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Into The Wild

26 Jan

This time last year I was preparing to finish my last year of design school. While most days were spent worrying about project deadlines and final presentations, I also remember being clouded by thoughts regarding what I was to do once I was forced to leave this comfy nest called art school. Where will I work? How will I get there? Where do I start?

A year later, now three weeks into my role as Art Director, I thought I’d look back at what I’ve learned since then and see if I can’t share it with the next crop of students. Having just gone into the wild – here are a few tips that worked for me and a few more I didn’t get the chance to try.


Often times people would say to me “Victoria is so small that all the good design jobs are taken”. The way I see it, the smaller the town the easier it should be to stand out amongst the crowd. So before you decide to pack up and move to that neighbouring metropolis, remember: you have to ability to make a mark in your small town, too. Find out exactly what your dream job is and make it your goal. Stay optimistic and keep focused. The unfortunate reality is that as time passes your competition will slowly drop out of the race. If you manage to outlast you’ll start to move up the ladder.


Don’t sit idle between dropping off resumes. Do something to get your work noticed. Start a design blog and post local content, re-design your school newsletter and offer to maintain it, pitch your designs to companies you admire. Take a chance and don’t be afraid to be shot down. Sure you could get rejected, and at first you probably will – but if you’re lucky you might at least gain a pro’s insight regarding your work. While these ideas might not get you paid, they’re all are great steps towards growing your portfolio with real world experience.


Don’t stress this one. Networking will come naturally, if you’re here reading this blog then you’re already doing it. Because most jobs aren’t advertised, networking can be your best bet to get your foot in the door. Consider a student membership to the Graphic Designers of Canada. Your local chapter has dozens of social events each year. Why not start by volunteering to check coats or take tickets at an event? These events are meant to be fun, so relax. Nobody’s there to interview you, try to have fun and enjoy yourself. Your personality should be on show, not your portfolio.


Get to know any potential employers in your area. Navigate your way through the company, introduce yourself to the staff, find out what the mood around the office is like. Now the fun part – don’t just tell potential employers that you’re creative, show them!  Go a step further by customizing a package based on what you’ve learned. Put aside the typical resume. Try a website, video or DVD portfolio.


Now is the perfect time to start seeking out internships, scholarships and awards. Internships are your best bet for work right now, it’s how mostly all designers start.

Check Applied Arts, Communication Arts and Adobe for student awards. They’re a great way to get regional and even worldwide recognition for your work. Another benefit of the GDC is that they’ll do much of the work for you. A student membership gives you access to up-to-date job/internship postings, scholarships and awards info.

Get yourself a website to showcase your work but keep it simple, and remember when it comes to a portfolio it’s always quality over quantity. Be sure to replace old pieces with new ones as your skills progress. And if your web skills aren’t up to snuff yet, there’s plenty of easy-to-use portfolio sites out there. Try Behance , Carbon Made or Cargo Collective.


You’d be surprised what opportunities that might arise from Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn. There’s no reason why you wouldn’t want to access all three. Each one is different, so learn which to use for particular content. They’re a great way to engage with people, and give them a reason to follow you. Share unique content specific to you: your opinions, your portfolio pieces, and discussions that you’re taking part in.

Thanks for reading, I hope that helps. I’ve included my icon pack for download if you’d like them for personal use. For now you can get to know us @YourCopeland. We love students.


Hey brother, can you spare an evening?

7 Nov

Two years ago, we asked in this blog post where the marketing/advertising community was hiding in Victoria.

In the ensuing commentary, a great idea emerged:

Let’s host a fundraiser for NABS, the remarkable National Advertising Benevolent Society, and bring the community together for an evening.

Last year, the event – a networking evening built around a screening of the Cannes Advertising winner’s show-reel – brought 250 people together in Victoria – an admirable turnout that spoke to both the community’s desire to get together, and the value of the event.

Advertising and marketing people have been turning to NABS for help in dark times since 1983. NABS has responded with over $5 million dollars in assistance and countless vital services to industry people in need.

We have no pensions, job security is crap, technological changes have put a lot of talented people out of work, and the economy is fragile. Sometimes our lives just come undone. NABS needs our support more than ever.

See how NABS helped DDB Canada employee Kelly Frazer and then go directly to this form here and sign up to attend the November 17 fundraiser.

Hopefully none of us will ever need the financial and emotional support that NABS provides.

But some people will: people we know, people we’ve worked with, people we care about.

Let’s stand up for them next Thursday evening. Sign up here. And see you there!

Should you buy social media popularity?

20 Oct

Facebook Fans for sale

Building Facebook and Twitter communities for your business takes persistence and smart tactics.

But plenty of businesses can’t be bothered to invest the time, so they buy their communities from businesses like USocial, a popular and successful service site that sells bums on social seats. (Try saying that three times quickly.)

USocial promises you, among many permutations, 10,000 targeted Facebook fans (and a bonus of 10,000 targeted Twitter followers) for US$907. That’s 30% off their usual price. High-fives all around.

What can you expect from an instant audience?

Well, building a Facebook fanbase for your business is not like throwing together an ant farm. You can’t just dump 10,000 names into a hole and call it your community. They are your fans because they were paid to be your fans – by USocial. They don’t love you. They don’t even like you. In fact, they probably don’t care to know a thing about you – only that you pay.

And now that they’ve discharged their part of the deal, they are free to ignore you, because these fans/followers-4-hire have plenty of other new businesses to sell their services to.

You bought them, but you didn’t earn them. You got quantity, but no loyalty.

If I pay a bunch of people to hang out with me so I look popular, are they likely to be my advocates when there is no ka-ching attached to their action? So much for my community.

Did you just call them Social Media Escorts? I’m glad you did and not me.

Red light district in Amsterdam

Now, nose back to the grindstone. There are no shortcuts to success here!

The upside of turning 50

1 Sep

Today marks a significant date for member agencies of T-CAAN, the Trans Canada Advertising Association Network, of which Copeland is a member.

We enter our 50th year.

T-CAAN founder Bill Whitehead Sr.More significantly, the founder of the network, Bill Whitehead Sr., logs in his 50th year at the head of the table. Think about that.

This association of independent ad agencies, the oldest in North America, gives owners and managers a support team across the country. We share resources and best practices, pass along new business opportunities and generally help each other out as we can.

This map shows the office network, stretching from Whitehorse and Victoria to St. John’s.

A map of Canada including all the agencies in the T-CAAN network

A truly national network. Imagine the potential.

Every year we gather at one of these cities for a 4-day conference of inspiring speakers, discussions of new developments and problem-solving workshops.

After hours, we share ideas and horror stories over bottles of whatever is cold.

For agencies in isolated markets, the conference gives us face-time with other advertising professionals who are generous with their advice and time. That’s a god-send.

The next conference is in Victoria.

In June 2012, Copeland and Victoria will host the 50th annual conference, which we’ve themed FAST FORWARD. We’ll certainly include a retrospective of T-CAAN’s first 50 years (REWIND), but we’ll be focusing on where the industry is going in such a hurry.

We are already gearing up to welcome the big crowd we expect to make the trip to our beautiful city. And we get to throw the party of the year (PLAY), which is the fun part of turning 50.

Wonder how the zombies are going to figure into this…

T-CAAN's 50th annual conference logo with a zombie

What is our obligation to students?

26 Apr

Over the past month, we have profiled 6 remarkable local students here on the blog. (Click on a photo to read the post.)

But it simply isn’t enough to acknowledge great students.

As a business community, we have to support them on an ongoing basis as they get their sea legs in the professional world.

Not just this tremendous group, but students period.

Here’s how we can do that:

  • Follow them on Twitter.
  • Connect with them at networking events. Invite them to join you at one.
  • Read their blog posts, comment on them and share them.
  • Check out their Linkedin profiles.
  • Point them in the direction of opportunities you hear of.
  • Recommend them.
  • Offer to meet with them to find out how you might be able to help.
  • Mentor them.
  • Introduce them to people who could benefit them.
  • Offer to speak at their schools.
  • Invite them in to your business as interns.

Most importantly, we need to make this a regular part of how we work. These 6 top students are just the tip of an iceberg flowing out of our schools and into our work force.  I could have written dozens of profiles. Who are their advocates in the community if not us?

We are all students at some stage making the transition into the working world.

What are you doing for a student this week?

Networking a room? Here’s some terrible advice.

2 Mar

Fellow Copelander Andrea Merson and I were up at U Vic last night speaking to BComm students about how to work a room. They have a networking session coming up with members of the Victoria business community in advance of their annual Business Banquet on March 10th.

One of the students confessed he was reluctant to come to the talk last night because he had already attended a similar seminar and had learned the right approach:

He was told to memorize a 30-second elevator pitch and use that as an introduction.

I just about spat up my internals.

Worst advice ever.

Better advice would be to not talk about yourself at all, but ask questions about the person you’ve approached.

  • What brings them to the session? Have they been before? Has it been a good experience? Did they find these networking sessions easy?
  • Ask them about their job: What actually do they do? How long have they been there? How has their year been? Where else have they worked?
  • Ask them if their company ever hires interns or co-ops. What’s the process? Have they ever worked directly with one? What do they think makes a good co-op candidate?

Don’t launch The Great Me at them from the get-go and try to convince them how interesting you are. Instead, act interested. Let them come to their own conclusions.

Elevator pitch? That is Networking Suicide. Imagine trying to pull off that approach in a bar!

The business folks at a networking session are people first and foremost and the usual rules of conduct apply.


Are you treating your LinkedIn contacts like notches on your social media bedpost?

25 Feb

I was talking with a friend today about some job advice she got. It was suggested to her that she should have, among other social media connections, at least 500 LinkedIn contacts.

Ridiculous advice.

Who cares if you have 500 contacts on LinkedIn if you don’t know any of them. Quality trumps quantity surely.

Today I signed into LinkedIn to find 6 new contact requests. I didn’t know any of them and none made a case for why I should want to have them as contacts. They were just blind, acquisitive requests. I ignored them all.

What are they worth to me?

If any of them had bothered to take the time to write: “Hey Doug, you don’t know me, but I know your ex-colleague/that campaign you wrote/that thing you did last summer” etc, I would have been in a position to consider the value.


Just collectors.

Like my friend, I know everyone who I am connected with on LinkedIn. I value those contacts.

Am I missing something?