Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Use the Holidays to Your Advantage

I love the holiday season. Everyone is friendlier. Meetings are rare. There are fewer gatekeepers.


Yes, fewer gatekeepers. That means your odds of reaching someone on the phone go up.

Many receptionists are on vacation, so people pitch in to grab the phones. And most of those people don't screen calls or know how to forward you directly to voicemail. So, as long as your person is in the office, you have a better chance of reaching them.

And to top it off, they're probably in a good mood. Most deadlines are past, so they're probably not under the gun. They may actually have time to talk to someone who's looking.

So give it a shot. You may actually get to talk to the person you've been trying to reach.

This is a limited time offer though. Once the new year starts, the previous state of affairs returns.

Happy holidays. And good luck.

Friday, December 12, 2008

Marketing Yourself

Searching for a job is exactly that – marketing yourself.

So apply what you've learned about marketing/advertising to sell yourself as a job candidate.
  • Identify your audience // Who are you targeting? Ad agencies? Design firms? Publications? Decide who you are going after, so you can ...
  • Determine their needs // This will tell you what kinds of pieces to include in your portfolio. Also, it will help you determine which skills you have, so you can ...
  • Let them know What's In It For Me (them, not you) // They don't care what you've done as much as they care about what you can do for them. Don't just talk about you ("I learned Flash in school") talk about how that experience/skill benefits the interviewer's company ("With my Flash experience, I can create better interactive sites in a short amount of time"). Then you can ...
  • Make your call to action // Ask to set up an interview. Or see if you can drop off some samples. Then follow up. The worst they can do is say no. So why not ask?
Put your marketing abilities to work for your most important client. You.

(Also, here's a great post at talentzoo.com. You'll notice that much of the advice given to experienced professionals applies to you as well.)

Thursday, December 4, 2008

It's All About Your Portfolio

But, you know that already, don't you?

Unfortunately, most creatives view building their portfolio as another project – with a beginning and an end. "My portfolio is together, so now I can focus exclusively on my search."

Never stop working on your portfolio. Work on it constantly. Your goal is to knock your weakest piece out of your portfolio. And then do it again. And again. And again.

That makes it stronger. And increases you chances of landing a job.
  • First, look at your current work. Improve it. Have a great concept that's well-executed? Rework it until the execution is as great as the concept.
  • Second, look around for non-profits you believe in. Volunteer to design/write/shoot something for them. It will give you a professional piece (while improving your career karma).
  • Third, talk to your friends and family. Any of them starting or own a business? Volunteer to help them out creatively.
  • Lastly, just create. If you're a designer, find a well-known logo you hate and redesign it. If you're a writer, give a new voice to a stodgy company. You get the idea.
Most importantly, never stop working on pieces for your portfolio. Creatives live and die by our portfolios. Give yourself a fighting chance.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Worst Resume Mistake I've Witnessed

Mistake I Witnessed // Post 2

"Dishonorable Discharge."

Right there. On the resume. What the ****?

Lesson // Don't list negative things about yourself on your resume. Your resume's job (and it's only job) is to get you an interview. It's not to serve as a history document. Or a confessional.

If there is something negative that will make a difference in getting the job, wait until after they interview you to share the information. Once they know you as a real person (and not just a piece of paper) they may be willing to hear your explanation and give you a chance.

Don't take yourself out of the running from the get-go.

Mistake Scale // Never Got in the Game

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Worst Interview Mistake I've Witnessed

This week I'm beginning two regular features – "Mistake I Made" and "Mistake I Witnessed." I'll rate each mistake on a scale from "Career Implosion" to "Miraculously Got the Job." If you have any you'd like to share, I'll post the best ones.

Mistake I Witnessed // Post 1

Me: "If I were to talk to your best friend, what is the worst thing she would say about you?"

Finalist for Job: "That I can get out of control. One time, while at a bar, I was so drunk I tried to pick up an entire group of baseball players ..."

And she continued her story. And wouldn't stop. Oh God, she wouldn't stop.

Sadly, it got worse. Since this was a final interview, my boss was sitting in the interview as well. He tried to stop her (my ability to speak had been taken from me by her answer) and she talked over him to finish her story.

Every question, no matter how innocuous-sounding is about getting the measure of you as a person or employee. Never ... ever ... ever forget you are being interviewed. We try to put you at ease, make you comfortable, forget you are being interviewed, so we can get to know the real you. The finalist viewed us as buddies and let her guard down. Bad move. Last I heard, this talented designer was working in fast food.

Mistake Scale: Thank You, Please Drive Through

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Maintaining Your Creative Edge During "The Search"

Nothing sucks the creative life out of you like a job search.

A large part of creativity is having the confidence to experiment, think differently or just dive in. The search process can rob you of that confidence.

You have to make a conscious effort to be creative everyday. Even when you're tired. Or down. Or just plain beaten up.

If necessary, make an appointment with yourself everyday, even if it's only fifteen minutes, to be creative. And make sure it's creative for creative's sake. Allow yourself to enjoy the process. It will remind you why you want to go into the business.

Also, check out mikebrownspeaks for a daily dose of creative inspiration.

Good luck with your search. Let me know if you have any questions.

Friday, September 26, 2008

Turn Downtime to Your Advantage

I've said it before—what a suck-ass job market. And it doesn't look like it's changing soon.

What to do? Well, you can either get upset, which gets you nowhere, or you can embrace the situation.

I know quite a few talented recent grads who are hitting the wall in their job search. They're all handling it differently, but one is handling it especially well. We'll call him Mike (since that's his name).

Mike is using his downtime to get actively involved in his local ad club. He volunteered to help on two major events for the club. His theme concept was even chosen to market one of the events. Talk about a nice piece to add to his portfolio. It's also an excellent way to get his work out in front of the very people who are in a position to hire him.

Sure, Mike is frustrated in his search. But he is placing himself in the best position to land a copywriting job in the near future.
  • He's expanding his portfolio with professional work.
  • He's meeting industry people who can hire him, pass on job openings, or act as a reference for him.
  • He's sharpening his skills while working with other talented people.
  • He's keeping his enthusiasm high.
You can either get down about the situation, or you can take positive steps to put yourself in the best position to get a job.

I vote for the second choice.

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

THE Question to Ask During an Interview

You know the drill.

You arrive armed with a few questions to ask during the interview. They are evidence you've done your research and you're interested in working for that company specifically — not just any company. The questions show you're engaged, driven and serious about the opportunity in front of you.

And once in a while, a question you ask may be what gets you the job.

I heard one such question this weekend from my friend Melissa. She just started a new job and was telling me about her interview. She said something didn't seem quite right, so she asked them:

"What concerns do you have about me and my ability to do the job?"

What a great question – and one I recommend you ask.
  • It shows maturity and self-awareness.
  • It shows you are open to honest feedback (a trait in very short-supply).
  • But, most importantly, it gives you the opportunity to address what they deem to be your weaknesses. You can talk about the adjustments you would make or even address some false perceptions they may have about you. The question gives you a second opportunity to sell yourself. And that may be all you need to separate yourself from everyone else.
It's a simple question. But one that may open the door to you landing the job.

Monday, August 25, 2008

Increase Your Odds of Landing an Interview

Want to increase your chances of obtaining an interview? Hand deliver your resume.
  • Items that arrive via delivery, rather than mail, are usually opened first. They're seen by the recipient as more important.
  • You can do a little reconnaissance. You'll get a sense of their environment while sneaking a peak at their dress code so you know what to wear if you're called for an interview (just don't judge them by what they wear on Fridays).
  • Also, it's a chance to make a good first impression on someone very important – the receptionist. He or she can make it easier to get through to people; or more difficult. Always, always, always treat the receptionist with respect.
  • Who knows? You may even bump into the person doing the hiring. If so, just say a quick hello, tell them the information is inside the envelope and let them know you'll follow up when it's more convenient for them. Respect their time and they'll respect you.
A little extra effort can make all the difference in landing that all-important interview.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Your Job Search is Never Over


"I finally landed a job. Now I can put all that stuff behind me. No more networking. No more working on my portfolio. No more nothin'."

Ummm, wrong.

Time to put together the pieces for your next search. I know, I know. You haven't even started your new job yet and I want you thinking about the next one? Yes.

Let's face it, all jobs end at some point. You always want to have your foundation in place so the next search doesn't have to start from zero.

Here's what I recommend:
  1. Celebrate your job. You've earned it. Now ...
  2. Continue to be involved in industry organizations. I ran into someone at an Ad Club event a few weeks ago. He was out of a job and was trying to reconnect with people. The last time I saw him was a year and a half ago at an Ad Club event when he was – you guessed it – looking for a job. Had he stayed involved he would have had strong relationships to call on instead of trying to create them when he needed them most.
  3. Maintain your relationships (see again recommendation #2). If someone was helpful in your search, thank them. Let them know where you landed and give them your contact information. You may need them again in the future. Or they may let you know when they hear of the perfect opportunity for you.
  4. Help others. Someone helped you, return the favor. Plus, you never know when you may need to call on them.
  5. Collect your work. All of it. Whenever anything gets printed, grab a few samples for your portfolio. Keep a box or file you can throw samples in. Collect screen grabs of web sites and digital files of any broadcast work. You may not get a chance to collect samples later.
  6. Expand your skills. Besides making you more valuable to your new company, they was also make you more marketable next time around.
  7. Be a great employee and co-worker. Keep in mind that your new co-workers will be joining your network and may eventually be your future references. Give them lots of good things to say about you.

Congratulations and good luck. Your search hasn't ended. You just get to move to the next chapter.

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

A Little Known Fact About Interviews

That scary person on the other side of the desk – he's pulling for you.

He may appear gruff. Or bored. Or even disgusted. But know this – he's hoping to God you are the perfect person for his team.

He doesn't conduct interviews for the shear pleasure of making you feel bad about your work. Frankly, he doesn't have the time to waste. He's interviewing you because something or someone made him think you might be the right fit.

Keep that in mind the next time you are interviewing.

Monday, July 28, 2008

If You Follow No Other Advice, Follow This

I'm stepping aside for the master – David Lubars. No one has ever said this better.

Let me know your thoughts.

Sunday, July 20, 2008

The ONE Thing That Matters Most on Your Resume

Big surprise – experience matters most.

But don't panic. Experience is not limited to professional work or internships. Experience also includes involvement in campus organizations RELEVANT to the career you are pursuing. Creative directors want to see you took advantage of every opportunity afforded to you. Involvement shows passion, drive and commitment. 

However, they also want to see that you were an active, long-term participant – preferably a leader. One semester of participation reeks of "I did it so I could put in on my resume."

Why should you care? Well, if I'm interviewing a person for an advertising position and see they were not part of their campus ad club or did not participate in campaigns class, I don't consider them. EVER.

Seem harsh? Maybe. But I'm looking for someone who is going to be "all in" when they join my team. If you half-assed your opportunities in college, I expect you'll do the same on the job. Plus, I have a load of people to choose from. I can afford to be picky about whom I choose to interview. Can you afford to be dropped from consideration?

A sad example: Last week I was talking to a student I work with all the time. She told me about a friend of hers (a journalism major) who is dropping off the university's All-American publication so she can pick up more hours at HyVee. Yes, HyVee.

That HyVee job won't get her the job she wants once she graduates (except with another grocery store). While a position as one of the editors of a nationally-recognized, award-winning publication will. She is choosing the short-term over the long-term. And even if she needs the money, she should stay involved. There's no place on resumes for lack-of-participation excuses.

So please, get involved with career-relevant organizations while in college. And go all out. Not only will it give you material for your resume, it will give you a chance to grow within the field – while also starting your network.

Otherwise, prepare for a very long and frustrating job search.

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Networking: Who Knows You?

My good friend George Weyrauch is constantly preaching "It's not who you know, but who knows you."

Over 60% of jobs are obtained through networking – and that number is even higher in the creative field. When it comes down to it, most people want to work with a known quantity.

Whenever I need to hire someone, the first thing I do is put the word out to people I trust. The basic question I ask is "Do you know someone I should be talking to for this position?"

And I get those kinds of phone calls/e-mails all the time. I've referred people I interviewed but didn't hire (they were very good, just didn't fit what I was after), students whose portfolios I reviewed, former co-workers and people I met through the KC Ad Club.

Get yourself in front of people. Join organizations like the local ad club, AIGA or other creative organizations. Volunteer to be on a committee – or two – or three. Go to all the events you can. Introduce yourself to people.

Just don't push your resume on people (big turnoff). Make sure they know who you are and what you do. Be visible. Be known.

Ask for business cards and then follow up quickly. Send them an e-mail telling them it was nice to meet them. Ask if they know anyone you should be talking to. You're MUCH more like to get through to the hiring person if you can say "So-and-so gave me your name and said I should talk to you about your opening."

You can find good advice on networking here and here.

Remember, it's about who knows you.

Monday, July 7, 2008

Say Thank You or Lose an Important Contact

"Thank you."

So simple. Yet so often overlooked.

And you'll be overlooked if you don't take the time to thank the people who help you.

I've had people whom I've never met (or don't know well) contact me for advice. I spend time reviewing their resume or portfolio samples, answering questions, whatever and then don't hear from them again. That is, until they need something else from me.

Needless to say, they get nothing else from me.

Please keep in mind that things as simple as reviewing resumes, looking over samples or answering your questions take time out of somebody's busy day. They don't owe you anything, so they're doing it to be helpful. At the very least, say thank you. Want to go a step further? Tell them when and where you land a job.

The benefit? I remember those who thank me. I especially remember those who keep me up-to-date on their progress and where they land. Those people receive my help in the future. I may even consider those people when I have a job opening.

How do you think my intern got his position with me?

Thanks for reading.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

The Written Word – Your First Impression

Yesterday I received a self promo piece from a designer. It, sadly, included the following sentence:

"Time for trying to get the work done while your staff memebers take much needed breaks."

"Memebers?" Really? It was a horrible sentence to begin with, but to also misspell members?

I'm sure most people did what I did upon reading the line – promptly trashed the mailer.

Avoid the wastebasket. Carefully write and proof your cover letter, resume, e-mail correspondence and thank you note. And for God's sake, run spell check. It would have caught "memebers." Let's face it, if you're careless on something important to you, should I expect you to do any better on client work? No. You move straight to the reject pile.

I'm not asking for beautiful prose (unless you're a copywriter), just mistake-free text.

I know this advice seems obvious, or at least it should. Unfortunately I see way too many mistakes like the above and people don't realize how quickly and completely it can kill their chances for a job. And the poor guy in our example mass-mailed his piece. He turned off loads of potential employers with just one mistake.

ONE mistake.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

The Power of Persistence

Wow. What a suck-ass job market. Especially for entry-level creatives.

The advertising field (which also strongly affects design and publishing) is a leading indicator of a worsening economy. Short-sighted companies cut their advertising budgets first – and increase them last. That, of course, has a huge effect on agency staffing.

Usually I have trouble keeping up with all my job-changing friends. But lately I don't know of anyone changing jobs. And I know of fewer places adding jobs. That's bad news for recent graduates.

Now that I've brought you down, let me share a secret weapon with you: persistence.

You need to keep at it. Your job search is your full-time job. I'm talking eight (or more) hours a day. Your day should include:
  • researching – find out who's picking up new business
  • networking – that includes classmates who graduated before you
  • interviewing – set up informational interviews
  • events – attend industry events, introduce yourself to people
  • volunteering – get involved in the local industry organization
  • pro bono work – a great way to get new work for your portfolio, professional references and contacts
  • creating new work – keep making work for your portfolio, make it stronger
  • finetuning – your resume and your portfolio
And you have to stick with it. Keep in mind, your competition is going through the same thing. Sometimes the person who gets the job is the one that outlasts everyone else (watch any competition reality show to confirm).

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

The Industry Take on Millennials

"Don't trust anyone over 30."

During the 60s and 70s this was viewed as a universal truth by baby boomers. Then, of course, they hit 30 (long, long ago). Now the saying seems to be "Don't trust anyone UNDER 30."

You can't read anything about so-called millennials without reading how they're pampered and unprepared for real life. That may be true in some cases – but that was also true for many in my generation (Gen-X) and all the proceeding generations.

So it's nice to read an industry article that isn't putting down millennials, but talking about how to work with them. Check it out. It will give you a feel for how the smarter agencies will approach you – and how to pick out the dumber agencies.

Monday, June 9, 2008

Career Blog for Photographers

Hey photographers: my good friend (and photographer extraordinaire) Alistair Tutton has started his own blog aimed at giving career advice to aspiring photographers. Check it out.

Sunday, June 8, 2008

The Dangers of MySpace et al

True story: A student working at a coveted internship sent her supervisor a link to her MySpace page. The supervisor proceeded to read an entry about how the student liked getting stoned during her lunch breaks at the company – and even named the company.

Fortunately for the student, she didn't send the link until her last day – so it was too late to fire her. Unfortunately for the student, she can NEVER use the internship on her resume. (But then I know this person – she just may be foolish to do it anyway.)

While this an extreme case, be careful about what you put out there on MySpace, Facebook, etc. Photos of you drunk or showing your ass, talking about hangovers and all that other stuff that seems funny in college can come back to haunt you big time during your job search.

There is so much information out there on people that most employers will at the very least Google you. Many will go beyond that and try to view your social networking pages. And if they really want to see it, they'll find a way to view it.

So clean up all that information out there on you. The sooner the better. Don't miss out on a job because of a stupid photo or comment that you meant just for your friends, but were naive enough to put out there for anyone to see.

If you put it on the internet, it's fair game.

Wednesday, June 4, 2008

Homework Assignment

Check out this advertising blog by Sam Meers. And then bookmark it.

'nuff said.

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

Focus on Where the Job Will Take You

Some people focus on salary. Some on perks. Others on titles.

Your focus should be squarely on "where will this job take me?"

Dead-end jobs distract you with things like a nice salary, or great benefits or perks. But that's what they are –distractions.

When considering a job, think about the job after that. And the one after that. Will this job lead you where you want to go? Or does it take you down the wrong path? Let's face it, once you start down a path it's always easier to get another job somewhere along that same path.

That is, unless you're willing to start over. And why do that? Especially when you can start by going the right direction the first time.

Friday, May 23, 2008

Watch Out for This Interview Trick

The trick – Interviewer turns the interview into what appears to be a casual conversation.

Why this trick is used – To get to know the real you. Everyone shows up for an interview on their best behavior. You know the answers I'm after ("My greatest weakness? I'm a perfectionist."). You know to sit up straight, look me in the eye and answer my questions succinctly. I'm trying to throw you off. I don't want interview-you. I want real-you.

Why this trick works – You reveal more about yourself than intended.

Why this is dangerous – See previous answer.

Remember, no matter how comfortable you are with that person, or how casual they seem in their questioning, they are sizing you up. Comparing you to others. Determining if they can spend 8-10 hours a day working with you. Never, ever, ever let your guard down.

I'm not telling you to be fake. I'm telling you to be professional – and in control of how you are representing yourself.

Because I may be all smiles and jokes, but I'm still evaluating you for a job.

Friday, May 16, 2008

Resume Writing Tips

Your resume has one job and one job only – to get you an interview. You will be judged in less than 30 seconds, so make sure your resume is top-notch.
  • Make your resume visually appealing, but easy to read.
  • Make it relevant. If it doesn't apply to the job/career you're interested in, leave it out. Your part-time job at McDonald's will not get you a job in the creative field.
  • Use a direct, active writing style. Begin sentences with action verbs.
  • Write with short phrases rather than complete sentences. If you can say it in five words, don't use 20.
  • Tell the truth. Trust me, it's so easy to check up on things that any lie/half-lie/exaggeration will be caught.
  • Watch for errors in spelling and punctuation. Have at least one other person proofread.
  • Keep the employer in mind. Ask yourself "Would I interview this person?" If the answer is no or maybe, keep working.
Your resume is the first impression someone will have of you. Make it strong.

Friday, May 2, 2008

Creating a Portfolio When You have No Samples

"I'm graduating in a few weeks. I decided four months ago that I want to be an advertising copywriter and I've only taken one marketing class. I have initiative and ideas, but my portfolio is severely lacking because of the short amount of time I've been interested in this. In a few months I'll be moving to Chicago and hitting the pavement hard; what would you recommend about a portfolio?"

Find a way to show your abilities – even though you don't have the education or training of your competitors. Creative directors hire talent over training every time. The best art director I know has a divinity degree.

Lock yourself in a room and start creating ads – print, radio and TV. If you have a designer friend, team up and create ads for both of your portfolios. Make creating ads your full-time job. 

Showing up without samples only leads to the shortest interview of your life.

Come in with around a dozen pieces. You'll need that much to show you have the ability to do the job. Creative directors are not going to take your word for it that you can create advertising. They need some proof.

And be patient. You've gone about this the hard way. Set up informational interviews and get your portfolio critiqued. Then go back, fix what needs to be fixed. And do it again. And again. And again.

Remember, you're asking someone to take a very big chance on you. They're going to have to teach you what you didn't learn in college. You have to possess some serious talent – and drive – to overcome that obstacle.

Friday, April 18, 2008

Your Homework Assignment

Homework? Yes. It's for your own good – well your career's good. You'll thank me.

Read: Hey Whipple, Squeeze This by creative sage Luke Sullivan.

Listen: American Copywriter. Educational, entertaining and a good example of the kind of people you need to work with.

Subscribe: CMYK Magazine. A magazine featuring student creative work and articles on starting your career.

Ignore: College career counselors. Every damn thing I tell someone to remove from their resume was recommended by a career counselor. They make you add a bunch of irrelevant crap to your resume that just gets in the way of what creative directors are after.

There are your assignments. Now get to it.

Sunday, April 13, 2008

Know Who, or What, You Are

"I can be a designer. Or a writer. Or I'd even be willing to start as an account executive."

"Thank you. We'll let you know."

You know you're not going to hear back from them, right? At least nothing more than the we'll-keep-your-resume-on-file letter.

Given the choice between hiring someone who is passionate about being a designer (or writer) and someone who is willing to be a designer (or writer), who do you think the creative director is going to hire? We want someone who can't even imagine doing anything else.

Don't get me wrong, we're after someone well-rounded. When I graduated, I was a designer who worked as a photographer and did a bit of writing. But design was my passion. I knew what I wanted. But I also brought extra skills to the table.

Be focused, but well-rounded. Know what you want to do, while still dabbling in everything you can. Be a person who is passionate about what you do, but don't limit yourself to one interest.

Contradictory? Maybe. But it's what we want. It's what will get you the job.

Friday, April 11, 2008

Never Stop Looking

"Man, I nailed that interview. The job is mine. I don't need to keep applying for jobs."

Not only wrong, but #*$%ing wrong.

While on the job hunt never, ever and I mean EVER halt the process while waiting to hear from that job you just know you're going to get.

It could be held up for budget reasons, unrelated business reasons, a change in the position requirements, or, believe it or not, because they found someone who is a better fit for the job. And while you wait, your job search takes a big step backwards.

The killer is, you may miss out on applying for the job that could have been yours.

Never allow yourself to kick back to wait for that sure offer. Because there is no such thing.

Do not stop the process until you've signed an offer letter and started your job.

Monday, February 25, 2008

Time to Start Looking

Graduation is around the corner. "When should I start applying for a job?"


But first things first. You're not applying for a job (you apply at McDonalds), you're searching for a job. And it's a process. So the proper question is "How do I start my job search?"

Research. Get to know the industry. Find out who is doing the kind of work you want to do. Learn about their areas of expertise, their competitors and where they are headed. Start this as early as possible.

Network. Find ways to meet people in the industry. Go to industry events. Talk to speakers afterwards. Keep in contact with friends who have graduated and are in the industry (the most overlooked contacts). Do this throughout your schooling.

Informational Interviews. Once you make contacts, see if you can set up informational interviews. It doesn't need to be with the owner or creative director. It can be with anyone who can give you insight into their company, the industry and the job market. Plus, if you make a good impression, you've just created an ally within that company.

And now to the part of the process that most people focus on:

Asking to be Considered for a Position. Most creative shops are always looking for people -- even when they're not hiring. The good creative directors are always looking for their next hires before they need them. That's why it's never too early to start. You want to get on their radar so that when a position opens, they think of you. OR, if you're really good, they'll consider adding the position before they need it (so they don't miss out on the right person).

Something to keep in mind: if you're applying for a job you saw online, that means they have an immediate opening and want to fill it as fast as they can. They're not likely to wait for three months for you to graduate. Interview anyway. They may have another opening by the time you're ready and you could be at the top of the list.

Keep in mind, you are beginning a process. Start as early as you can. 

Monday, February 4, 2008

The Job Search Basic Five

This weekend I ran into Angie, a student at UMKC who heard me speak earlier in the week. She thanked me for the advice I had given. When I asked what helped the most, she simply answered "the basics."

Seems a good place to start. When starting your job search, these are the five essentials:

A Portfolio That Shows Off Your Skills. Your portfolio should consist of 12-15 of your best pieces. Keep in mind, I'm going to judge you by the worst piece in there. After all, nothing else you've ever done is as good – or it would be in there instead. Also, mix up the pieces. Don't show all the ads, then all the logos, etc. Keep the reviewer interested.

A Relevant Resume. I never hired anyone because they worked at Wal-mart while in college. And I damn sure never hired anyone because they were the rush chair for their sorority. Only cover the relevant, such as ad club, the school paper, internships, related jobs, even your ad campaigns class. Those things tell me about you as a creative. If you make me wade through the other crap, I may not see the things that matter to me.

Take Care of the Details. If you don't take care with your own resume and portfolio, what's to make me think you'll take care with my clients? Details matter. Details win or lose the job. Take care of them – spelling, production of your samples, the right name (and spelling) on the cover letter. Don't lose your dream job because you didn't take a few minutes to read everything over one last time.

Professionalism. If you come off as a student (by your dress, answers or demeanor) I'm not going to hire you. You need to come across as a professional. Dress right for the interview. Be prepared. Be polite. Be humble. Send a thank you note immediately after the interview. Act like a professional and I'll see you that way.

Make Me Remember You. If I don't remember you, I won't hire you. Do or show something that makes you stand out. We're interviewing lots of people and, I hate to admit it, sometimes people start to blend together. Be memorable.

There's your basic five needs. We'll address each of them in more detail.

Saturday, January 26, 2008

Welcome to springboard501

(knock. knock.)

"Excuse me. Are you the talented graphic designer Kevin Fullerton? You are? Great. I'm here to offer you a job."

"Thank you. I'll take it."

Sadly, when I graduated college I believed this was how things would play out. After a few months sans job, I came to an eye-opening conclusion: I didn't have a damn clue what I was doing. 

Why wasn't I getting any interest from the "real world?"  I received a great education, lots of hands-on experience and even won several national awards. Surely people would line up to hire me.

Problem one: no one knew I existed.

Problem two: my portfolio was all wrong (even though it contained good material).

Problem three: I was looking in the wrong places.

Problems four through 164: well, let's just say everything I did.

Eventually I started doing things right (quite by accident I assure you). I got my first job – and have changed jobs several times since.

For the last several years, I've been on the other side of the desk. The hiring side. And I'm absolutely amazed that in the (number deleted to protect author's ego) years I've been working in the profession, there has been little progress made in helping students make that jump into the career world.

That's why I created this blog. I want to help college students who are interested in the creative fields (advertising, graphic design, publishing) get a jumpstart on their job search.

I figure you can learn from my mistakes (and there are plenty) and the mistakes I've witnessed while hiring creatives.

Have questions? Please feel free to e-mail me. I'll do my best to answer them on this blog.

Also, check out the links on the right. You'll find them helpful. Know of more I should add? Please send them my way.

And check back often.

Good luck with your search.