Break and Enter Into the Ad Industry

By: Rebekah Phaiboun, ,Nicole Toloczko, ,and Geno Schellenberger

It can be extremely difficult to get your foot in the door of the ad industry when you’re just starting out. Those first steps post-grad are confusing and intimidating, which is why Geno Schellenberger started his podcast, “Breaking and Entering,” for aspiring advertisers.

Schellenberger graduated from the University of Illinois in 2020. He studied advertising and public relations while involving himself in AAF. He now works as a Communications Executive for Havas Chicago while creating weekly episodes for the show.  He just transitioned out of Chicago Portfolio School, where he worked there for a year. 

We had the opportunity to chat with Schellenberger about his journey and what inspired him to help others succeed in the professional world of advertising. 

If you could use three words to describe the show, what would they be and why?

“It’s a resource.”

“Breaking and Entering” is not just a podcast; it’s a resource for aspiring advertisers looking to break in and thrive in advertising.

“There are two parts there: you get your first job, and once you get into advertising, how do you thrive in it? We explore that every single Tuesday by interviewing people on the other side,” he says. 

What started off as interviewing friends from AAF has now grown to speak with presidents and CEOs of some of the largest ad agencies.

“Everyone that comes onto the podcast agrees that they want to connect with the audience. And I can facilitate those connections personally.. So you’ll get connections and guests also submit their favorite podcasts, websites, articles, and influencers that they follow to be successful in advertising. We have a free master resource list.” 

What inspired you to create the podcast?

“It was 2020. I was stuck at home, and I was looking for connection. It seemed impossible to get a job or internship at the time.”

Many of his peers were struggling to find jobs, and while Schellenberger was lucky enough to have one lined up at Edelman, it would be pushed back until the following January. Looking to help others and himself out, Schellenberger took being stuck at home as an opportunity to create connections through the show. 

Did AAF play a role in your decision to start the podcast?

“AAF was foundational for the start of the podcast.” 

Schellenberger served as President of Midnight Oil, and when generating ideas for the podcast, he reached out to his co-exec friends, Stephanie Mauer and Nikki Gary, to bounce ideas off of. 

“Once I had the concept down, I went back to AAF again,” he said. “I reached out to people who I knew were great artists, and that’s how I ended up with my partner in crime, Buchun, who was in Midnight Oil and is still with me today. I also could not have done this without my hometown best friend, Michael Melarkey” 

What was the most useful skill you learned in AAF, and how has it helped you in your career

Schellenberger knew early on that he wanted to pursue account work or PR, so he took on account positions for On the House and Midnight Oil.

“AAF taught me a lot…It gave me experience in working in a group, I learned how to collaborate, communicate, and execute on ideas confidently with all types of people,” Schellenberger said.

The confidence in communicating with peers, professionals, and clients is an “invaluable” skill for anybody looking for a career out of college, and it is the most important skill Schellenberger carries today from AAF.

“I also tapped into Midnight Oil when I graduated to be a client. They’ve helped me out, AdBuzz, and now [Hyperlink]… and Verge Illinois, as well,” Schellenberger said.

What have been your favorite topics to discuss on the podcast?

“Breaking barriers for underrepresented talent. Exploring what programs are out there, what scholarships… shedding light on opportunities for all people.,” Schellenberger said.

“I love when guests have unconventional break-in stories,” he added. “When there is something exciting and something off the beaten path. One that comes to my head is Jack Rogosin , who didn't even have an undergraduate degree. He rolled a message in a bottle to agencies and got their attention. 

“Some recurring themes that I talk about are small versus large agencies and independent agencies versus largely owned holding company owned agencies.”

What’s your #1 tip for networking as a student?

“I always liked to segment my thinking into two parts: account versus creative side. I'm even counting strategy within creative nowadays.” 

“Slowly, I think everybody's going to need to be able to show their work, including account folks. If you’re on the account side… you need to get experienced talking with people. You need to get experience leading a group. You need to understand the industry super well. The networking there is talking with people, getting to know people as much as you can in informational interviews and asking for advice,” he said.

“On the creative side, you can relax on all that networking stuff. In fact, I don't even think you should worry about networking until you're able to show your work… Now, I'm not saying you need to go to portfolio school, but you need to get your work in tip-top shape before you even think about networking. If you're creative, you have got to have good work. Whether that's classwork or that's non-profit work. Portfolio schools are a great option and almost guarantee you a great job if you can afford it. Shout out Chicago Portfolio School!”

What advice do you have for AAF students trying to break and enter the advertising world?

“You should start early and often. Connect with people, get to know the industry by reading up on Adweek and Ad Age. Another way to do that is by listening to the podcast. Aside from that, getting your work in tip-top shape, if you're a creative. This could be getting a good group of friends and applying to award shows.”

“Other than that, perhaps you might want to entertain starting a project that you're passionate about. Ideally, in a perfect world, your side project will align with your career interests and your passions. Where for me, that worked with the podcast. I love talking with people; I love advertising; It all worked. But, if you love nachos and want to start a nacho review page, go and do that. It will help you in your interviews.”

Be sure to check out “Breaking and Entering” on Spotify or Apple Music. Also, take a look at their website to access the free master resource list and their Instagram for more information on the show’s guests.