Finding your first job in the creative industry can be a daunting task. But the whole process becomes easier when you think of it like Tinder.

There are tons of agencies out there, so how the hell do you find the right match for you? To really stretch this tenuous analogy, Luke Bonner put together a 7-step guide to help you find your perfect match. Swiping fingers at the ready.

Define your strategy.

Before you even think about talking to agencies, have a clearly defined idea of what sort of agency you’re looking for. If you fall in the camp of ‘I know exactly who I want to work for’, then good for you, but keep an open mind. But if you’re in the camp of, ‘I don’t even know what the difference is between these agencies’, then it’s time to do your research. You need to swipe right, a lot, and speak to as many agencies as you can to gain a better understanding of the industry and what’s out there.

Nail your profile. 

Normally, agencies will only have your online presence, a CV and a PDF of your work to go by. Spend the time getting your profile right. Be confident. In many ways it’s more important than your work or experience at this stage. If an agency stumbles across someone with a great bio and attitude, they’ll start to think ‘you could fit in here’. At this stage it’s about getting your foot in the door, you can wow them with your work and natural charm later on. P.S. Don’t be too ‘kooky’ or ‘creative’.

Set your standards. 

This will normally come down to how desperate you are. If you’ve given yourself a lot of time and have your CV or portfolio nailed, then you’re probably in a position to be a little picky. At this stage, you can punch big in an attempt to make your mates jealous. However, if you’ve left everything to the last minute and you only have a few remaining weeks in your student house, then you might just need to lower your standards (take what you can get, seriously). After all, an agency job is an agency job, and it will be one hundred times more beneficial than moving back in with your rents and doing the same job you did when you were 16. Over anything, your first job will give you the experience you need to find your dream job.

The first message. 

So, you’ve found your initial match with an agency you like the look of, and you’re about to send that all-important first message. You know, that moment you stare without expression into an empty text box. WHATEVER YOU DO, DON’T GO OVERBOARD. If you like one of their projects, mention it. But you do not need to make out like it was that project that inspired you to get into the industry. This message should be about you and what you think you can add to the agency. It should be authentic. Keep it informal and casual, but don’t forget there must be a reason for the agency to reply. Leave them wanting more, baby.

Stalk the hell out of them.

From the outside, it can be very hard to tell what an agency is like behind the key-carded door. We all do award-winning creative work. We all appear to be having a ball. And most of us have a catchy, strategic slogan to help differentiate us. But most of that isn’t for you, it’s for our clients. So how are you going to avoid being fooled by our painstakingly perfected appearance? In my opinion, it’s about getting a better understanding of the people who work there. They define who and what the agency is, from top-to-bottom. Let the stalking commence.

The first meet-up. 

Ok, so you’re probably (or should be) thinking; ‘How the hell am I going to project the best version of myself without coming across like a d**k, while creating an insatiable spark between myself and the agency so they give me a job?’. In my experience, it comes down to three things. Research, work and curiosity. You’ve already stalked the agency and the people that are going to be in the room. Congrats. Next up, practice talking through your portfolio or CV. Be concise and confident, and NEVER talk a project down. Lastly, come armed with questions to get to know the agency better. If the questions you’re planning on asking feel forced, or you genuinely aren’t interested in their answers, then you’re probably in the wrong agency. The more questions the better, but remember, nobody likes somebody who talks about themselves too much.

A side note: If at any point you interact with an agency and think ‘well that guy’s a douchebag’ or ‘she clearly hates me because I’m younger than her’, trust your gut and swipe again to find people you’re actually going to enjoy learning from.

Taking your relationship to the next level. 

Momentum is crucial. If your first meeting goes well, fire off a quick note to say thanks and start to talk details and dates as soon as you can. There’s no time like the present, just try not to appear too desperate. Be flexible with your dates and times and work around the agency’s busy schedule. If you’re lucky enough to land a placement or a job, congrats, but understand the hard work starts now.

If you think your meeting didn’t go so well, don’t waste time waiting for them to get in touch. Dust yourself off and try again. There’s Plenty of Fish (wait, wrong analogy) in the sea.

Tinder analogies aside, when you’re looking to land your first job in the industry, it’s likely you’ll have to make a lot of compromises. But never compromise on your happiness. Why do anything if you’re not going to enjoy it?

Written by Luke Bonner.