Help a student; help the toy industry

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I frequently receive emails from people asking me for help in entering the toy business.   I was, however, particularly struck by a letter I received from a university student asking me how to get a job in the toy industry.

I decided to share the letter with all of you because 1. It was well written and 2. It underscores a concern that I have had for some time; people simply don’t know how to get jobs in the toy industry.

Think about what happens when you tell someone that you work in the toy industry.  Almost invariably there is a two part response.  First they say:  That sounds like fun” followed by “how did you get a job in the toy industry?”  As I have written before, undoubtedly circus people get the same response, but I doubt that many other industries do.

People know how to get jobs in retail, advertising and even the movies.  The toy industry, for some reason, seems impervious to entry. 

I think you will all agree that we need more young blood in this industry.  So, please write into this blog and give this young man some tips.  Here is his letter:

Dear Richard,

My name is John, I'm currently an undergraduate student at Syracuse University and I'd like your help.

For years I've known what I have wanted to do: be a part of producing marketing/communications messages for a boys action toy brand.

Right now I'm interning for [a Fortune 500 Company] and I am having my love for communications and marketing reaffirmed. I can see myself doing this for a long time, but there is something about the Toy industry that touches me on a more personal level.

I come to you asking for help, because, within the next few months I am going to attempt to navigate unfamiliar waters and try to land an internship at a prominent toy company.

The current internship I have I got because of a strong resume and a great interview – but I doubt I'll be able to interview in person for companies, many of which are located in California - thousands of miles away. I will be relying instead on phone-skills, persistence, and again, a strong resume.

If there are any tips you have for how to go about this, any people you would not mind putting me in contact with, any recommendations on how to put myself in a better position to succeed, I would be greatly appreciative.

I know this is not what you do, but I was hoping I could learn something from your 35+ years in the industry. If there is anything you think would help, please let me know.

I look forward to hearing from you.

Thanks for your help,



4 thoughts

  1. Get thee to Toy Fair.
    That’s the best advice I was given, and would give. I was in a very similar situation not that many years ago, and I agree that the toy industry is definitely a hard egg to crack. Go to Toy Fair, be respectful, meet people.
    New York Toy Fair is not open to the general public, but gaining access is possible. It’s also very worthwhile. When I was at that specific point in my career path, I weaseled every connection that I could to get into Toy Fair. I suspect that I annoyed some folks along the way, for which I hope they can forgive me, but I met a great many very nice people as well.
    A word of caution, however: Be respectful of people’s time, and thankful if they are willing to give it. Toy Fair is primarily a “selling” show, companies are there to meet prospective clients and write orders. If someone is willing to give you a few moments, be respectful, and be aware that if a client walks into their booth, that client is the priority.
    That would be my only advice to John, who is in the Syracuse area anyway. NYTF is a great way to meet industry people and build relationships. That, and it’s a lot of fun.

  2. Here’s my best advice.
    Know that stuff your pals are going out to go do tonight?
    Stay home and make that stuff.
    Make things for other people to go do,
    and make them when they are out doing them.
    Oh and don’t tell a soul you’re working on it.
    No need.
    They will find it out there.
    Good, now sit down and make the next thing.
    Now sure, you have to go see movies,
    or do the things you love to keep yourself inspired.
    But do that on a Monday.
    That way you’re alone and can race right home and
    get back to work. You have a book to write, a better hammer to design, and an artificial heart app to invent.
    Plus I always make time for my family.
    Play time and reading time with my daughter is not something I ever skip.
    But everyone has to go to sleep sometime.
    Then it’s back to work.

  3. John, after reading your letter to Richard, I believe you half way to your goal. As Richard mentions, your letter is well written and displays your desire for the industry well.
    Being in the toy industry 20 plus years, hmm suppose I’m a little bit younger than Richard, I have seen a number of high quality individuals move on due to the economy and the industry employment fall. So, it’s tough now. But do not back away!
    You need to establish a point of difference. Your eforts in sending resumes to all of the HR departments may be okay, but you are placing yourself in a huge stack in the cattle drive.
    Do your research. Find the names and titles of the top marketing, creative executives and the CEO. Send them a personal letter. Be passionate and eager with a promise of giving what ever it takes. Include an creative idea or two, but only if you have validated them with those you respect and with some knowledge of the industry and business. If you dare and fell strongly enough about any of the opportunities, offer to fly in and meet them on your own dime. It’s a risk, but bold enough to show you mean what you say. (I doubt that any of the larger companies would let you pay for it in the end)
    Lastly, do not pigeon hole yourself into “boys action toy brand.” If they have a potential opening, leave yourself open for anything on the ground floor. Then, use your skills and wit to move up where you want to go.
    If your grades are good and you can have a good relationship with some of your professors, perhaps they can help you ask the dean to author a letter for you as well. But help them by laying out the your strong points.
    Wishing the best for you John, Go for it!

  4. As you can tell from the lack of responses, the Toy Industry is not yet ready to open its doors (secret-laden portals that they are), even to young hopefuls, or should I say especially, new talents.
    The industry in general seems very competitive and everyone (and every company) wants to be the one to bring the NEXT BIG THING, and at the same time keep that ‘intellectual property’ clearly under their control and credited for it.
    So naturally they are hesitant to help, or welcome fresh new talent and their ideas into the community. Especially when those ‘new bloods’ might be the one to beat them to the next hot toy.
    It does seem like it would be a fun industry to work in. Though hard work I’m sure.

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