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.