or still do. Find activities to be involved in (just like you did in college), find a trustworthy mentor at your job who can help you sort it all out, do your best as you learn and remember that your job doesn’t define you. It will all work out – I promise!” – Sandi Hensel, Account Executive at Marcus Thomas LLC
  • Stay up-to-date with the latest and greatest trends in the ad community. With a plethora of information out in the world via webinars, professional development events, or your peers, there’s no reason not to stay in-touch after graduation. The more you know, the more you’ll feel well-equipped to adapt to the ever changing environment and position yourself as a thought leader to your peers.
  • Todd Saperstein, President of the AAF-Cleveland Education Foundation and Graphic Design Program Chair at the Virginia Marti College of Art and Design (VMCAD), always reminds his students to “be aware of the tools at your disposal.” In other words, don’t forget about the many available resources that are sure to help guide your professional development journey. Those “tools” and “resources” include your former professors, peers, the Education Foundation’s soon-to-come Student Connection two-way platform, and the AAF-Cleveland community.
  • Research does not begin and end with Google. Explore the ad community and beyond, and discover what will become of the industry as it continues to transform.

And of course, don’t forget to have fun! Post-graduation may be your time to shine and show employers what you’re made of, but it’s also about how you’ll fit in with the workplace culture. Among other important factors, employers are ultimately looking for someone with an admirable personality, someone who truly has a passion for the work and the industry, and someone who will be a great addition to the team. So, let your personality shine through and show ‘em what you’re made of!

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