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Have you ever seen a resume made out of LEGO bricks?
Searching for an awesome internship, Leah Bowman built herself into the perfect applicant—literally—using LEGOs. She packaged her miniature replica with an ‘instructions’ poster highlighting her skills, in a box that mimics LEGO’s packaging.
Her unique approach not only successfully helped her score an internship at a major advertising agency but also attracted attention in high places when her story was picked up by The Huffington Post, Good Morning America, Mashable, and Adweek, among numerous others. Here is Leah’s inspirational story…
Story Resumes: Leah, how did this unconventional idea come about?
Leah: I had recently begun looking at advertising agencies as a possible career option, after a useful integrated marketing class taught by two veterans of the advertising world. It got me interested in the types of positions that might fit my skills, strengths and education, but I knew that I’d be a stronger candidate after I graduated with an internship under my belt.
Because competition is so steep, I decided to try to apply to as many relevant positions as possible with a resume and custom cover letter, but the process was long and sometimes frustrating.
One agency requested intern applicants to sell themselves with a “persuasive advertisement.” I’m not a graphic designer, so I knew whatever I created had to be fun and highlight my skills with more than just images on a page.
I’ve always loved and collected LEGOs, so when my mom brought up mini figures, I thought it was a great way to integrate my hobby and personality into a job application. My dad, who is more of a professional amateur with LEGOs and has designed several large pieces with tens of thousands of parts, introduced me to the technique of ‘mini-land scale’. From there, I looked at images and builds using the scale (including a recreation of Queen Elizabeth’s birthday celebration) and got to designing myself with LEGO.
Using a trial of Adobe Photoshop, I made a label and poster to go along with the kit. Once it was done, I thought it was too awesome to send to just one company! I immediately sent the first kit as a follow-up with a thank you note to an agency I had interviewed with earlier in the week.
Story Resumes: How long had you been searching for an internship before you decided to do something out-of-the-box (pardon the pun)?
Leah: I had started looking last Spring and was mostly looking at CPG (consumer packaged goods) companies like P&G, thinking I might want to be a brand manager. I did phone and Skype interviews while I was abroad in Copenhagen in the Fall, and nothing panned out. I attended Northwestern’s career fair in January hoping to kickstart the search again, still looking at global CPG companies, and started the interview process again. By Spring Break, I’d had several great interviews but no offers.
This Spring, I took a class that gave a good overview of different positions within an agency, and I realized that I might have been looking in the wrong place all along. I enjoyed the creative aspects of the projects we did, and for the first time I started looking at agencies for my summer internship. Luckily, they recruit much later than other industries and I was able to start sending in applications in March.
Story Resumes: How difficult was it to design and build a LEGO version of yourself and put everything together?
Leah: It was pretty easy—once my dad had planted the miniland scale idea in my head, it took me an afternoon using LEGO’s Digital Designer software to come up with a prototype. My dad has all his LEGOs organized by size, shape and color, so putting together the actual kit was just a matter of hunting down the right pieces. I had to make a few design adjustments based on pieces we didn’t have, but overall the LEGO me ended up remarkably close to what I had designed. It took another afternoon to head to the scrapbook store for plastic boxes and paper, as well as design the poster and label for the kit. I tried to get as much advice on the poster as possible, since that was the component I felt least strong about, from family and a friend who is a graphic designer.
All in all, it took the better part of a weekend to create and a few hours of printing and assembling to finish. I had a pretty clear idea from the start of what I wanted, it was just a matter of pulling everything together.
Story Resumes: Other than the positive media attention, what kind of response have you received from your LEGO resume?
Leah: I received a lot of great feedback. Especially great is the response I’ve received from advertising professionals online, whether it’s details about different positions within an agency, critique on my materials or even long-term career advice.
I think my application came at a really unique time—LEGOs are in style in a big way right now, and the competition for internships has become fierce in a way that a lot of people didn’t realize. It sparked a really great debate about the value of internships, paying interns, and the type of experience full-time employers expect you to have when you walk in the door after graduation.
Story Resumes: Did the media’s response surprise you?
Leah: It took me off guard, definitely! I posted the image to Reddit around ten in the morning, and by lunch a reporter from The Huffington Post was calling my cell phone. That’s surreal for me. After a few different online news sources picked it up, it snowballed and everyone wanted to cover it. I only did a few interviews, most sites just wrote from my Reddit post since it was a trending story, but it was a little strange to see all of these sites covering something I’d created.
When I posted my kit to Reddit, I was fresh from the printers and had just finished assembling the kits. I am a big fan of the /r/LEGO community, so I thought they’d appreciate seeing a more ‘serious’ use of LEGOs in an internship application. On a whim, I posted it to /r/pics (a sub-Reddit with many more viewers) since everybody seems to be interested in LEGOs now. Never in a million years did I think it would ever reach the front page or go viral like it did—I just hoped that maybe one or two of the right people saw it (namely, agency recruiters).
Story Resumes: Do you think you’ll use a similar approach for future job searches?
Leah: It depends—an internship is a very different beast. Many agencies already have intern applicants do something weird or creative—like write an essay about two crayon colors that describe you—so this kind of application isn’t far outside the realm of the application. As a graduate applying for full-time positions, I think the emphasis is more on experience. I would hope that the projects and work I do this summer will stand out more than a LEGO kit could.
No matter what, I definitely plan to bring my creative thinking and personality to any job or company I work for in the future.
Story Resumes: What advice would you give to other jobseekers looking to stand out?
Leah: It completely depends on the industry and position. Advertising is definitely unique in that they will appreciate something like a custom LEGO kit. My number one recommendation to anyone for any job is to read the description and qualifications carefully and make sure your resume and cover letter reflects those skills and specific experience. If you think of a fun or creative way to highlight a specific skill and it fits with the company’s brand and personality, go for it! Just make sure you’re prepared to ‘wow’ them again in the interview when they call.
Story Resumes: Leah, we applaud your creative thinking and best wishes with your well-deserved internship!
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