Becoming a Part of the Creative Workforce. Pointers for landing that first job.

As we move closer and closer to the summer months, there are those of you that are putting the finishing touches on your portfolios, creating small masterpieces that you will put on display showing how hard you worked, the thought and creative prowess (minus the dark circles under your eyes and studio tac in your hair) and the passion behind why you decided to graduate with a degree in a creative field.

Last week April 30th 2011 was AIGA Baltimore’s Student Portfolio Review, where many of you test drove your creative work to reviewers, peers and board members alike. There was an array of work and styles and it is always refreshing to see the excitement and passion that many students have coming out of school (keep that!).

Our panel discussion addressed a lot of issues and gave many helpful hints in order to land your first position in the creative field. Showing that having a passion for what you do is extremely important, but knowing how to structure that passion to sell yourself to a position where you feel you can be a valuable asset is key to success in any job.

Key Pointers

  • Show great work. Make sure that you talk to your work, how did you solve the problem, why did you choose the colors and typefaces you did?
  • Not about a 9-5. Be hungry, show you care, and go above and beyond.
  • Be Part of a team. Be willing to communicate and work with others to accomplish a project.
  • Look People in the eyes. Do not stare off into the clouds. have an ability to engage a person in conversation.
  • Dont just grab anything that is out there. Show you are committed. Find something that fits what you want to do, just cause it pays the bills does not mean its the right fit, show you want to be part of a team.
  • Don’t typecast yourself. Don’t take a job to take a job, make sure you maintain your sanity. Don’t settle keep building your portfolio, don’t let a job you hate define the rest of your career.
  • Cold calling – NO. Send a physical resume (we love paper/printed things. so show it.), interact and be personable, show more than just an email, show you are committed top to bottom and that you understand the work that the company does.
  • Network – YES. Get to know who is in the field. Know the people as people (not just possible employers.) Become friends, break in and work hard at introducing yourself in person and in the industry. GET INVOLVED.
  • Individuality. BE CREATIVE, this is what you do and love so show it. Know who you are and find a way to stand out. Instead of a resume send a shoebox.
  • Cover letter. It is HUGE. tailor it to the position, know the company, make sure you follow-up with people when sending out your work.
  • My Design Firm. Thinking of starting your own business right outside of school? No. Go an learn on someone else’s dime, take the time, make the mistakes, you need a continuation of a learning process. How do client teams, technology, account management interact? Freelancer = your training wheels!
  • Research. You are also interviewing the employer. Find out about the company and ask questions during the interview (it can be impressive). Find a company will stick up for good design, and respect the process.
  • Explain and Defend your work. Articulate your creative work, and have the reasons to defend it that make sense. Who is your audience, is your creative appropriate? (don’t be shy about saying you do not have enough info! ask questions!)
  • Don’t take criticism personally. Clients can be difficult, sometimes you have no control over it. Sometimes there are off the wall comments, however this is the joy of what we do. If some one makes a comment that impacts everything you have done, it is a new challenge, you have another problem to solve. It is not always a bad thing if someone does not like something, there is probably a good reason. Client feedback = Good.
  • Online portfolio. URL = important you want to be able to show your work instantly, we want to know if you qualify for your interview.
  • KNOW WEB DESIGN Many people are unprepared on the interactive front. There is a huge advantage to understanding interactive design, user interactivity, and architecture.
  • Last but no least: Create your own content. Look within, if nothing is working create your own content, generate it yourself. Think about what you can do creatively to keep yourself in design. Make something out of your experiences.

Remember, everything falls back on you. You are responsible for making your work the best it can be, and making sure that you take the opportunities that are presented to you. Just because you may not get a job right away, does not mean you can’t still be creating valuable content that you can use for the future. I wish all the future professionals out there good luck, in finding the job that fits and works for you.

By AIGA Baltimore
Published May 12, 2011