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How Do You Get Hired at Apple? Don’t Cover All Your Bases.

“Be yourself” can seem like risky advice in a competitive job market. But you know what’s riskier? Being nobody. Ken Segall explains how he became an ad man for Apple. 

What’s the Big Idea? 

You know that little ‘i’ that’s in everything from iPod to iCarly? Ken Segall came up with that. The “think different” campaign? Ken was a big part of that, too. He worked closely with Steve Jobs for 10 years, and as the creative director of advertising for Apple,  was instrumental in defining the brand’s aesthetic of stunning simplicity. 

How do you get there from ad school? In Ken’s case, by ignoring all of your professors’ good advice. Diversify, they told him. Build a portfolio that shows off your range. But after six unsuccessful months on the job market in New York, Segall decided to try a different strategy: totally geeking out. He was passionate about videotape (a new technology at the time), so he created twenty different fictional ad campaigns about videotape. Suddenly he was getting job offers from tech-focused ad agencies, including the company with the Canon camera account. 

Successful salespeople say it’s easiest to sell a product you believe in. What Segall did was to refine his mission. He loved the creative challenge of advertising, but his interests didn’t end there. So why limit his professional identity to Advertising:General? By applying his talents to content he cared about, he created ads that immediately announced him as the right guy for the kind of job that was right for him. 

Ken Segall, longtime creative director of advertising for Apple, on doing work you’re passionate about. 

What’s the Significance? 

“Be yourself” can seem like risky advice in a competitive job market. But you know what’s riskier? Being nobody. Once you’ve got a grasp of the professional etiquette of your trade (e.g. don’t show up for a job interview on Wall Street in a tie-dye t-shirt – or maybe at Apple in a business suit…), the way to stand out among those stacks of resumes, and to get the job you want, is to highlight the work that you love to do. 

Everybody knows these are tough times. And maybe you’ll decide to game the system a bit – to sell yourself for a job you know you’re not right for, as a stop-gap measure until something better comes along. That’s one approach. But more likely than not you’ll find it a costly detour in terms of time and energy, and one that leaves you five or six years down the road back where Ken Segall started – trying to figure out where your talents and passions really lie, and how best to express them.

What’s the best piece of advice you’ve heard for getting started in a tumultuous job market? Take our poll and find out what fellow Big Thinkers think . . .

…also, some surprisingly relevant career advice from Ludwig Van Beethoven.

Follow Jason Gots (@jgots) on Twitter


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