Landing that first job by doing you

Greenwich’s Peter Hubbell founded Apply : you to help graduates land their first jobs in a highly competitive market while marketing to boomers with BoomAgers.

Longtime advertising executive Peter Hubbell likes to tell the story of a moment 15 years ago when he was at Saatchi & Saatchi – where he ran global advertising for General Mills – and was asked to interview a young man named Mike from his alma mater, Trinity College in Hartford. Hubbell asked Mike why he wanted to get into advertising, to which he replied that he liked ads. 

Not exactly a scintillating response, so Hubbell changed tack. He asked Mike to talk about something that excited him. Mike told him about how as captain of the school’s losing hockey team he created 10 commandments to buoy the players. 

“Mike,” Hubbell remembers saying, “that’s an amazing story of leadership. That’s a quality any advertising agency would want to have.”

Hubbell told Mike to leave the office, knock on the door and begin the interview again by describing himself as “the Moses of hockey.”

“People are hard-wired to think, ‘If I am a better candidate, I’ll get the job,’” Hubbell says. “It’s not about being better than the other candidate. It’s about being different better.

“You have to say what makes you unique, because no one has your you-ness.”

And that’s where Hubbell’s new Greenwich-based Apply : you comes in. It’s a service that teaches job applicants, specifically first-time applicants fresh from college, how to market themselves by drawing on what makes them unique. 

“Coaching workshops and interviews is not a new idea,” says Hubbell, who is creator and CEO of the company. “This was conceived of by advertising and marketing people…to help you create a brand — how to interview successfully; how to deliver a résumé and how to follow up. We say you’re one class short of your first job. Mom and dad spent $250,000 for your education, but it didn’t teach you how to prepare to get that first job.”

A daunting challenge

And getting that first job is more of a challenge than ever, given that members of the Class of 2021 are vying for positions with members of the pandemic Class of 2020, who either didn’t get jobs or lost them; or went to graduate school or were underemployed in work to which they were fundamentally unsuited and underpaid. It may be the fiercest job market competition in recent memory. Apply : you offers tiers of personal, group and virtual sessions starting at $395 for an introductory one-hour workshop — which Hubbell, ever the marketer, calls the perfect graduation gift — that sets you on a course of self-discovery and storytelling designed ultimately to let you control a job interview with a persuasive brand and pitch.

“Our plan was to launch in the fall, but we accelerated it to coincide with graduation season.”

Why concentrate on the newly graduated? “Because,” Hubbell says, “Amazon started with books.”

A farm boy in Greenwich

Though he spent years on Madison Avenue, Hubbell is what he calls a “Nutmegger through and through,” growing up on a New Haven dairy farm. (He’s still a farm boy at heart, driving his pickup truck around Greenwich, where he raised his first family and to which he moved back with his second after living in Manhattan and Bronxville.)

At Trinity in the Nutmeg state’s business-rich capital, there were plenty of banking and insurance recruiters on campus had the economics major been so inclined. But, Hubbell says, “I’m creative and I wanted to write and work with people.” He was invited to a tailgate party at a Trinity football game that he almost passed up to sit in the stands with his friends. Good thing he didn’t:  At the party, he met Ray Ferguson, who was a successful ad executive. The next thing he knew he was working on the Folgers coffee account at Cunningham & Walsh. 

“I was not smart enough then to have a brand story,” Hubbell recalls. “But I got out there and forged relationships on my own.”

Hubbell went on to N.W. Ayer & Son, an agency founded in Philadelphia in 1869 that was considered the oldest ad agency in the United States. Its clients included AT&T (“Reach out and touch someone”), De Beers (“A diamond is forever”), Ladies’ Home Journal (“Never underestimate the power of a woman”) and Morton Salt. 

At D’Arcy Masius Benton & Bowles, Hubbell worked on the General Mills and Pillsbury food business accounts. When D’Arcy was absorbed in part by Saatchi & Saatchi, Hubbell ran global advertising for General Mills as a member of the agency’s worldwide board of directors. “Not bad,” he says, “for a farm boy.”

‘The old rush’

Hubbell was at Saatchi for eight years, leaving in 2011 to found BoomAgers, an agency that markets to the fastest-growing demographic group — that would be boomers — or what Hubbell calls “the old rush.” The other big trend he wanted to capitalize on was a fractured media landscape no longer dominated by print, radio and TV that requires digital specialists.

The premise of BoomAgers is that like wine, cheese and leather, boomers are getting better with age.

“We have the power of reflected learning,” he says. “Like leather, we have developed the patina that helps us glow.”

BoomAgers is burnishing the patina of such companies as Brighthouse Financial, Duracell, National Geographic, P &G and PepsiCo in Purchase.

“One of the things you learn about yourself as you age is that you become more legacy-minded,” Hubbell says. “I could’ve slammed the door or put 40 years to work to help Gen Z.”

But it’s not all work. There is that fishing cabin in Maine where “we tell great stories. It’s all we have to do” in a place where Hubbell says he’s seeking “solitude without loneliness.” 

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