A teacher at Miami Ad School tells us why she encourages her students to network even though she doesn’t like the term
28-year-old Sandra Valencia is a Mexican American copywriter living and working in Munich. Here, she tells us about how she got her first job, her experience working as a copywriter in a country where she doesn’t speak the language natively, and why she always tells her students to network as a part-time teacher at Miami Ad School.
What’s it like being a copywriter at Jung von Matt?
Jung von Matt is the second largest agency here in Germany. The first one being Serviceplan, which I’ve also previously worked at. Working at JVM is pretty special because I’ve found that a lot of the work they do (with clients like Google, BMW and adidas) tries to push creative and pop culture boundaries. I'm on a team called the Beauty Collective, so I get to work on a lot of lifestyle and beauty products, and I’m currently working on our Goldwell hair products account. Every day is fairly different: sometimes I’m writing solo, and sometimes I’m pitching, concepting and thinking of ideas. I also actually teach copywriting part-time at Miami Ad School, where I really enjoy mentoring younger creatives.
What was your break into the creative industry?
Funnily enough, I was on my way back from an interview for a job in Hamburg when I got a LinkedIn message from a creative director at Serviceplan who was looking for a native English-speaking copywriter for his team in Munich (which is pretty rare). Once I had spoken to him I realised that’s where I wanted to be because it just felt right. They reached out, but I still don’t know how they found me. Maybe he searched for an English copywriter on LinkedIn or something. I ended up working on this small team at Serviceplan called the Innovation Team, and right from the start I was immersed in not just copywriting but in research, technology and design — so that was my big break — before that it was a hustle, though.
It was a hustle to get a job before that?
Yes, right before that, I was at D&AD’s New Blood Academy, where everybody gets pumped up to network. At that point, I just needed to get a job and I was talking to everyone. I will tell you, I took all the steps that a lot of people take and reached out to a lot of people. So every time my students ask me, “How do you do that? How do you get to that point?” I'm like, “Just email and reach out. There's no wrong way of doing this, it's just about losing the shyness along the way.”
What was the biggest challenge that you have faced in your career journey and how did you overcome it?
One of the biggest challenges has been proving my value as an immigrant because my German is not at a level where I can write something and it’ll be fine. I’ve had to present myself in other ways and draw from my diverse background and experiences — and the challenge has been proving the value of that, because some people will see it immediately but others will doubt it, and you know, you just have to push through.
Has anyone helped you on your career journey so far, if so who?
All my creative directors have been a mentor to some extent. I have to say that programmes like the New Blood Academy are also super helpful, because it's not so much the programme itself but the people that you get to be in contact with, and that you still stay in touch with. The people who've helped me the most are friends, colleagues and mentors I’ve met along the way. I know a lot of people really don't like the term networking –myself included –but you can just see it as having a conversation with people that you've never met. That's what really goes a long way. I’ve really opened myself up to that as well. I always encourage people to just reach out to me, because maybe they're stuck in something or they just need a good piece of advice, and I think we all have something to share from experience.
You entered the New Blood Awards, what was that experience like?
In high school we were always told that if you enter any student awards, it should be the New Blood Awards. I decided to enter because I thought that the briefs and brands were very interesting. I later applied to the New Blood Academy because I received an email saying I was eligible to enter after winning a New Blood Award. I remember I decided to enter the Academy at the very last minute. I wasn’t sure at all because I didn’t think I’d make it onto the programme amongst so many winners.
What was New Blood Academy like, can you tell us a bit about your experience?
I was really nervous about going to the Academy because I had this mindset where I felt like I wasn't worthy enough to be there. I felt like everybody must be so much more amazing because I had seen their work at the awards. I think the ice broke on the first day when we decided to go to the pub and grab a beer. I don’t know who started it — and maybe we were all a bit drunk — but someone said, “Yeah, I was really nervous about coming to this Academy, I thought you guys were all going to be so stuck up and so mean.” Then someone else said, “Oh my gosh me too,” and we all admitted we felt the same way and decided it was a safe space. Nobody thought they were above anybody else and we all knew we were there to learn from each other.
It was really nice to have so many different cultures, because there were people there from India, Brazil and even Russia. Many of us were looking for jobs at the time and everyone at the Academy was super supportive. Plus, I mean, it was summer in London, and we were so many kids who were discovering everything.
What advice do you have for someone trying to break into the creative industry?
If you're looking to get into the creative industry, I would say use every opportunity that you have to show your creative skills. Stay true to yourself from the start. I was once told that you can't change the world with advertising but I’ve found projects that have helped me leave some sort of mark in this world. I’m also an advocate for reaching out to people you admire. Not everyone will respond, but at some point someone will. If anyone reading this wants to reach out to me personally, feel free. Keep growing your support network, and always prioritise mental health as well. Always, always, always sleep right and eat right. I can’t say this to my students enough.
Get in touch with Sandra Valencia on LinkedIn and on Instagram.
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