May 8, 2014 -- A college junior's clever use of Legos has landed her a prestigious internship.
Northwestern University junior Leah Bowman, 20, starts work in June at Chicago ad agency Energy BBDO, thanks largely to a job application made out of Legos.
When Bowman was home during spring break last year, she got the idea to market herself using her and her dad's Lego collection, she told ABC News. "I got the idea brainstorming with my parents," she said. "It came to me on a Saturday morning, and by Sunday night I'd designed it -- an ad for myself. I assembled it on Monday."
What she made was a "mini-me" along with a poster that said: "LEAH. Build the perfect Account Service intern! New for 2014!"
She sent out posters and Legos to potential employers, including ad agencies. Bowman is majoring in communication studies at Northwestern with a certificate in "integrated marketing." She also has a minor in anthropology.
Kristen Quinlan, human resources manager at Energy BBDO, was one of the people on the receiving end of Bowman's self-advertisement. "She created a splash," she said of Bowman. "She definitely got herself noticed from her gimmick. I wanted to talk to her."
After interviewing, Bowman was chosen as one of only 16 summer interns. They were picked from a pile of some 1,000 applicants, Quinlan said.
"I've gotten a few wacky, unique things over the years from people trying to get their foot in the door," Quinlan said. "She did it in a good way, a very positive way. She got herself noticed."
What mattered more is that when she spoke with Bowman on the phone, she said she found that there was substance under the splash. "She was a very smart, bright, articulate young woman -- and she had some prior experience already," Quinlan said.
It didn't hurt that Bowman's Lego resume had gone viral. "She got herself picked up on social media, because she'd done something creative," Quinlan said, noting creativity is the lifeblood of advertising.
Bowman, who is set to graduate in December, said that if her internship goes well she may decide to stay in advertising, maybe in account management or in strategic planning.
Asked what advice she has for new graduates hunting for jobs, she said it's important to understand what employers are looking for: Her use of Legos worked, she said, because she knew ad agencies appreciate things that are "cute and fun -- stunts and gimmicks."
The same might not hold true for some other industry. A Lego resume sent to JP Morgan Chase, for example, might not get a warm reception. "You've got to take into account the personality of the company," she said, "and the skill set that they're looking for."
Furthermore, getting your foot in the door isn't enough, she said. "You've got to wow an employer with something that goes beyond your resume. You've got to be prepared, when you pick up the phone, to wow them again. You can't drop the ball. A gimmick only gets you a phone call or ensures your resume winds up in the right pile."
After that, she said, you're on your own.